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Photo of Professor Katharine Hodgson

Professor Katharine Hodgson

Professor in Russian


01392 724309

The main focus of my research is twentieth-century Russian poetry. I am particularly interested in exploring the complexities faced by writers during the Soviet period, and how attitudes towards the cultural legacy of the USSR have evolved since 1991. Between 2010 and 2013 I led an AHRC-funded project, 'Reconfiguring the Canon of Twentieth-Century Russian Poetry, 1991-2008', which has enabled me to explore with colleagues how the twentieth-century poetry canon has been revised in recent years. An edited volume,Twentieth-Century Russian Poetry: Reinventing the Canon, based on research carried out by scholars involved in the project, appeared in April 2017, and a book, written with my colleague at Edinburgh Dr Alexandra Smith, will be appearing in 2020.

I teach undergraduate modules across a wide range of Russian studies: alongside poetry by major nineteenth-century figures such as Pushkin and Lermontov I offer modules on aspects of Russian history, including the effects of Russia's imperial development on national identity, as well as teaching Russian language at all levels.

Research interests

Current Research:

Twentieth-century Russian Poetry

This has been the focus of most of my research, with particular emphasis on the poetry of the Soviet period, especially the Stalin era. I am in the early stages of a new project exploring the role of informal poetic groups in Soviet literary life from the 1930s to the 1960s. I have also published work on more recent developments in poetry of the post-Soviet period, on topics such as the revival of longer narrative genres, and how poetry and its place in society has been changing in post-Soviet Russia.

The Twentieth-century Russian Poetic Canon

Between 2010 and 2013 I led a collaborative project funded by the AHRC, 'Reconfiguring the Canon of Twentieth-Century Russian Poetry, 1991-2008. Other participants on the project included Dr Alexandra Smith at the University of Edinburgh, and the project Associate Research Fellow, Dr Joanne Shelton at Exeter, as well as colleagues from other institutions in the UK and beyond. The project explored ways in which the canon of twentieth-century Russian poetry has been debated and revised since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, with a view to establishing how far the old ‘official' canon has maintained its position or been supplanted by the ‘unofficial' canon of the underground. A collection of essays, Twentieth-Century Russian Poetry: Reinventing the Canon, appeared in 2017, and a book written together with Alexandra Smith on the changing canon and Russian national identity, will appear in 2020.

Ol′ga Berggol′ts (1910-75)

My second book focused on a poet best known for her poetry on the wartime Siege of Leningrad, and therefore widely thought of as an ‘official' Soviet poet. In the first extended English-language study of the poet I explore Berggol′ts's artistic response to the complexities of her situation, which puts in question the categories of ‘official' and ‘dissident' writer often used in discussions of Soviet-era literature. I have recently contributed a chapter on Berggol'ts's speech at the 1954 Congress of the Soviet Writers' Union, a landmark in Thaw-era culture, and took part in a conference on the narratives of the Leningrad Siege, with a paper on perceptions of time and space in her writing on the Siege.

Poetry of the Second World War

The work on Berggol'ts grew from my doctoral dissertation, which focussed on the poetry that was written in Russian in the USSR during the war years 1941-45, and on the ways it both adhered to and challenged the norms of socialist realism.

Comparative Literature

I have researched the translation and reception of poetry by Rudyard Kipling in pre-war Soviet Russia, and by Heinrich Heine in the mid-nineteenth century, and have explored later translations of Heine by Iurii Tynianov. My most recent piece of research in this area examines Soviet poet Boris Slutskii's translations into Russian of poetry and songs by Bertolt Brecht. 

Research collaborations

In June 2019 I organised a panel for a conference on anthologies at Queen Mary, University of London, where the panelists, Dr Alexandra Smith, University of Edinburgh, and Dr Alexei Vdovin, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, talked about two hundred years of Russian anthologies. Other international collaborations in which I have taken part include a workshop on Russian culture in the age of globalisation at the University of Leeds, and a conference on narratives of the Leningrad Siege, at Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich. I contributed to edited volumes arising from these two events, and to a volume on the 1954 Second Congress of Soviet writers, edited by Dr Valerii Viugin of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Russian Literature.

During the 2020-2021 academic year I will be spending some time at the University of Trier as a Fellow on a major project led by Professor Henrieke Stahl and funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft.

The AHRC-funded project 'Reconfiguring the Canon of Twentieth-Century Russian Poetry, 1991-2008' enabled me to collaborate with a number of colleagues. Dr Alexandra Smith of the University of Edinburgh was Co-investigator on the project; together we are completng a book on the Russian poetry canon and national identity. Dr Joanne Shelton was the project Associate Research Fellow, based at Exeter, who, among other things, developed the project database and undertook research trips to Moscow and St Petersburg. Dr Smith, Dr Shelton and I edited a collection of essays developed by a team of scholars in a series of workshops supported by the project, including colleagues in the UK, the USA, and Russia. A book on the changing canon and Russian national identity, which I have collaborated on with Dr Smith, will come out in 2020.

Research supervision

I welcome research proposals in any area related to my research specialism, and would be particularly interested in proposed projects in the field of twentieth-century Russian poetry, Russian literary canon formation, the culture of the Soviet period, Russian literature/culture and war.


Research students

Postgraduate research students

Current: Suzanne Eade Roberts, Ph.D (supervised jointly with colleagues at Bristol) on Soviet translation theory.

Elena Goodwin, Ph.D, 2017, 'The literary representation of Englishness in translated children's literature in Russia: a case study of classics of English children's fiction' (AHRC funded studentship); co-supervised with Dr Emily Lygo.

Natalia Karakulina, Ph.D, 2016, 'The position in the post-Soviet canon of the poet Vladimir Maiakovskii' (AHRC funded as part of the project 'Reconfiguring the Canon of Twentieth-Century Russian Poetry, 1991-2008); first supervisor.

Adam Coker, Ph.D, 2015, 'The historical origins of permanent cultural transfer from France to Russia'; second supervisor.

Rebecca Knight, Ph.D, 2013,  'A comparative study of representations of childhood in the USSR and GDR portrayed in Russian and German fiction and autobiography published since 1990/1', (Exeter University Studentship); first supervisor.

Ursula Stohler, Ph.D, 2003, 'Russian women writers of the 1800-1820s and the response to sentimentalist literary conventions of nature, the feminine and writing: Mariia Pospelova, Mariia Bolotnikova and Anna Naumova (Exeter University Graduate Teaching Assistantship & ORS funding); co-supervisor.

Douglas Martin, Ph.D, 2003, 'Boris Pilnyak: the Development and Stifling of Russian Modernism'.

Other information


Conferences Organised (since 2001)

  • Academic organiser for annual conference of British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES) in 2003 and 2004.

Conference Papers Given (since 2005)

  • ‘Ol′ga Berggol′ts and the Commemoration of the Leningrad Siege', September 2005, BASEES Twentieth-century Study Group, Oxford
  •  ‘Restructuring the Canon of Twentieth-century Russian Poetry after 1991', April 2007, BASEES Annual Conference, Cambridge.
  • ‘Heine and Genre', April 2008, Pushkin's Posthorses: Literary Translation in Russian Culture, Exeter.
  • 'Russian Soviet poetry of World War Two: concrete facts and critical ambivalence', April 2011, BASEES Annual Conference, Cambridge.
  • 'Preservation versus selection: revising the canon of twentieth-century Russian poetry since 1991', May 2011, St Antony's College, Oxford, .
  • 'The Hierarchy of Genre in Contemporary Russian Poetry', June 2011, workshop on genre in Contemporary Russian Culture, University of Birmingham.




Developing students' interest in the culture, history, and language of Russia is at the centre of my approach to teaching. Teaching the language not only gives me the opportunity to help students prepare for their encounters with contemporary Russia, but to prepare them to encounter Russian literary texts, where the language is pushed to its limits, and which reflect and shape the preoccuptions of the Russian mental universe.

Research has informed, and continues to inform my teaching of Russian studies modules. A first-year historical module on the development of Russian national identity and the role of imperial expansion in creating such an identity grew out of current research on ways in which post-Soviet concerns over Russian identity have been expressed in approaches to twentieth-century poetry, especially poetry which can be identified as playing a significant role in supporting national identity. Other modules I teach focus on literary subjects, e.g. Pushkin's novel in verse, Evgenii Onegin; a new module on animals in Russian writing looks at how animals have been represented in a variety of texts, including traditional folktales, stories by classic authors, and poetry.

Modules taught