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Dr Katharine Holt, Lecturer

Katharine HoltContact Details
Phone: 01334 462958
Office: Quad 42

Module surgery hours:
On leave in Semester 1, 2017/18

Full research profile


My primary fields of interest are Soviet cultural production under Stalin and the depiction of Russia’s “Eastern” peripheries from the 19th century to today. I also teach a module on Contemporary Russian Literature and periodically translate pieces of Russian journalism, poetry, and prose into English. I have advised undergraduate and M.A. theses on such topics as Chingiz Aitmatov, Russian protest culture in 2011-2012, and transnational Russian literature in the 21st century. I am happy to supervise students interested in the topics listed above, as well as those wishing to analyse Russian literature of any era through a postcolonial or ecocritical lens.

My current book project is Against the Desert: Russian Representations of the Karakum, 1824–1954, an interdisciplinary study of how the largest desert in the former Soviet Union was depicted in the decades leading up to the construction of the Karakum Canal. Begun in the 1950s, this work of “national performance art,” to borrow a term the environmental humanist Rob Nixon has used to describe megadams, became the world’s largest irrigation canal upon its completion in the early 1990s. This feat of Soviet engineering also helped trigger extensive environmental degradation in Central Asia, including the desiccation of the Aral Sea. Analyzing works by such writers and artists as Nikolai Murav'ev, Nikolai Karazin, and Andrei Platonov, I explore the myths that undergirded Soviet environmental experimentation in the Karakum Desert and demonstrate the importance of these myths to Russian imperial and Soviet history. At the heart of the project is the understanding that natural resource management is not only an economic enterprise, but also a product of a nation’s cultural imagination.

I have also begun to lay the groundwork for a second book project, on a set of Soviet cultural figures who spent their careers acting as intermediaries between Moscow and various “Easts.” In conjunction with this study, I have completed two articles. The first, “Performing as Soviet Central Asia’s Source Texts: Lahuti and Džambul in Moscow, 1935-1936,” appeared in Cahiers d’Asie centrale in 2015. The second, on Nikolai Tikhonov, is currently being considered for publication. Provisionally entitled Writing the Soviet East, my second book will explore the experiences of several Soviet writers who served the so-called “friendship of peoples” between the 1920s and the 1960s. In so doing, the book will bring attention to a social trajectory that—with the exception of a few recent interventions by such scholars as Michael David-Fox, Katerina Clark, and Masha Kirasirova—has largely been ignored in Soviet cultural studies. At the same time, it will shed light on how “imperial lives” functioned in the Soviet Union and contribute to the emerging scholarship on Soviet translation practices.


Ulbandus 14: Andrei Platonov: Style, Context, Meaning
Holt, K. M. (ed.) 2012 Ulbandus Review. 323 p.
Research output: Book/ReportAnthology


Prostranstvennyi obraz tkani v "Iuvenil’nom more" A. Platonova
Holt, K. M. 2013 Poetika Andreia Platonova. Sbornik I: Na puti k "Iuvenil'nomu moriu". Belgrade, Vol. 1, p. 82-102
Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Performing as Soviet Central Asia’s source texts: Lahuti and Džambul in Moscow, 1935-1936
Holt, K. M. 12 Mar 2015 In : Cahiers d’Asie centrale. 24, p. 213-238
Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

The Weakest Link of Managed Democracy: How the Parliament Gave Birth to Nonparliamentary Politics
Holt, K. M. (Translator), Budraitskis, I. & Bozovic, M. (Translator) 2014 In : South Atlantic Quarterly. 113, 1, p. 169-185
Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Collective Authorship and Platonov's Socialist Realism
Holt, K. M. 2013 In : Russian Literature. 73, 1/2, p. 57-83
Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

The "Gavriliada" as Gossip
Holt, K. M. 2010 In : Ulbandus. 12, p. 1 20 p.
Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Enlisting Words Against Words: Danilo Kiš’s Enumeration
Holt, K. M. 2008 In : Serbian Studies. p. 1-15
Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Review: Empire De/Centered: New Spatial Histories of Russia and the Soviet Union, edited by Sanna Turoma and Maxim Waldstein
Holt, K. M. 2017 In : Slavonica. 22, no. 1, 1-2
Research output: Contribution to journalBook/Film/Article review


Roman Osminkin: Poetry and Prose: Translations by the Cement Collective (incl. Katharine Holt)
Holt, K. M. (Translator) & Osminkin, R. 5 Mar 2016
Research output: Other contribution

Translation of "The Western Critic at a Crossroads," by Ilya Budraitskis
Holt, K. M. (Translator) 29 Sep 2015 LeftEast
Research output: Other contribution