Boris Lanin,  Moscow/ Uppsala:

The Struggle for Literary Canon in Today’s Russia


Since 1992, the teaching of the Humanities has occupied a central place in the public debate on educational policy in Russia. In particular, debates on literary education, have proven to be very resonant and controversial, perhaps even more so than debates about historical education.
At first glance, recent changes in the field of literary education may not seem particularly radical or dramatic; however, not only the factual content, but also the fundamental emotional perception of literary education has been in the process of transformation. The contemporary reader derives little pleasure from reading. This problem has given way to a vicious circle: the reader hurries through to read as much and as quickly as he can, and literature — as if in revenge — hides its depths from him as he speeds by.
Literature and the teaching of literature cannot be reduced to a role as handmaiden of ideology; therefore, teachers must find a means to transform the post-Soviet curriculum into a truly humanistic one, which means that the mainstream in teaching literature must abandon authoritarian approaches in favor of modern and open-minded ones.
In their efforts to control everything in modern education, politicians have been increasingly vocal, at the expense of literary experts. Nevertheless, sober evaluation of the current trends should help us to formulate principles of the future development.
Boris Lanin is Professor of Russian Literature at the Russian Institute of Theatre Arts (gitis),
Moscow, and currently a Johan Peter Falck Fellow at Scas in Upppsala. He graduated with honors from Baku Slavic University in 1983, and received his Candidate of Philology Degree in 1990. After obtaining his Doctorate in Philology from Moscow State Pedagogical University in 1994, Boris Lanin served as a visiting professor at the Kennan Institute and later at Woodrow Wilson International Center (Washington dc), at Institut d’études avancées de Paris, at the Hokkaido, Stanford, Kobe, Waseda (Tokyo), and Saitama universities, and at Alfried Krupp Wissenschaftskolleg Greifswald. In 2018 he was a National Endowment for the Humanities Distinguished Visiting Professor at the State University of New York, Potsdam. Lanin is a member of the Scientific Board of Study Center Vasilij Grossman, Turin.
Recent publications include: The Prose of the Third Wave of Emigration (2018, 2nd rev. ed.) (in Russian); “Revolution in Babel’s ‘Red Cavalry’ and Vasilii Grossman’s Stories” (in Russian Culture under the Sign of Revolution, eds. V. Gretchko, SooHwan Kim, S. Nonaka, 2018) (in Russian); “’Life and Fate’ in Theatre and Cinema” (in Grossman Studies: The Legacy of a Contemporary Classic, eds. M. Calusio, A. Krasnikova, P. Tosco, 2016) (in Russian); “Les traditions classiques et les antiutopies russes contemporaines” (in La Revue Russe, 43, 2014); “Vassilyi Grossman’s Philosophical Ideas” (in Acta Slavica Iaponica, 36, 2015) (in Russian); “Stalin in Grossman’s Prose” (in Herald of RUDN University: Literary Studies/ Journalism, 2014) (in Russian); and Vladimir Sorokin and Victor Pelevin, a Hidden Dialog (with H. Kaizawa, 2015) (in Japanese).
Lanin’s literature textbooks for the 5th to the 11th grades are widely used at secondary schools in the Russian Federation, with almost a million having been sold to date.