Paper I would work on if I had time, energy & presence of mind...

something about Russian-Petersburg cultural history - 18th & 19th century currents of liberal democracy & republicanism - Pushkinian background in Nabokov, Mandelstam - and certain aspects of Acmeism & early 20th-cent. Petersburg poetry (as developed mostly by Mandelstam, Gumilev, Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva) which assimilate these liberal trends, and try to blend them with older (medieval, Muskovite, Orthodox) traditions - thinking here of M's essay "Pushkin and Scriabin", where he sketches (very briefly) ideas about the "inner freedom" of Christian art in the West as being rooted in the historical fact of the Redemption - also the allegiance of the Acmeists to earthly, historical actuality & beauty (as opposed to the otherworldliness and spiritual detachment of Symbolism) - there is an analogy or kinship suggested there (in Acmeism) between spiritual, artistic and political freedom - & these impulses are evident (if often highly camouflaged) also in much of Nabokov -

- then about how my own development as a writer seems to find its historical ground & actuality, paradoxically, in these Petersburg writers, with whom I've been engaged off & on now for 40 years or so - ever since I got infected by my mother's enthusiasm for Nabokov (she tried to read everything he wrote) back in high school - the last short story I wrote in high school was a kind of proto-Nabokovian elegy for high school (which included a section in which the narrator & friends "re-enact" scenes from War & Peace in a snowy Minneapolis city park) - & probably beginning even earlier, with the affinities between Russian & northern Minnesotan & Ontario landscapes, where I spent so much time back then -

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