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Jenifer Presto

Associate Professor of Comparative Literature
Russian East European and Eurasian Studies
Phone: 541-485-7400
Office: 272 PLC
Office Hours: On sabbatical from 3/28/23 to 9/15/23
Research Interests: Russian modernism; gender studies; literature and the visual arts; imaginative geographies; Russian-Italian cultural interactions; Russian-American culture; and environmental criticism


M.A. & Ph.D., Slavic Languages and Literatures / Comp Lit Minor, University of Wisconsin-Madison
M.A., Russian Language, Middlebury College 
A.B., magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, Russian Literature, Smith College


I am a core member of the faculty of 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 UVa and USC, where I also held an Andrew W. Mellon postdoc. In addition, I did a yearlong stint as resident director of UW-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 Russian literature and culture with an emphasis on gender studies and environmental criticism. My first book, Beyond the Flesh: Alexander Blok, Zinaida Gippius, and the Symbolist Sublimation of Sex, is devoted to the interplay of gender and self-creation in Russian symbolism. I am currently completing my second book, The Geopoetics of Disaster: Italy and Modern Russian Culture, which traces the aesthetic impact of natural catastrophes such as the 1908 Messina earthquake and the 1944 eruption of Vesuvius on Russian culture. Broadening the scope of this work, I have collaborated with Anindita Banerjee (Cornell Comp Lit) on special issues on Russian Geopoetics and The 1917 Revolution and Its Ripple Effects. 

I have also begun research on two new books, which build on my work on geopoetics and my interests in Northwest immigrant art. The first, Olga Volchkova: Nature's Icon Painter, is a critical introduction to the extraordinary environmental art of this Eugene-based artist. The second, Adjacent Ecologies: Russian-American Art in the Pacific Northwest, makes a case for the region as a crucial contact zone for Russian immigrant artists. Together these projects expand our understanding of the location of Russian-American culture, revealing the Pacific Northwest to be a rich site of both local creativity and transpacific cultural flow. 

In an allied initiative, I have partnered with Heghine Hakobyan (UO Libraries) to launch a digital humanities internship 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. Undergraduate students 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 with Academic Studies Press on East European and Eurasian Ecologies: Past, Present, and Future. This is the first series on the environmental humanities in Slavic studies. You can find a description of what we publish in the attached flyer. If you have a manuscript that would be a good fit for our list, do not hesitate to reach out to me.