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Andy Kaufman

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Andy Kaufman

Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures, 1998

 

Dissertation:
“The Searching Subject in Tolstoy’s The Cossacks, War and Peace, and Hadji Murat”
 
Visiting Lecturer, Slavic Department, University of Virginia
 
“I am currently a Visiting Lecturer in the Slavic Department at the University of Virginia, where I have been working since January 2005. By the end of 2005 I will have taught six new courses at UVA: “An Extraordinary Ordinariness: Anton Chekhov and the Creation of the Russian Realist Theater,” “The Meaning of Money in the Russian Mind, Past and Present,” “Tolstoy's Art and the Art of Reading Tolstoy,” “19th-Century Russian Literature: The Search for Self in the Russian Classics,”“Struggles with Authority in the Russian Novel,” and “Fourth Year Russian.” Since I finished my Ph.d. in 1998, my travels have taken me from Tolstoy (the subject of my dissertation) to Tinseltown (where I trained and performed professionally as a theater actor) and back to Tolstoy again. I am currently working on a book manuscript, based on my dissertation, about the poetics of Tolstoy’s representation of the human search for existential meaning. When I was in graduate school and shortly thereafter, my scholarship focused on the relationship between poetics and metaphysics in the nineteenth-century novel, especially those of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Since then, I also have developed a strong interest in the poetics of Russian theater, especially Chekhov. As a Slavist who has performed Chekhov professionally, I am fascinated by the ways in which Chekhov infuses his dramatic world with a sense of poetic grandeur and mystery, even as he depicts the most mundane aspects of everyday life. Another scholarly interest, which I plan to develop more fully over the next few years, concerns the representations of capitalism, merchants, and money in the Russian literary imagination. This interest grew out of my part-time work experience as a management consultant in Russia during graduate school. The course I developed and taught (“The Meaning of Money in the Russian Mind”) is predicated on the thesis that the historical representations of capitalism in Russian literature can illuminate deeply rooted Russian cultural and psychological biases about the role of money in human affairs. Understanding these biases is one useful tool for identifying some of the less obvious obstacles to—and opportunities for—the development of a “free market mentality” in Russia today. In addition to my commitment to scholarship, I remain extremely passionate about effective teaching, both within and outside of traditional academic settings. I’ve given frequent public lectures on Russian literature and culture to various civic organizations, I have discussed Russian culture on live national talk radio in both the U.S. (Talk America Radio) and Russia (Silver Rain Radio), and I recently was one of the Tolstoy teachers for a nationwide audience of Oprah Book Club members. Thanks to this variety of experiences, I was fortunate to have been offered a contract with a major American trade press to write a popular book about Russian culture. The book should be out by summer of 2006. I continue to devote significant energy to developing courses which make the study of Russian literature and culture interesting and relevant to students today. For my teaching I frequently draw on my experiences as an actor, a public speaker, a radio personality, and a businessman in Russia, to communicate as effectively as possible with students from all backgrounds and at all levels. In particular, students seem to respond to the “Making it Personal” dimension of my courses. Effective teaching remains for me a great source of professional and personal satisfaction. As for a personal life, I love the town of Charlottesville, Virginia. I’m active in the rich theater community in town. I perform with one of the town’s two professional improv troupes. Physically and mentally, I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life. I’m happy to have found a path that combines my divergent interests and passions. I’m not married yet, but I think I might be getting close.”