Dr Alexandra Smith

Reader in Russian Studies


Prior to coming to the University of Edinburgh in January 2007, Dr Alexandra Smith taught at the University of Sheffield; the University of Canterbury, New Zealand; the University of Bristol and the University of Essex. She also worked for BBC2 and Channel 4 as a researcher and translator. In 2003-2006 she was an elected Chairperson of the Association of Australian and New Zealand Slavists and a member of the International Committee of Slavists (ex officio).

Dr Smith is a member of the editorial and advisory boards of several journals, including “New Zealand Slavonic Review”, “Australian East European and Slavonic Studies”, "The Dostoevsky Journal: A Comparative Literaure  Review” (Brill),  “Experimental Poetics and Aesthetics", and "AvtobiographiIA" (University of Padua). She is also a member of the Editorial Board of the series "Edinburgh Critical Studies in Modernism, Drama and Performance" published by Edinburgh University Press and Oxford University Press (2008-present). Alexandra Smith is a member of the Northern Theory School: http://www.northerntheoryschool.co.uk 

In addition to her research work and teaching, she also enjoys writing poetry, photography, translating literary and media texts, listening to classical and jazz music, visiting museums, travelling and reading books on history of ideas, performance, film, European cultural history and art history.

In 2015-2017 Dr Smith was the Director of the MSc Programme in Theatre and Performance . She is a co-leader of the research strand "Cultural Encounters/Cultural Dialogues" (DELC). Head of Russian (2008-09, 2012 (S2), 2014-15, 2017-18 (S2); 2018-present); IET course coordinator (2016-19). Year-abroad coordinator (2007-present).In addition to her administrative duties at the University of Edinburgh, Dr Smith serves as an External Examiner for Russian Studies, MSc in Translation Studies Programme and MSc programme in Russian and East European Studies taught by the University of Glasgow (2015- 2019). Dr Smith's main publications include these books: 

  • “Poetic Canons, Cultural Memory and Russian National Identity after 1991” (co-authored with Katharine Hodgson) (Oxford, Peter Lang [series: Russian Transformations: Literature, Thought, Culture], 2020. [520 pp.] [https://www.peterlang.com/view/title/65108]

  • “Twentieth- Century Russian Poetry: Reinventing the Canon” (co-edited with Katharine Hodgson and Joanne Shelton) (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2017) [504 pp.] [https://www.openbookpublishers.com/product/294]

  • “Montaging Pushkin: Pushkin and Visions of Modernity in Russian 20th-century Poetry” (Rodopi Press, Amsterdam / New York: 2006). [361 pp.]

  • “Pesn ́ peresmeshnika: Pushkin v tvorchestve Mariny Tsvetaevoi”, Tsvetaeva Museum and Ellis Lak, Moscow, 1998. [256 pp.]

  • “The Song of the Mockingbird: Pushkin in the Work of Marina Tsvetaeva”. Peter Lang, Bern / Berlin/ New York / Paris / Wien, 1994. [211pp]


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BA Hons (St Petersburg State Pedagogical University), 1980; MPhil (SSEES, UCL, 1989); PhD (SSEES, UCL, University of London) 1993.

Responsibilities & affiliations

An External Examiner for Russian Studies, MSc in Translation Studies and MSc in Russian and East European Studies: the University of Glasgow (2015-2019).

Since 2007 Dr Smith served as an External Examiner for PhD theses defended at the University of Nottingham, the University of Helsinki, the University of Oxford, the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, the University of Exeter and the University of Sheffield. 

Member of several professional organisations: BASEES; AATSEEL; ASEEES.

Assessed several abstracts/proposals for an international conference on literary studies and Slavic studies"Literaturovedheskaia rusistika" (Sofia, Bulgaria: 21-23 May 2015 and in May 2017).

Reviewer/assessor of research projects, books, proposals and articles for several publishing houses, research councils, and academic journals, including AHRC, British Academy, Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek - Vlaanderen, FWO/Research Foundation Flanders, Estonian Research Council, The Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, Toronto University Press, Peter Lang, Northwestern University Press, Indiana University Press, Academic Studies Press, Northern Illinois University Press,   Routledge, Edinburgh University Press, Slavic Review, Russian Review, Slavonic and East European Review, Modern Languages Review, Modernism/Modernity, AvtobiografiIA, Literature and Theology, Russian Literature, Australian Slavonic and  East European Studies, New Zealand Slavonic Journal, and Scando-Slavica.

Undergraduate teaching

  • Great Russian Novel (RS4 option course and MSc course)
  • "Post-Soviet Word, Image and Memory"(RS4 option course)
  • Golden and Silver Ages of Russian Literature (1820s-1920s)(Russian 2 literature course)
  • Russian Studies 1B (Literature and Grammar)
  • Introduction to European Cinema
  • Introduction to European Theatre
  • European Fiction in Comparative Contexts

Postgraduate teaching

  • MSc in Film Studies (2008-2014)
  • MSc in Comparative Literature (2008-present)
  • MSc in European Theatre/MSc in Theatre and Performance Studies (2011-present)
  • MSc option course in Fantastic Fiction (a unit on Bulgakov) (2014-present).

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

Areas of supervision: Russian literature; Russian culture (film, theatre, visual arts); comparative literature; theatre and performance; literary theory; emigre writing; film and theatre adaptations of literary works; Russian and East European intellectual history.

The list of topics of the PhD, MSc and MA dissertations that Dr Smith supervised recently comprise these items:

  • Alexander Grin’s fiction;
  • Soviet and post-Soviet film adaptations of Alexander Grin’s works;
  • Russian women’s writing;
  • Contemporary Russian and Chinese women writing;
  • Post-Soviet Media and Putin's Image-Making;
  • Lidiya Ginzburg's The Blockade Diary;
  • Post-Soviet memoirs;
  • Russian media under Putin;
  • The Petersburg myth in Daniil Kharms’s works;
  • The gender analysis of the literary journal “Novyi mir”;
  • Andrei Platonov’s fiction;
  • Tatyana Tolstaya’s novel “Kys” and its translation into English",
  • "Pushkin and Walter Scott";
  • Alexander Sokurov's film adaptation of Madam Bovary.
  • Dostoevsky and Augustine.

She also examined PhD theses and MA/Msc theses in the UK, Finland, Australia and New Zealand. They were related to:

  • Brodsky’s travel writing;
  • Religious themes in Russian unofficial literature of the 1970s-80s;
  • the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church on Russian culture;
  • Marina Tsvetaeva and the Psalmic Intertext;
  • Pushkin’s poetry;
  • 20th-century autibiographical writing;
  • Khlebnikov's poetry;
  • Mikhail Zoshchenko's fiction;
  • Russian Internet Communities in the UK;
  • Leningrad Blockade;
  • Russian Avant-Garde Cinema of the 1920s-30s;
  • European Avant-Garde Visual Culture of the 1920s-30s;
  • English Translations of Tolstoy's novel "Anna Karenina";
  • The Construction of Englishness in Soviet and Post-Soviet Translations of British Children's Literature.

She  supervised recently several MSc theses in Comparative litearure, including projects on Nabokov's influence on Pynchon; on Walter Scott and Pushkin; on Dostoevsky and Augustine; on post-Soviet emigre writers living in the USA and Germany, and on French medieval texts analysed through the prism of Bakhtin's theories; and a project on contemporary Scandinavian autobiographical writing . In 2013-14 Dr Smith supervised 5 MSc theses in Comparative Literature on these topics: Laxness and Turgenev; the use of Christian Imagery in Dostoevsky's novels; on genre boundaries and on ethics in autobiographical literature (with the focus  on Karl Ove Knausgard's "Min Kamp"); Goethe and Tolstoy; the representation of nostalgia in Wladimir Kaminer's book "Russian Disco" and in Birute Jonusjaite's novel "A Tango of White Zips". In January -July 2015 Dr Smith supervised one visiting student from Italy: she was an MSc in Anthropology and Visual Cultures student from the University of Siena (Paolo Tine). She worked on the project  "The Representation of the West in post-Soviet Culture".  The visit was sponsored by the Erasmus Research Exchange Programme.

Dr Smith also supervised several  MSc theses on European theatre,  including a project on  Evgenii Shvarts and a project on  Stanislavsky's legacy in the USA. Her current MSc supervision includes two projects in Comparative literature (on the reception of Hemingway in the Soviet Union and on the autobiograpfical novels by Pamuk and Ugresic); and one thesis in Msc in Theatre and Performance on  the production of Yeats's plays in Ireland. 

She is currently supervising (as Principal Supervisor) 8 PhD theses in Russian Studies, European Theatre, and in Comparative Literature; and co-supervising one thesis in English literature.


Current PhD students supervised

Principal supervisor of 5PhD students:

Anne Liebig (Russian Studies): "The Representation of History in Boris Akunin's Works" (PhD thesis has been submitted).

John Luke King-Salter ( Comparative Literature): "The Influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's ideas on Dostoevsky's works" (PhD thesis has been submitted).

 Stella Medvedeva (European Theatre): "The Applicability of Vygotsky's Theory to the Analysis of the Reception of "Hamlet" in Russia".

Sofia Polychronidou (European Theatre): "Socialist Realism and Its Manifestations in Soviet theatre in the 1920s-1940s" (PhD pending: subject to corrections).


Co-supervisor (1 student):

Giuseppe Strippole (PhD, Japanese Studies; started in September 2019.


Past PhD students supervised


Lina Mohamad (Islamic Studies): "The Burden of Valour: The Hero and the Terrorist -Villan in Post-9/11 Popular Fiction) (PhD was awarded in November 2015).

Eve Katsouraki (English Literature): "The Director as Philosopher in Modernist Performance" (PhD was awarded in October 2018).

Principal Supervisor: 

Erik Jürgen Simone Vlaeminck (Russian Studies): "The Representation of Masculinity in Russian Contemporary Literature" (PhD awarded: 31.03.2020)

Ida Hummel Gabrielsen (Comparative Literature): "The Function of Autoreception: Karl Ove Knausgard As Author-Critic and Rewriter". (Phd award: August 2019)

Kyle Hurley (Comparative literature): "Augustinian Kenoticism in Dostoevsky's novel The Brothers Karamazov" (MPhil award: June 2019).

Georgina Barker, Russian Studies, University of Edinburgh. “Russia’s Classical Alter Ego, 1963-2016: Classical reception in the poetry of Elena Shvarts, Il’ia Kutik, and Polina Barskova” (sponsored by Wolfson Scholarship).  (PhD was awarded in July 2017).

Klara Naszkowska (Comparative Literature): 

"The Living Mirror: The Representation of Doubling Identities in the British and Polish Women’s Literature (1846 – 1938)" (PhD was awarded in November 2013). 


Research summary

Alexandra Smith is the author of "The Song of the Mockingbird: Pushkin in the Works of Marina Tsvetaeva" (Peter Lang, 1994) and "Montaging Pushkin: Pushkin and Visions of Modernity in Russian Twentieth-Century Poetry" (Rodopi, 2006). She published numerous articles on Russian literature and culture, European literature and comparative literature. She contributed to and co-edited this book: [Co-edited with Katharine Hodgson and Joanne Shelton] “Twentieth-Century Russian Poetry: Reinventing the Canon” (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2017) [504 pp.]  Currently she is working on one co-authored book related to the project "Reconfiguring the Canon of Russian Twentieth-Century Poetry, 1991–2008"; it was funded by the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) in 2010-2014 . (See the whole list of main publications included in the CV available in the section "Biography").

Dr Alexandra Smith's research interests include:

  • Literary and film theory
  • Critical theory
  • Comparative literature
  • Russian 19th, 20th and  21st century literature and history of ideas (especially Romanticism, Modernism and Postmodernism; Pushkin; Dostoevsky; Tolstoy; Turgenev; Nabokov; )
  • European and Russian women’s writing
  • Russian and European drama and performance
  • 20th and 21st -c. Russian music, film and literature
  • Auto/biographical narratives
  • Russian  and European poetry
  • Russian Émigré writing
  • The interaction between literary and visual modes of artistic expression/Indermediality
  • Cultural studies

She welcomes postgraduate applications relating to her research interests and similar areas of study, including interdisciplinary approaches.

Project activity

  • In 2003-2007 Dr Alexandra Smith took part in an international inter-disciplinary project on post-Soviet Petersburg culture led by the University of Helsinki.
  • In autumn 2008 Dr Smith was awarded a British Academy Overseas Conference grant (for participation in the AAASS conference in November 2008): 400 pounds.
  • In December 2010 she was Awarded an AHRC grant jointly with Dr Katharine Hodgson (University of Exeter) for a 3-year project: "Reconfiguring the Canon of Twentieth-Century Russian Poetry, 1991-2008" (£429,000 - with funding for 1  post-doctoral fellow and  2 PhD students). Its objective is to explore the ways in which the contemporary Russian literary world has reshaped the canon of 20th-century poetry, assessing how the canon (as represented in print publications) has changed relative to the canon of the late Soviet period, and to analyse the contribution of Russian publishers, literary journals, and educational institutions to the process of canon formation. For more information see the project's website: http://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/modernlanguages/research/projects/russianpoetrycanon/about/
  • She also contributed to one international project on Russian 19th and 20th century auto/biographical writing led by the University of Padua (2011-14).
  • In autumn 2012 she was awarded a grant by the Centre for Research, Central and East European Studies (funded by the two major funding bodies such as AHRC and British Academy), University of Glasgow, to organise an international conference/workshop "Word and Image in Russian Contexts" (£3, 990). It took place on 1.02.2013 at Talbot Rice Gallery, University of Edinburgh. It was organised in conjunction with an exhibition on Charchoune curated by Talbot Rice Gallery. The programme is avaialble here: http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_257593_en.pdf
  • On 4 October 2013 Dr Smith organised (together with Professor Olga Taxidou, Department of English Literature) a one-day workshop/seminar on Russian and European modernist theatre and performance. It was sponsored by the LLC project "The Edge of Words", IASH and Princeton University. The programme for this event is available here: http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/literatures-languages-cultures/edge-of-words/events/study-days/4-10-2013
  • Together with Nicola McCartney (English Literature, University of Edinburgh), Dr Smith was awarded an Impact Support Fund Award for the project "Russian-Scottish Theatre, New Works and Translation Project" (£5 000). (4.03.2014- 30.08.2014). As part of the project Dr Smith translated 2 Russian plays into English (by Klavdiev and Durnenkov) and assisted with the production of the plays, interpreting and took part in several events related to the promotion of these plays and Theatre Doc. documentary drama. The pays  were performed in May 2015 by Oran Mor Theatre in Glasgow.
  • Dr Smith organised a one -day workshop (co-organised with IASH and Cultural Encounters/Cultural Dialogues Research Strand (DELC)): Lev Tolstoy In Different Contexts -- 4 December 2015 (The project was sponsored by CRCEES (University of Glasgow) as part of their AHRC and British Academy Awards. The sum is £937.53. The grant was added on 24.06.2015).

Past project grants

* An AHRC grant (jointly with Dr Katharine Hodgson, University of Exeter) for a 3-year project: "Reconfiguring the Canon of Twentieth-Century Russian Poetry, 1991-2008" (£429,000 - with funding for 1  post-doctoral fellow and  2 PhD students) (2010-2014).
* A grant by the Centre for Research, Central and East European Studies (funded by the two major funding bodies such as AHRC and British Academy), University of Glasgow, to organise an international conference/workshop "Word and Image in Russian Contexts" (£3, 990). February 2013.
*A joined project/award with Nicola McCartney (English Literature, University of Edinburgh): an Impact Support Fund Award for the project "Russian-Scottish Theatre, New Works and Translation Project" (£5 000). (4.03.2014- 30.08.2014).
* A grant for a one -day workshop (co-organised with IASH and Cultural Encounters/Cultural Dialogues Research Strand (DELC)): "Lev Tolstoy In Different Contexts". It took place on 4 December 2015 (The project was sponsored by CRCEES (University of Glasgow) as part of their AHRC and British Academy Awards. The sum is £937.53. The grant was added on 24.06.2015).
Moray Endowment Fund Award (£2,000) (1.01. 2016 - 1.07.2016) for a research assistant for a co-authored book on the status of Russian 20th-c. poetic canon and Russian national identity after 1991 (forthcoming) (the book is co-authored with Dr K. Hodgson, University of Exeter) – Principal Investigator.
Together with Dr Isabelle Darmon (Sociology) (Principal Investigator), Dr Smith (Co-Investigator) was awarded Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme grant (PTAS). Project Title: "Theory on stage". (£1 495).

View all 64 publications on Research Explorer

In the press

Selected talks and interviews:

Dr Smith was interviewd for these articles: "Language Books Stir Controversy" The St. Petersburg Times online (Russia)(Date of coverage26/12/12) and The Moscow Times online (Russia) (Date of coverage25/12/12).

Dr Smith delivered a talk on Russian Classics (Shostakovich, Scriabin, Mussorgsky) before the concert: 28.09.2014 at Usher Hall, Edinburgh. The concert was transmitted on BBC Radio 3. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/events/e9dwrz)

Dr Smith was an invited guest  and contributor to  the radio programme on St Peterburg "Talking History" (Dublin, Ireland). 25.11.2018.

Dr Smith gave a talk about Tarkovsky's film Andrey Rublev before the screening at 5 pm on 29 May 2016, Film House, Edinburgh.

Dr Smith gave  an introductory talk about Tarkovsky's film Stalker on 28 May 2016 at 5 pm  at Edinburgh Film House.

BBC Radio Scotland. 26.11.2018. 4.30 pm: an interview about Russian-Ukranian conflict.

Dr Smith gave an interview about Russian election results to the BBC Radio Scotland - Newsdrive - 19.03. 2018.

Dr Smith gave an interview about the crisis in diplomatic relations between Russia and Great Britain to the  BBC Radio 4 programme  "Today" 17 March 2018 (London).

Dr Smith is featured in Lidiya Grigoryeva's documentary film "Tsvetaeva in London" (1994) shown on Russian television on numerous occasions as well as part of different talks on Tsvetaeva delivered by the Russian emigre poet Lidia Grigoryeva in Moscow, Elabuga and London. The latest screening of the flilm took place in London in 2017: http://gbr.rs.gov.ru/en/news/20317?category_id=6