Martha Kelly

Martha Kelly
Associate Professor of Russian; National Humanities Center Trustee's Fellow ; Director of Interdisciplinary Migration Studies Institute
221F Arts & Science Building

PhD, Stanford University, 2007

BA, Cambridge University, 1999


My first monograph Unorthodox Beauty: Russian Modernism and Its New Religious Aesthetics (Northwestern University Press, 2016) shows how poets negotiated Russia’s relation to modernity through re-envisioning traditional religion in their own work. These modernist poets (I investigate Aleksandr Blok, Mikhail Kuzmin, Anna Akhmatova and Boris Pasternak) seek to represent a peculiarly Russian modernity—an “alternative” modernity—that is distinguished for being a specifically religious modernity. Their versions of Russian Orthodox Christianity, and its liturgy, are as unorthodox as they are rich and imaginative, and their poetry emblematizes the increasingly complex place of religion in modern society.

I am currently working on a second monograph on contemporary Russian poet, scholar, essayist and translator Olga Sedakova, and on her role in Russian public life. Through her life and work we can better understand the shifting place of the poet in post-Soviet Russian society, even as we see her adapt traditional roles of the literary intelligentsia to new circumstances. The working title for this project is “How to Be a Russian Poet: The Public Life of Olga Sedakova.”

I co-edited with Sibelan Forrester a new anthology of Russian modernist poetry: Russian Silver Age Poetry: Texts and Contexts (Academic Studies Press, 2015). In this collection we include not only brief bios and key poems but also manifestoes, correspondence, publicistic writings, memoirs and literary criticism from the dizzyingly rich conversation of the epoch. And I am translating a volume of Olga Sedakova’s poems, based on her recently published selected poems.


I have taught a range of courses at MU, from Russian Civilization (a large, writing-intensive lecture course) to small discussion-based courses (“Impolite Conversations: Introduction to Russian Literature,” “Putin, Pepsi, Pussy Riot: Post-Soviet Russian Culture,” “The Russian Novel”) to language courses from first- to third-year. I’ve also co-taught a cross-disciplinary course, “Revolution & Media in a Global Context.”

Currently I am exploring and integrating more inclusive teaching approaches and was selected as part of the first cohort of Mizzou’s Faculty Institute for Inclusive Teaching. In my classes we consider the breadth and diversity of Russian and Russophone culture from the medieval period to the present day.

I frequently incorporate visual culture in my teaching, encouraging students to draw cross-media comparisons. Film plays some part in practically all the courses I teach. Through reference to visual, verbal and musical compositions, I emphasize the broader cultural movements to which texts respond.

Selected Publications

Forthcoming (2022): “Poetry and Orthodoxy,” in eds. Catherine Ciepiela, Stephanie Sandler and Luba Golburth. Oxford Handbook of Russian Poetry. Oxford University Press.

Furor Poeticus: The Religious Concerns of Russian Poetry.” In eds. George Pattison, Caryl Emerson and Randall Poole. Oxford Handbook of Russian Religious Thought. Oxford University Press, 2020. 396-411.

“The Art of Change: Adaptation and the Apophatic Tradition in Sedakova’s Chinese Journey,” in eds. Stephanie Sandler, Maria Khotimsky, Margarita Krimmel and Oleg Novikov, Ol’ga Sedakova: Poems, Philosophies, Points of Contention. University of Wisconsin Press, 2018. 30pp.

Primary translator for Olga Sedakova, in eds. Stephanie Sandler, Maria Khotimsky, Margarita Krimmel and Oleg Novikov, Ol’ga Sedakova: Poems, Philosophies, Points of Contention. University of Wisconsin Press, 2018.

“Iskusstvo peremen: Adaptatsiia i apofaticheskaia traditsiia v ‘Kitaiskom puteshestvii’ Ol’gi Sedakovoi,” in eds. Stephanie Sandler, Maria Khotimsky, Margarita Krimmel and Oleg Novikov, Ol’ga Sedakova: Stikhi, smysly, istolkovaniia. Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2016. 30pp.

“What Is Beauty?: Pasternak’s Adaptations of Russian Religious Thought,” in eds. Judith Kornblatt and Patrick Lally Michelson, Thinking Orthodox in Modern Russia: Culture, History, Context. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2014. 22pp.

“Cultural Transformation as Transdisfiguration in Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago.” Russian History 40: 1 (2013), 68-89.

“The Art of Knowing: Music and Ritual in Two Chekhov Stories.” Slavic and East European Journal 56 (January 2012), 38-55.

“Aleksandr Blok’s Other Body.” Russian Review 70 (January 2011), 118-136.