Costlow Headshot

Jane Costlow

2016 Candidate for ASEEES President


Jane Costlow is the Clark A. Griffith Professor of Environmental Studies at Bates College (Lewiston, Maine), and a specialist in Russian literature and culture.  She received her B.A. in French and Russian from Duke University (1976) and a Ph.D. in Slavic Literatures from Yale (1987).   From 1986 until 2010 she was a member of the Russian faculty at Bates, while also serving on inter-disciplinary program committees for Women’s Studies and Environmental Studies.  In 2010 she accepted a full-time appointment in Environmental Studies; she teaches courses in Environmental Humanities, many of which include Russia-related components.

Costlow’s first book, Worlds within Worlds: The Novels of Ivan Turgenev (Princeton, 1990), undertakes close readings of Turgenev’s novels, attentive to the ways in which these social novels are beautifully crafted philosophical meditations on language, life’s meaning, and human relationships with the natural world.  Her work subsequently turned to women’s participation in Russian cultural life, and ways in which women are represented in the Russian literary canon.  In 1993 she published, with Stephanie Sandler and Judith Vowles, Sexuality and the Body in Russian Culture (Stanford).  Her translation of Lydia Zinovieva-Annibal’s The Tragic Menagerie (Northwestern, 1999) received the AATSEEL prize for best translation.   Publications on Evgeniia Tur and Zinovieva-Annibal twice received the Heldt prize for best essay in Slavic women’s studies.

More recently, her scholarly work has posed questions about 19th century culture and the natural world, and the inter-relationship of cultural traditions and environmental/scientific understanding – in particular, how developments within European and Russian forestry came to inform literary and visual representations of Russia’s European forest, and how longstanding ways of imagining the forest informed natural history.  Heart-Pine Russia: Walking and Writing the Nineteenth Century Forest  (Cornell, 2013) received the 2014 USC Prize for Best Book in Literary and Cultural Studies.  Costlow’s interdisciplinary work on women’s writing and on environmental cultural history has been informed by gender studies and ecocriticism, seeking to consider how Russian and Soviet experiences might inflect terms and understandings from fields initially focused on the U.S. or western Europe. Her collaborative work has continued with several edited volumes: with Amy Nelson, Other Animals: Beyond the Human in Russian Culture and History (Pittsburgh, 2010), and two forthcoming volumes on water in Russian culture, co-edited with Arja Rosenholm and Yrjo Haila (Tampere University, Finland).

Costlow has published scholarly articles and reference entries on pre-revolutionary and Soviet-era writers, including Marko Vovchok, Evgeniia Tur, Lydia Avilova and Irina Polyanskaya; on landscape in the films of Larisa Shepitko; and on representations of the bear in late Imperial culture. She has also published translations of work by Vladimir Korolenko and numerous 19th century women writers. 

Current projects include translations of Korolenko’s cycle of Volga sketches, and work on cultural symbolism and forms of attachment to place, focusing on holy springs in the Orel region and small parks in Moscow.

Costlow has received funding from IREX, Fulbright and the Whiting and Mellon foundations.  She has traveled extensively with students on semester-long and five-week study courses to Russia (St. Petersburg, Baikal and Orel), travel that has deeply informed her scholarly work, particularly on environmental cultures.