Associate Professor of Comparative Literature
Coordinator of Graduate Studies
Affiliations: Fellow, Victoria College; Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures
PhD (U. Wisconsin-Madison)
Leave Status: N/A
Bio and Research:
Much of my work has been focused on alternative publishing, underground (counter-public) networks, and transnational exchange, with a focus on comparing the diverse groups doing underground publishing (samizdat) in the late Soviet Union. These alternative publishing networks entail economic and symbolic exchanges across borders. Their challenge to the hegemony of print made it possible for marginal voices to be heard, enabling the production of alternative knowledge (alternative history), and the poetic creation of new public imaginations and subject positions. I find in Soviet Jewish activism one provocative example of the pluralization of the dissident sphere, and of the symbolic exchanges involved in the interaction among Soviet Jewish activists (including refuseniks) and their supporters in the West.
I am interested in the translation of avant-garde poetics from the revolutionary to the post-utopian era to fashion new forms of imagination of authorship and readership from print to non-print modes of the text in recent decades. This has driven my interest in the digital humanities, and it is at the heart of a current project to compare the neo-avant-garde poetics of the Leningrad samizdat journal 37 and the Parisian journal Tel Quel. In that project, I compare the post-structuralist and post-utopian approaches to the poetic word and writing, looking back to Mallarmé and Mandelshtam. I am also currently working on a co-authored account of underground Jewish life in Leningrad with Dr. Michael Beizer of Hebrew University. In addition, I am engaged in a comparative study of the use of trash and discarded objects in art works and museum exhibits, including works by Robert Rauschenberg, Tadeusz Kantor, Ilya Kabakov, and exhibits in Holocaust museums.
Research and Teaching Interests:
Twentieth-century literature and art; the history and sociology of literature and publishing; avant-garde poetics; public formation and cultural opposition. Komaromi has taught courses on public theory and literature; on Russian and Western theory (Bakhtin and Poststructuralism); and on the legacies of modernism and the avant-garde. She has also taught courses specifically on the literature and art of opposition in post-Stalin and post-Soviet Russia.
Komaromi’s numerous publications on Samizdat include articles analyzing the extra-Gutenberg mode of existence of the text (Poetics Today) and Jewish samizdat. Komaromi’s book Uncensored: The Quest for Autonomy in Soviet Samizdat, came out with Northwestern University Press, in 2015. Her electronic archive Project for the Study of Dissidence and Samizdat was launched at the University of Toronto Libraries in 2015: it includes a database of Soviet Samizdat Periodicals, electronic editions of Samizdat literary and art journals, illustrated timelines of dissident movements, and interviews with activists. Her edition, with introduction and notes, of Yuli Kosharovsky’s history of the Jewish movement in the Soviet Union, We Are Jews Again, came out from Syracuse University Press in 2017. A catalog of Soviet Samizdat periodicals, compiled together with G. Kuzovkin, Katalog periodiki Samizdata, 1956-1986 (A Catalog of Samizdat Periodicals, 1956-1986) was published by the International Memorial Society (Moscow: Mezhdunarodnyi Memorial) in 2018