2008 Distinguished Contributions to Slavic Studies Award Winner
The Association's highest honor, the 2008 Distinguished Contributions to Slavic Studies Award, which honors senior scholars who have helped to build and develop the field of Slavic Studies through scholarship, training, and service to the profession, is presented to Joseph Frank, Professor Emeritus in Slavic and Comparative Literature at Stanford University, in recognition of his preeminent career as a scholar, literary critic, mentor, and teacher in the field of Russian and European literature, culture, and intellectual history.
Born in New York City in 1918, Professor Frank studied at New York University, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Paris. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago he taught at Princeton University, the University of Minnesota, Rutgers University, and Harvard University. In 1966 he joined the Department of Comparative Literature at Princeton University and served as Director of the Gauss Seminars in Criticism. Professor Frank has continued to contribute to the scholarly community in two departments—Slavic Languages and Literatures and Comparative Literature—since he moved to Stanford University in 1985.
With eight books and hundreds of articles and reviews to his credit, Professor Frank has an exceptional record of scholarship. In his highly influential 1945 essay, “Spatial Form in Modern Literature: An Essay in Three Parts,” Frank redefined literary modernism as a break from the continental philosophical and aesthetic tradition, bringing to light the ethical implications of the new de-historicized literary form. This essay, which subsequently appeared as part of The Widening Gyre: Crisis and Mastery in Modern Literature (1963) and as a book, The Idea of Spatial Form (1991), helped to launch Frank as one of America’s most original thinkers in the post-war period. Beginning in the late 1950s, Frank’s keen interest in the mutual determination of literary imagination, philosophy, and politics led him to Russia, a country he views as a crucible of the modern age, and to the study of Dostoevsky.
The first of Professor Frank’s five volumes on Dostoevsky's life and work appeared in 1976, Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt, 1821-1849. This was followed by Dostoevsky, the Years of Ordeal, 1850-1859 (1983), Dostoevsky: The Stir of Liberation, 1860-1865 (1986), Dostoevsky. the Miraculous Years, 1865-1871 (1995), and Dostoevsky. The Mantle of the Prophet, 1871-1881 (2002). These magisterial works, together with his collected essays in Through the Russian Prism: Essays on Literature and Culture (1990), have set a new standard for the study of Russian literature, literary biography, cultural and intellectual history within a broader European context.
Elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1969, Professor Frank has received numerous honors and awards including the National Book Critics Circle Award (1984); the James Russell Lowell Prize, M.L.A.(1977, 1986); the Efim Etkind Prize of the St. Petersburg European University (2006); and honorary degrees from the University of Chicago, Adelphi University, Northwestern University, and the Sorbonne. As he reaches his ninetieth birthday, Professor Frank remains a vibrant and compelling voice. In recognition of his lifetime achievement, we honor our esteemed colleague with the highest award of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.