Blasing Awarded NEH Summer Stipend

By Gail Hairston

Molly T. Blasing, assistant professor of Russian studies in the University of Kentucky Department of Modern and Classical Languages, Literatures and Cultures, has been awarded a 2017 NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) Summer Stipend, one of only two conferred this year in Kentucky.

She will use the funding to complete research on a final chapter of her book, “Snapshots of the Soul: Photo-Poetic Encounters in Modern Russian Culture.”

Blasing's project examines the relationship between photographic seeing and poetic creation in Russia and the Soviet Union. The book represents an interdisciplinary approach to modern literary studies, visual culture and the social history of technology.

Blasing’s study considers how photography’s pervasiveness in 20th century culture shaped modern poetic thinking and writing in Russia. It brings to light previously unpublished archival materials that illuminate a range of photo-poetic interactions from the late 19th century to the present day. Her work draws on theories of lyric and elegy, the history of photography, and cognitive approaches to literature. While much has been written on the impact of photography on realist fiction and autobiographical narrative, her project’s explicit focus on poetry draws attention to a form of cultural production that speaks to both long-standing and present-day anxieties about the threat visual culture poses to verbal culture. 

“Support to devote myself fully to research and writing is incredibly valuable for an early-career scholar like me,” Blasing said. “This funding will afford me the time and resources to do the intensive work involved in researching the cultural and literary history of the thaw era, in order to place these poetic texts in broader cultural context.”

Blasing also plans to travel to Moscow to conduct research on Bella Akhmadulina’s personal archive to better understand her creative process, her interest in photography, and the influence of Marina Tsvetaeva and Anna Akhmatova on her poetic writing.  

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