William Nickell

Associate Professor, Chair of the Slavic Department

Research Interest:
Russian literature

Foster 405
(773) 702-8083

More information available at: home.uchicago.edu/wnickell/index.html

William Nickell is a cultural historian specializing in mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century Russia, with particular interest in the 1840s, turn-of-the century, and 1930s-40s. Before joining the University of Chicago he was the Gary Licker Research Chair at U.C. Santa Cruz. His research focuses on media studies and cultural production, with close attention to the effects of large-scale social, economic and technical change. He also publishes extensively on Tolstoy, including a forthcoming companion to War and Peace. His first book, The Death of Tolstoy: Russia on the Eve, Astapovo Station, 1910, received honorable mention for the MLA’s Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Studies in Slavic Languages and Literatures.

He works closely with students to construct digital media and installations, including the Soviet Apartment Project (Kommunalka) and the Soviet House of Rest. In 2013-14 he will be working on a new project relating to Sochi, documenting its transformation from a model Soviet city into an elite resort and Olympic site. The project will include an installation in Chicago and Los Angeles and an accompanying book. It will also actively involve University of Chicago students, who will collect documents and oral histories, assist with the installation and participate in its events (recreating the atmosphere of a Soviet-era resort), and develop a digital map of the city tracing its various stages of development.

He also runs a film series featuring the cinema of Russia, Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Open to the campus community, it is organized in cooperation with students, and is intended to introduce new perspectives, hone interpretive skills, and stimulate research.

Selected Publications


The Death of Tolstoy. Russia on the Eve, Astapovo Station, 1910. (Cornell University Press, May 2010)
A Companion to Tolstoy’s War and Peace. (Academic Studies Press, 2013)


The Soviet Apartment. Live-in dormitory installation, 2007-08.
The Soviet House of Rest. Installation, 2010.
Sochi in Six Dimensions. Rich cartography project to appear in fall 2013.
The Soviet Cure. Exhibit and accompanying book, 2013-14.

Articles and Book Chapters:

Yuri Olesha. Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism. (2013)

“When We Dead Arise: A Living Corpse as a Moving Picture.” Book chapter for Tolstoy Screen Adaptations, ed. Lorna Fitzsimmons. (2012)

Mondry, Henrietta. Exemplary Bodies: Constructing the Jew in Russian Culture. Russian Review 71:2 (April 2012).

“Tolstoy Wars” (Review essay concerning new biographies and memoirs of Leo Tolstoy’s wife.) Tolstoy Studies Journal XXII (2010).

“The Great Writer of All Lands: Russia Reads the International Reception of Tolstoy’s Death.” La Revue des etudes slaves, Res 81 (2010).

Croskey, Robert. The Legacy of Tolstoy: Alexandra Tolstoy and the Soviet Regime in the 1920s. Russian Review (Winter 2010).

Boris Kagarlitsky, “1960s East and West: The Shestidesiatniki and the New Left.” Boundary 2 36:1 (Spring 2009). Translation and introduction.

“New Directions in Tolstoy Studies.” Kritika (Summer 2008).

“Transfigurations of Tolstoy’s Final Journey: Tolstoy and the Church in 1910.” Tolstoy Studies Journal XVII (2006).

“Tolstoy in the Mirror of the Revolution,” in Epic Revisionism: Russian History and Literature as Stalinist Propaganda, David Brandenburger & Kevin Platt, eds. (University of Wisconsin Press, 2005).

“Nikolai Zlatovratsky. ” Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 238: Russian Novelists in the Age of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky (Brucolli Clark Layman, 2001).

“The Death of Tolstoy and the Genre of the Public Funeral in Russia.” Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 44 (Winter 2000).

“Itineraries of the Afterlife: Handling the Relics of Lenin and Nicolas II.” Center for Slavic and East European Studies Newsletter, Fall 1998.

Costlow, Sandler & Vowles, Sexuality and the Body in Russian Culture. (Review) SEEJ, Fall 1995.

Helena Goscilo, “New Members and Organs: The Politics of Porn.” (Review). Slavic Review, Fall 1994.

“Tolstoy in ‘Leag’ with Henry Parkhurst and Eliza Burnz.” Tolstoy Studies Journal, No. 6, 1993.


Tolstoy & the Epic Voice (Seminar on War and Peace)
19th Century Russian Cultural Production (Graduate Seminar)
Soviet Everyday Life” (Seminar)
The Transnational Subject: Jewish Writers in Russian Literature
Russian & African American Soul and the Legacies of Slavery and Serfdom
Media Aesthetics – Text (Humanities Core)
Media Aesthetics – Image (Humanities Core)
Realism in Russia
Women in Russian Literature
The Classic Russian Novel
Forbidden Literature in the Russian Tradition
Russian Modernism and the Avant-Garde
Russian Literature In Revolution