UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)

Prof Pamela Davidson

Prof Pamela Davidson

Professor of Russian Literature



Joined UCL
1st Aug 1999

Research summary

Pamela Davidson is Professor of Russian Literature at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London.

Her research interests include Russian and comparative literature, the interaction of religion and culture, the construction and dynamics of literary tradition, and Silver Age poetry.

In the field of religion and culture, her collection Russian Literature and Its Demons (Berghahn Books) opened up a new area of interdisciplinary research, attracting growing interest in Russia and the West. Reviewers praised the collection for its innovative role, impact, cohesiveness, imaginative range and richness, and high standard of scholarship. 

More recently she has returned to develop her study of the representation of the writer as prophet in Russia, considering its roots in biblical and classical tradition, its development from 1680 to 1991, moral dimension, methods of validation, and impact on the formation of the Russian idea. Her articles on aspects of this tradition include “Aleksandr Ivanov and Nikolai Gogol’: The Image and the Word in the Russian Tradition of Art as Prophecy”; “The Validation of the Writer's Prophetic Status in the Russian Literary Tradition; “Vladimir Solov'ev and the Ideal of Prophecy,”; “The Moral Dimension of the Prophetic Ideal: Pushkin and his Readers.”

Her work on Russian literature in its comparative context, drawing on unpublished archival materials, has led to several books and articles. The poetic imagination of Viacheslav Ivanov: A Russian Symbolist’s perception of Dante (Cambridge University Press, 1989 and 2009 paperback) was praised as “a major contribution to the literature on Russian symbolism”, “a model study in comparative literature … definitive in its own field”, presenting “a model for deciphering Ivanov that far transcends the book’s Dantean focus”. Vyacheslav Ivanov and C.M. Bowra: A Correspondence from Two Corners on Humanism (University of Birmingham, 2006) was described as “a scholarly gem that elucidates Ivanov’s defence of the cultural tradition inherited from antiquity”, “based on meticulous research”, with an argument that is “impeccably lucid and always interesting”. A broader argument on the relation of Russian culture to classical tradition was presented in Cultural Memory and Survival: The Russian Renaissance of Classical Antiquity in the Twentieth Century (SSEES, UCL).

Her studies of Russian poetic tradition include An Anthology of Poems Dedicated to Akhmatova (in Russian) with a foreword by E. B. Rein (Hermitage) and two fundamental reference works on the poet, philosopher and critic Viacheslav Ivanov. Her comprehensive annotated reference guide to critical literature from 1903 to 1993, Viacheslav Ivanov: A Reference Guide. (G. K. Hall), has been described as “a watershed in the systematic study of Ivanov’s legacy, and an indispensable starting point for all future research”, which “has changed the face of Ivanov studies” and “should mark the beginning of a new stage not only for Ivanov studies, but for all research on early twentieth-century literature”. In cooperation with the St Petersburg Institute of Russian Literature of the Academy of Sciences, she completed in 2012 the first Bibliography of Works by Viacheslav Ivanov: 1898-1949 (in Russian) (St Petersburg: Kalamos).

Teaching summary

At MA level she also offers offer directed reading courses on Russian modernism and on the interface between literature, history, and religion.

She welcomes the opportunity to supervise PhD students in the fields of 19th and early 20th century Russian literature and thought, Silver Age poetry, aspects of comparative literature, religion and literature.


University of Oxford
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1984


After studying Russian, French and Italian at Newnham College, Cambridge, Pamela Davidson moved to St Antony's College, Oxford, where she began postgraduate research in the field of comparative literature under the supervision of Max Hayward and Timothy Binyon. Her doctoral thesis on the reception of Dante in Russia focused on the Russian Symbolist poet and philosopher, Viacheslav Ivanov. Thanks to the award of a travelling Junior Research Fellowship at Queen's College, she was able to live in Moscow for some years, working in literary archives and savouring the many incongruities of Soviet life in the late Brezhnev era. She was privileged to meet several writers, artists, and members of the unofficial Russian intelligentsia, who had a profound influence on her intellectual and personal development. In 1981 she took up a Lectureship in Russian at the University of Birmingham; after a spell at the University of Surrey, she moved to SSEES in 1993, prior to its merger with UCL in 1999. From 2003 to 2006 she was Head of the Russian Department. From 2012 to 2014 she served as SSEES Head of Teaching (Programmes), Graduate Tutor, and Chair of BA and MA Examination Boards.