Research purpose: The purpose of the current stage of this long-term project is to develop the tools for a socio-cultural approach to the history of literature, with Russian literature of the 19-20th century being the primary focus of research. The methodological principles developed in the preliminary work became the foundation for research of different kind (including commentary) in which the participants undertook to produce research on a number of Russian and foreign classical literary texts with a cross-cultural perspective, so that it could be used in pedagogy as well.
Empirical base of the research: The empirical base of the research is comprised of the original editions of classical texts (primarily, Russian literature) and socio-cultural research of the 19th and 20th centuries.
a. During the current stage of research the participants worked on providing a detailed description of the theoretical paradigm for a socio-cultural approach. The fundamental principle that was laid down as a foundation for the research is that the socio-cultural context is taken for a frame of reference, that makes it possible to properly interpret the meaning of a literary work for all the readers’ groups in a historical perspective. The participants developed a method and tools for a socio-historical history of literature that makes it possible to analyze a literary text taking into consideration the variety of disciplinary approaches to cultural phenomena.
b. The results of theoretical studies by the project participants were put to the test in a wholes series of historical and cultural research projects which were organized chronologically (which makes the results of the projects relevant for use in courses taught at the Faculty of Philology). The project participants produced interpreting commentaries to a number of classical works of Russian literature, including new empirical data on events and texts of the past. The research covers three stages of the history of Russian literature, the first half of the 19th century, the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. The wide chronological scope of the project provided the project participants with a variety of historical and cultural material to which they could apply their methodology and thus to evaluate the functioning of the socio-cultural approach.
c. Another purpose of the project was to examine drama, one of the traditional genres of Russian literature, in a socio-cultural perspective. The results support the hypothesis that a successful interpreting commentary for a classical work of Russian literature requires a detailed reconstruction of socio-cultural and historico-cultural context that formed the impressions of the first audience of the play. This section puts a specific emphasis on biographical and linguistic aspects.
d. The project sheds light on the inherent connection between the socio-cultural approach and the traditional practices of philology and literary criticism, commentary and scholarly translation. In this respect the project developed the research undertaken at a previous stage of work by a group of researchers at the Literary Studies department of the Faculty of Philology (within the framework of the project “Cross-cultural History of Literature: Commentary as a Method and Tool in the Humanities”). The project participants posed new scholarly issues (e.g. How to interpret and comment on literary works in translation?) and proposed new hypotheses to solve the issues, at the same time offering scholarly consideration for extensive empirical material. The results of the research offer a commentary of a new type, taking into consideration recent developments in literary studies.
Implementation of the research results: Results of the research have already been implemented and are used in pedagogical activities by the project participants in courses they teach at the Higher School of Economics such as History of Russian Literature, Introduction to Literary Studies, Theory of Literature, and Rules of Reading: Understanding and Interpretation of Literary Texts.