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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Jan Wenzel, 874-2116

Foremost Russian writer, theorist to visit URI

KINGSTON, R.I. -- March 7, 2003 -- Mikhail Epstein, a distinguished writer and literary theorist whose work has been compared to that of Jorge Luis Borges, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Walter Benjamin will visit the University of Rhode Island on March 27 and 28.

Currently, the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Cultural Theory and Russian Literature at Emory University, Epstein’s innovative approaches to humanistic thinking, cross-cultural dialogue, and literary production were featured this fall in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Epstein will give two public talks. Both are free and open to the public. The first one called "From Post- to Proto-: Mikhail Bakhtin and the Future of the Humanities," will be held Thursday, March 27 at 4 p.m. at The University Club, The Club Room, Upper College Road. Refreshments will be served.

An open discussion with Epstein on his most recent book, Cries in the New Wilderness: From the Files of the Moscow Institute of Atheism (translated by Eve Adler; Paul Dry Books, 2002), will be held on Friday, March 28, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the URI Feinstein Providence Campus, 80 Washington St., Room 203. A light lunch will be provided.

From The Chronicle of Higher Education: Epstein describes Cries in the New Wilderness as a "comedy of ideas," his response to a remark by the French poet and critic Paul Valery (1871-1945) that the modern era called for a new "Intellectual Comedy" to succeed Dante’s Divine Comedy which was born of feudal society, and Balzac’s Human Comedy, which sprang from bourgeois society. The right context for a third "comedy," says Epstein, is surely the rise and fall of Communism—a political system that sought to make ideology reality.

Copies of the book are currently available at the Rhode Island Book Company, Kingston Emporium, URI Kingston Campus.

Known for his work on Russian postmodernism and totalitarian language, for his startling religious and philosophical writings, and for his extensive Internet projects, Epstein was the founder, in the 1980’s in the Soviet Union, of groups such as the Essayists Club, Image and Thought, and the Laboratory of Contemporary Culture, in which artists and intellectuals attempted to cross political, intellectual, and cultural borders—those set, for example, by the language of totalitarianism. Eventually persecuted both for this work and for his Jewishness, Epstein left Russia for the U.S. in 1990.

Epstein will also lead one of his famous "improvisations" with URI faculty on Friday afternoon, and visit selected classes on Thursday.

His visit is co-sponsored by the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and URI’s Honors Program and Visiting Scholars Committee, Center for the Humanities, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures, and the Department of English.

Questions regarding any aspect of Epstein’s visit should be directed to Professor Mary Cappello, URI Department of English, 874-4678, mcapp@uri.edu.

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