John Givens

Associate Professor of Russian
Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures
Head of the Russian Program
Head of the Comparative Literature Program

PhD, University of Washington

408A Lattimore Hall
(585) 275-4253

Office Hours: Tuesdays and Fridays 9:00–10:00 am, Thursdays 11:00 am–12:00 pm, or by appointment


John Givens's first book, Prodigal Son: Vasilii Shukshin in Soviet Russian Culture, examined the life and works of one of the most popular Soviet artist to emerge in the post-Stalin period. A prolific actor, director, and writer whose life and works were a study in border crossing between artistic genres, cultural strata, political camps, and demographic divisions, Shukshin altered important paradigms through which we have traditionally understood Soviet writers and Soviet literature. In addition to his monograph on Shukshin, Givens co-translated a volume of his prose, titled Stories from a Siberian Village. The anthology is the most comprehensive collection of Shukshin's stories to appear in English and reflects Givens's interest in the art of translation. From 1999 to 2016, Givens also served as editor of Russian Studies in Literature, a quarterly journal of translations from the Russian literary press.

His second book, The Image of Christ in Russian Literature, is currently under review at a university press. The book focuses on the four authors who most famously imaged Christ in their works: Fyodor Dostoevsky and Leo Tolstoy in the nineteenth century and Mikhail Bulgakov and Boris Pasternak in the twentieth. These authors all felt a need to speak about Christ in an age of unbelief but, at the same time, paradoxically affirmed him or his teachings through indirect or even negative means. The subject of the book is thus not so much Russia's Christian literature but rather its anxiety over its Christian heritage, specifically, its anxiety over the meaning and significance of Jesus Christ.

He is currently working on two new projects: The Anxiety of Belief in Russian Cinema; and Social Justice, Divine Justice: God, Crime, and Punishment in Dostoevsky.

Courses Offered (subject to change)

  • RUS 231  Great Russian Writers (Fall 2016)
  • RUS 235  Tolstoy's "War and Peace" (Fall 2014)
  • RUS 237  Dostoevsky (Fall 2015)
  • RUS 244  The Image of Christ in Russian Literature (Spring 2015)
  • RUS 265  Russian Literature Between the Revolutions (Spring 2014)
  • RUS 267  Russia Goes to the Movies (Spring 2016)

Selected Publications


Articles and Books Chapters


Courses in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russian literature, Russian film, and all levels of Russian language

Honors and Activities

  • University of Rochester Goergen Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, 2011
  • University of Rochester Student Association Professor of the Year Award in the Humanities, 2000, 2011
  • University of Rochester Edward Peck Curtis Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award, 2000
  • University of Rochester Student Association Professor of the Year Award, Finalist, 1998, 2002
  • Kennan Institute Research Scholarship, Alternate, 1996-1997
  • Fulbright-Hays dissertation award; IREX long-term research award, Russia, 1991-1992