Researching the Intersection of Russian Literature and Medicine
Since last September, Matthew Mangold has been a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Philology at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. After completing a PhD in Comparative Literature at Rutgers University in 2017, he joined HSE to conduct research on the intersections between Russian literature and the medical arts, in particular environmental medicine and psychology.
'The reason I came to HSE was a unique opportunity for me to work on my research on Chekhov’, said Matthew, who has spent considerable time in St. Petersburg and Vladimir. ‘I am currently working on a book manuscript, based on my dissertation, entitled Chekhov's Medical Aesthetics: Environments, Psychology, and Literature. I have also published articles on stories by Tolstoy and Chekhov that consider the psychology of spatial experience in post-reform Russia, and on Chekhov as a medical and literary observer’.
With a background in the history of science, Matthew has spent considerable time looking at how literature and science intersect. Through his research, he was able to build a context of Russian medical history in the nineteenth century, a project that turned out to be considerably more exciting than he initially thought it would be. For his current work, Matthew is continuing the extensive research he did for his dissertation and is aiming to publish a balanced book about Chekhov’s medical and literary biography.
‘I am looking into his novels and other books and into how Chekhov used psychiatry and psychology suggestions’, Matthew said. ‘I am looking into his short novels mostly, but there is also the story “The Blank Monk”, which is on the perspective of psychology. I always loved Chekhov as a writer. He seemed to offer me more than the other writers with whom I worked over the course of my graduate studies’.
Despite his love of Chekhov, Matthew is also planning to research other doctors who were writers or writers who were trained as doctors or biologists or in the life sciences. These include Vikenty Veressaev, Mikhail Bulgakov and Lyudmila Ulitskaya, covering the period from the late nineteenth century to the present day.
Focusing on the longer-term prospect of an eventual teaching career, Matthew says he looks forward to offering interdisciplinary courses on writers trained in biology or medicine, as well as other contemporary writers who are addressing medical issues.
Anna Chernyakhovskaya, specially for HSE News service