Irina Paperno, Distinguished Professor Emerita, Professor of the Graduate School


Professor Paperno has retired but remains actively involved in teaching graduate and undergraduate courses and mentoring graduate students.

M.A. (Russian language and literature) Tartu University.
M.A. (Psychology) Stanford University.
Ph.D. (Slavic languages and literatures) Stanford University.

Teaching: Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. The Russian and European Novel in the 19th and 20th centuries. Discourse analysis and close reading.

Fields of Expertise and Research interests: 19th- and 20th-century Russian literature and culture. The Soviet Experience. Narrative and consciousness; the novel; personal documents (memoirs, diaries, letters); dreams.

Interdisciplinary interest: Psychoanalysis.

Current projects: A study of biographical narratives.

Selected publications:


  • “Osada cheloveka”: zapiski Ol’gi Freidenberg kak mifopoiticheskaia teoriia stalinizma [“The Siege of a Human Being”: Olga Freidenberg’s Notes as a Mythopolitical Theory of Stalinism]. Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2023.
  • “Who, What am I?” Tolstoy Struggles to Narrate the Self. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2014; paperback 2018. Revised Russian translation: “Kto, chto ia?” Tolstoi v svoikh dnevnikakh, pis’makh, vopominaniiakh, traktatakh. Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2018.
  • Stories of the Soviet Experience: Memoirs, Diaries, Dreams. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2009.
  • Intimacy and History: The Herzen Family Drama Reconsidered, Russian Literature 61: 1-2 (Special Issue), ed. Irina Paperno, (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2007).
  • Suicide as a Cultural Institution in Dostoevsky’s Russia. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1997. Russian translation: Samoubiistvo kak kul’turnyi institut. Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 1999; Chinese translation: Jilin: Jilin People’s Publishing House, 2003.
  • Chernyshevsky and the Age of Realism: A Study in the Semiotics of Behavior. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988. Russian translation: Semiotika povedeniia: Nikolai Chernyshevsky–chelovek epokhi realizma. Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 1996. French translation: Tchernychevski et l’âge du réalisme. Essai de sémiotique des comportements / Traduction Aurélien Langlois. Lyon: ENS Éditions, 2017.
  • Creating Life: The Aesthetic Utopia of Russian Modernism, co-edited with Joan Delaney Grossman. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994.
  • Christianity and the Eastern Slavs: Russian Culture in Modern Times. Co-edited with Irina Paperno. University of California Press, 1994.

Selected Articles

  • “ ‘Eto dazhe ne blokada i ne osada. Eto prostoi, obydennii sovetskii den’: poslevoennye zapiski Ol’gi Freidenberg kak mifopoliticheskaoa teoriia” [“This is not Even the Blockade or a Siege, this is an Ordinary Soviet Day”: Olga Freidenberg’s Postwar Notes as a Mythopolitcal Theory], Novoe literaturenoe obozrenie No 178, 2022, 7-27.
  • “Osada cheloveka: blokadnye zapiski Ol’gi Freidenberg v antropologicheskoi perspektive,” Novoe literaturenoe obozrenie No 139, 2016, 184-204. Reprinted in Blokadnye narrativy: Sbornik statei, ed. P. Barskova, R. Nicolosi (Moscow: NLO, 2017) and Diskurs, 21 June 2017,
  • “What, Then, Shall We Do: Tolstoy’s Way (2012 AATSEEL Distinguished Professor Lecture),” Slavic and East European Journal 56: 3 (fall 2012), 333-46.
  • “Dreams of Terror: Dreams from Stalinist Russia as a Historical Source,” Kritika: Exploration in Russian and Eurasian History, vol. 7, no. 4 (Fall 2006), pp. 793-824.
  • “What Can Be Done with Diaries?” The Russian Review 63: 4 (October 2004).
  • “Personal Accounts of the Soviet Experience,” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, vol. 3, no. 4 (Fall 2002).
  • “Exhuming the Bodies of Soviet Terror,” Representations 75 (Summer 2001).
  • “Tolstoy’s Diaries: The Inaccessible Self,” in Laura Engelstein and Stephanie Sandler, Self and Story in Russian History (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000). Translated into German: Individualitaetskonzepte in der russischen Kultur, ed. Christa Ebert (Berlin: Berlin Verlag Arno Spitz, 2002). Translated into Russian: Novoe literturnoe obozrenie, 61 (2003).
  • “On the Nature of the Word: Theological Sources of Mandelshtam’s Dialogue with the Symbolists.” In Christianity and the Eastern Slavs. Volume 2, edited by Robert P. Hughes and Irina Paperno (Berkeley: The University of California Press, 1994).
  • “Pushkin v zhizni cheloveka Serebrianogo veka.” In Cultural Mythologies of Russian Modernism: From the Golden Age to the Silver Age, ed. by Boris Gasparov, Robert P. Hughes and Irina Paperno. Berkeley: The University of California Press, 1992. Reprinted in: Sovremennoe amerikanskoe pushkinovedenie. Sbornik statei. St. Petersburg, 1999.
  • “How Nabokov’s Gift Is Made.” In Festschrift in Honor of Joseph Frank. Ed. by Edward J. Brown, Lazar Fleishman, Gregory Freidin and Richard Schupbach. (Stanford: Stanford Slavic Studies, 1992). Translated into Russian: Vladimir Nabokov: Pro et contra, ed. B. Averin, M. Malikova. St. Petersburg: Izdatel’stvo RHGI, 1997.