Melissa Frazier Wins Prize

The International Conference on Romanticism has awarded Russian faculty member Melissa Frazier the 2007 Jean-Pierre Barricelli Prize for the year’s best work in Romanticism studies for her book, Romantic Encounters: Writers, Readers and the Library for Reading (Stanford University Press, 2007).

Frazier began working on “the dim glimmerings of what would become” her prize-winnng book when she first came to Sarah Lawrence to teach Russian language and literature in 1995.

“It’s a big piece of my life,” she says. “The prize means a great deal to me because it is for the study of Romanticism generally, not of Russian Romanticism in particular. Scholars of Russian literature in America have in the past tended to be very narrowly focused, and we haven’t always done a good job framing Russian literature as part of a larger European tradition.

“I’ve always thought of it as a sort of Cold War mentality: The Iron Curtain fell around our discipline, too. My book is focused on a figure completely unknown in the West and little read in Russia–but I wanted it to speak to scholars of Romanticism as a whole. The prize tells me that I’ve succeeded.”

In Romantic Encounters, Frazier focuses on the Russian literary critic O.I. Senkovskii and his 1830’s journal Library for Reading, describing the destabilization of readerly and writerly identities that occurs when Romantic irony meets a rising literary marketplace. Well-known in the annals of Russian literary history for its unprecedented commercial success, Library for Reading is famous for its crass commercialization of literature.

Frazier also draws on the works of a number of well-known Romantic writers, including Pushkin, Gogol, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Scott, Constant and Novalis, to show how the Romantic text presents itself as arising from the complicated exchanges among these various reading and writing selves. Frazier believes that Senkovskii’s influence has been underrated in the history of Russian literature, and hopes that Romantic Encounters will appeal to “Russianists of all stripes.”

“I see my primary audience, however, as scholars of European Romanticism generally. Russian Romanticism, precisely because of its peripheral status, is extraordinarily illuminating of Romanticism as a whole. Romanticism is also much more than a literary phenomenon, and Romantic Encounters necessarily touches on philosophy, history and even, in the context of Romantic nationalism, geography and political science. It is my hope that scholars also of these various disciplines will find ideas for their own work in its pages.”