sociology of culture

Gregory (Grisha) Freidin

portrait: Gregory (Grisha) Freidin
Office Hours: 
Fri 1:15-3:30, or by appointment
Focal Group(s): 
Humanities Education
Curriculum Vitae: 

I am interested, among other things, in contemporary Russian culture, literature, politics and society. I am now completing my long-standing project on the Russian Jewish writer Isaac Babel. Much has been done, including a series of essays, a definitive annotated edition of Babel's writings, letters, reminiscences and critical reception (Isaac Babel's Selected Writings.  Norton Critical Edition. W.W. Norton, 2009); a collection of essays on Babel's works and days (The Enigma of Isaac Babel, Stanford UP, 2009); what remains is a critical biography of the writer (A Jew on Horseback: The Worlds of Isaac Babel, Stanford UP) which I hope to bring to a close in 2012. An essay, based on a chapter, "Odessa - Mother of Isaac Babel," has just appeared in Russian in Neprikosnovennyi zapas 4 (2011). This will be my second critical biography of a major Russian author; the first, Coat of Many Colors , a study of the life and art of Osip Mandelstam, came out in 1987 (paperback, 2010) and, selectively, in Russian in the 1990s.  In 2004, as part of his Isaac Babel project, I organized an International Isaac Babel Conference and Workshop at Stanford, producing the U.S. premiere of Isaac Babel's play "Maria" (dir. By Carl Weber) and curating an exhibition on Babel at the Hoover Libraries and Archives. These Babel-related events have received a permanent lease on life in “Babel in California,” by Elif Batuman, the events’ participant observer, who opens with it her critically acclaimed collection Possessed (FSG, 2010).

Beginning in 1988, when I first returned to the USSR since coming to the US in 1971, and into the twenty first century, the main focus of my scholarly activity (research, conferences, publications, as well as participant observation) revolved around the changes taking place in my native Russia. In 1990, I produced the first translation into Russian of The American Federalist  (Американские федералисты, Chalidze Publications, 1990) that became an indispensable text in the drafting of the Russian Constitution (1993). One wide-ranging snapshot of the changes afoot in Russia was Russian Culture in Transition (Stanford, 1993) a collection of articles, including two of my own, by leading American and Russian students of contemporary Russian culture and cultural scene. Another was a collection of eyewitness accounts (including my own) of the failed putsch in Moscow in August 1991 that marked the end of communism in Russia and the dissoluition of the USSR: Russia at the Barricades (M.E. Sharpe, 1994). Yet another volume, much broader in scope, was Russia at the End of the Twentieth Century: Culture and Its Horizons in Politics and Society, based on the papers prepared and delivered at the international conference by the same name, I organized at Stanford in 1998. During this time, I also founded, together with Robert F. Ball, a publishing venture to produce a Russian version of Encyclopaedia Britannica that has subsequently evolved, with the help of the Open Society Institute, into the on-line Russian encyclopaedia KrugosvetSince the late 1980s, along with my research, scholarly writing and teaching, I have continued to observe and comment on cultural and political developments in Russia through large-circulation publications in Russia and the US, including The New Criterion, The New Republic, Los Angeles Times, Times Literary Supplement, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Rossiiskaya gazeta, and Neprikosnovennyi zapas. As an expert on Russian culture and politicsI have appeared on the BBC 4, PBS, NPR, KQED, and VOA. More recently, I have inaugurated my own blog with the name borrowed from Osip Mandelstam's book or reminiscences, The Noise of Time.

My courses at Stanford represent the scope of my interests, cultural, literary, historical, philosophical, and sociological, but they do not exhaust them. Over the years, I have developed an interest in film criticism and photography, and I intend to pursue them in the future in teaching and research as well as practice. After completing my Isaac Babel project, I intend to turn to a volume on the subject that has been central to my research and thinking, Authorship and Citizenship: Russian Literature, Society and State in the Twentieth Century, a collection of my essays, some new, some already published. I have also continued to collaborate with Victoria E. Bonnell on a projected volume about the emergence of Russia as a nation state after the collapse of communism, Conjuring Up Russia: Symbols, Rituals, and Mythologies of National Identity, 1991-2004.

Since 2010, I have been keeping a blog, The Noise of Time/TNT, where I publish occasional pieces on Russian film, photography, and other odd subjects, like Leo Tostoy and the ife of bees.

On 1/1/2013, I became professor emeritus, recalled to duty in 2013-2015, that is to say, I will continue to be fully involved in the academic life of the department, DLCL, and the university, including teaching and advising, at least, for the next two years (through the fall quarter of AY 2014-2015).

Education: 

Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of California at Berkeley, 1978.
Brandeis University, 1972.
The First State Institute of Foreign Languages, Moscow, USSR, 1969-71.

Advisees: 

Luke Parker

Jason Cieply

Language(s): 
Russian
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