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Jenifer Presto

Associate Professor of Comparative Literature
Comparative Literature, Russian East European and Eurasian Studies
Phone: 541-485-7400
Office: 346 PLC
Office Hours: Summer 2024: By appointment on Zoom
Research Interests: Russian modernism; gender studies; environmental criticism; visual culture; digital humanities; Russian-Italian cultural interactions; and Russian-American culture


M.A. / Ph.D., Slavic Languages and Literatures / CompLit Minor, University of Wisconsin-Madison
M.A., Russian Language, Middlebury College (with a year at the Pushkin Institute in Moscow) 
A.B., magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, Russian Literature, Smith College


I am a core faculty member in Comparative Literature. I also teach in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, a program I directed for nine years. Prior to joining the UO, I taught briefly at the University of Virginia and the University of Southern California, where I also held an Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellowship. In addition, I did a yearlong stint as resident director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Moscow program. Over the years, I have traveled to various cities in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Of late my research has taken me to Italy as well.

I work on modern Russian literature and culture with a focus on gender studies and environmental criticism. My first book, Beyond the Flesh: Alexander Blok, Zinaida Gippius, and the Symbolist Sublimation of Sex, was devoted to the interplay of gender and poetic self-creation in Russian symbolism. I am currently completing my second book, The Geopoetics of Catastrophe: Russian Writers on Italian Terrain, which takes an entirely new approach to the Russian encounter with Italy, tracing the aesthetic impact of Italy's disasters on Russian culture. Broadening the scope of this work, I have collaborated with Anindita Banerjee (Cornell CompLit) on special issues on Russian Geopoetics and The 1917 Revolution and Its Ripple Effects. 

I have also begun research on a new book project, which builds on my work on eco-aesthetics and my interests in Northwest immigrant art. This study, entitled Olga Volchkova: Nature's Icon Painter, examines how this contemporary Russian-born artist celebrates nature's spiritual potentiality in the era of climate change and habitat loss. Trained in the fine arts and icon conservation in her native Tver, Volchkova resides in Eugene, OR, where she is engaged in "canonizing all the living creatures of nature" in her richly detailed paintings on wood. This generously illustrated volume will be the first major critical introduction to this remarkable woman artist who revivifies the icon form to document the relationships between flora, fauna, and humankind that have enabled us to thrive.  

In an allied initiative, I have partnered with Heghine Hakobyan (UO Libraries) on a digital humanities project on Slavic Immigrant Artists in the Northwest (SIAN)SIAN enables UO students to earn credit for original research that is showcased on the SIAN website. There are no language requirements or prerequisities to participate, just a commitment to public research on the arts. Undergraduates should register for RUSS 404 and graduate students for RUSS 604. If you are interested in enrolling, please contact me for registration approval. 

Beyond the UO, I serve as the editor of a book series on East European and Eurasian Ecologies: Past, Present, and FutureThis is the first series on the environmental humanities in Slavic Studies. If you have a manuscript that might be a good fit for our list, do not hesitate to reach out to me.