Melb Uni 2018 Allumni (1)

Slobodanka Millicent Vladiv-Glover

Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Languages, Literature, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University

When did you first develop an interest in Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies?

My interest in Russian and Slavic was sparked by a curiosity about Russian literature in opposition to how we were taught it at Melbourne University (Australia) – as a reflection of mainly 19th century Russian society, with its clichéd social themes and the conception that Russian literature somehow stood apart from the cultural life of Europe. I thought that there must be more to literature as a mode of knowledge than to be “a mirror” of something that is not literature. My M.A. thesis was thus on the function the significance (de facto a Formalist question of function) of the plot of the “superfluous man” in the Russian novel. This was still only a quasi-structural analysis which, however, showed me that the way to interpret a literary text was not through the themes alone – as linear commentary on ‘reality’ –  but as a totality of devices and levels of meaning, as a total aesthetic structure. My Ph.D. became a fully fledged theoretical analysis of “The Narrative Structure in Dostoevsky’s Besy”, using Bakhtin’s “dialogic word” in a narratological inflection. From there on, I branched out into other Slavic canons – Serbo-Croatian (Yugoslav), Polish, Ukrainian – to study the poetics of Slavic Modernism and postmodernism. I enlarged my tool kit with post-structural theory, relying mainly on a re-reading of European phenomenology and psychoanalytic theory.

What support have you received throughout your career (from ASEEES/other societies/federal support/etc.) that has allowed you to advance your scholarship?

The support I received during my academic journey was varied and sporadic. Because Slavic Studies were always marginal in Australian academia, I looked for support and academic fellowship overseas: in NASSS (North American Society for Serbian Studies), in ASEEES, whose member I became in 1980, in German universities, which I toured with guest lectures on Structuralism and postmodernism in the 1980s and 1990s, in Yugoslavia, where I became a member of Serbian PEN International and a Member of the Serbian Writers Association. The foundational support came from my Russian teachers at Melbourne University – a collective of Russian and Soviet émigrés, who had extensive connections with the local Russian Church and community in Melbourne, as well as with Soviet diplomats and academics. Institutional support during my rite of passage as an academic at Monash University was not great although it was always there on a personal level, from generous colleagues and deans. Small conference travel subsidies helped supplement my personally funded trips. In Australia, the conference budgets never covered the entire cost of the trip; they were always ex gratia sums towards the costs. Add to that the fact of Australia’s remoteness (the quickest trip to anywhere except Hawaii is 22 hrs in the air), and you can calculate the stamina – financial and physical – that it takes to be a Slavic Studies scholar in the Antipodes.

What does your ASEEES membership mean to you?  How has your involvement with ASEEES helped to further your career?

Despite the material hurdles, ASEEES has been a beacon for me in every academic year since 1980. It offered not just communion with like-minded colleagues, extended professional conversations, and joint projects; it was also the atmosphere of the annual conventions in the Marriotts and Hyatts, with their plush carpeted lobbies and private club furniture that made you feel part of an elite yet broad-church group, which was in pursuit of something important that validated your own effort in the Slavic disciplines. In pursuit of knowledge, which for me is synonymous with beauty, I found myself in the proper place at every annual convention of ASEEES.

What is your current research/work project?

Although I retired as an Associate Professor (which is the penultimate highest rank in Australian academia with full tenure) in 2013, I have found another teaching job at Monash College which caters to first–year university international students, mainly from China and Southeast Asia. I find the challenge of trying to transmit European culture and academic practices to young people from a completely different culture exciting and a new source of practical knowledge for me. I appear to have some success in this cross-cultural communication; in the student responses of last trimester, I had comments such as: “Amazing teacher that makes the learning in class very enjoyable and motivates us to excel and do better. She adds additional knowledge to the class that benefits us. She also takes the time and effort in teaching us the better way of writing by giving amazing feedback. She makes it easy to approach her with our questions and gies very beneficial quality remarks.” “She’s extremely knowledgeable and can give crazy depth of information.”

I am continuing to conduct research on my own level: in 2019, I published a monograph on Dostoevsky and the Realists: Dickens, Flaubert, Tolstoy (New York: Lang); I am contributing an essay on “The Telling of Stories and the Unrepresentable in The Idiot” (in Russian) to Dostoevsky Materialy i issledovania (Institute of Russian Literature RAN). I am chief editor of two refereed academic journals: The Dostoevsky Journal: A Comparative Literature Review (Brill) and Serbian Studies (Slavica), the journal of NASSS (North American Society for Serbian Studies). The projects I have in the pipeline include a monograph on The Brothers Karamazov, and a second revised edition of my first book on the narrative principles in Demons, framed by a phenomenological model of perception.  

Besides your professional work, what other interests and/or hobbies do you enjoy?

I have never had hobbies outside my work. I suppose I find it hard to play although my research is the biggest aesthetic game of all. I am most relaxed when I am reading and writing. I also had around two decades as a mother to a beautiful daughter who is now all grown up. My husband of 33 years is an ideal companion because like me, he is also in pursuit of knowledge and beauty; he has just retired as a legal academic and barrister but is still publishing and making virtual court appearances. 

I am intolerant when people ask me whether I am “retired.” I hate the word and will never “retire.” I always say: “You would not have asked Picasso whether he has retired, would you?” He died in bed with his sketch book on his lap.