Sophie Pinkham on Sexy Russian Poets

 The Critic and Her Publics is a live interview series that asks the best and most prominent critics working today to perform criticism on the spot, on an object they’ve never seen before. It’s a glimpse into brilliant minds at work, performing their thinking, taking risks, and making spontaneous judgments, which are sometimes right and sometimes wrong. 

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From the episode:

Merve Emre: If you read criticism regularly, then you start to develop a pantheon of writers whose bylines you look for with every new issue of every magazine that you read. For me, Sophie Pinkham is one of these writers. She is a professor of comparative literature at Cornell. Her essays on art and literature under autocracy have been incredibly compelling models of how to ask questions about aesthetics and politics, form and power, with tremendous precision. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Economist 1843 Magazine, The New Yorker, New Left Review, and The Washington Post. She’s also a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, which has published her essays about Ukrainian and Russian novels, modernist architecture in Communist Yugoslavia, the past and present of socialist realist painting, and my favorite of her essays, which is on Communism and feminist poetry. Her book Black Square: is a brilliant and disturbing blend of reportage and memoir, an examination of how history is manipulated by reactionary empires to serve their nationalistic, xenophobic, and imperialist land-lust. She’s working on a book called The Spirit in the Trees, about the cultural history of Russia’s forests, and I have a feeling that the surprise object I give her in the second half of this episode will give us a glimpse of her current thinking. I’m very excited to have Sophie as my guest today.

For a full transcript and details of the piece Andrea responded to, head over to the New York Review of Books.


Sophie Pinkham is a writer, journalist, and critic specializing in Russian and Ukrainian literature, culture, and politics. She is the author of Black Square: Adventures in Post-Soviet Ukraine (2016) and the forthcoming The Spirit in the Trees, for which she has received a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar grant. A frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books, Pinkham writes primarily (though not exclusively) about Russia and Ukraine. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Economist 1843 Magazine, The New Yorker, New Left Review, The Washington Post, and many other publications.


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