USC Book Prize in Literary and Cultural Studies

2022 Recipient

Yuliya Ilchuk

Nikolai Gogol: Performing Hybrid Identity

The University of Southern California Book Prize in Literary and Cultural Studies, established in 2009 and sponsored by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Southern California, is awarded annually for an outstanding monograph published on Russia, Eastern Europe, or Eurasia in the fields of literary and cultural studies in the previous calendar year.

Winner: Yuliya Ilchuk
Title: Nikolai Gogol: Performing Hybrid Identity (University of Toronto Press)

Yuliya Ilchuk’s study of Nikolai Gogol is at once far-reaching and carefully grounded. Ilchuk examines Gogol’s textual performances—oral and written alike—to demonstrate the relevance of and extend Homi Bhabha’s notion of cultural “hybridity” in a Ukrainian context. In Ilchuk’s account, “hybridity” comes to refer to the colonized subject’s capacity to open up an “in-betweenness” out of which they can destabilize hegemonic (linguistic) norms; create an “interlanguage” that encompasses greater swaths of the empire; and establish an “enunciatory” position from which they can manage dual loyalties and “enact multiplicity” via skillfully applied “masks” and “performances.” With chapters focused on cultural-historical background, Gogol’s strategies in Russian high society, various periods of his work, as well as his correspondence, textual revisions, and posthumous publications and translations, Ilchuk persuasively and precisely grounds her intervention into postcolonial theory in Gogol’s texts and their contexts. Indeed, her study is unusual in its seamless and compelling integration of critical theory with both close- and distant-reading methods, productively utilizing multiple digital humanities tools and approaches. This integrated approach powerfully illustrates how diverse disciplinary modes can be deployed in concert to a significant end. Ilchuk speaks, through her materials, directly to questions of historical and contemporary Russian and Ukrainian identities—in a way that feels urgently important. Moreover, she reflects—and shows how Gogol’s textual performances reflect—the paradoxically privileged position of multilingual populations, with their special capacity to navigate identity and empire.

Honorable Mention: Katerina Clark