UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)

Prof Maria Rubins

Prof Maria Rubins

Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature



Joined UCL
1st Sep 2004

Research summary

Dr. Rubins works on Russian literature and cultural history of the 19th- 21st cc. from a comparative and interdisciplinary perspective.  In particular, her research interests include modernism, exile and diaspora, national and postnational cultural identities, the interaction between literature and other arts, canon formation, bilingual and transnational writing, Russian-French cultural relations, and Russian-language literature in Israel.

Her book Crossroad of Arts, Crossroad of Cultures: Ecphrasis in Russian and French Poetry (St. Martin’s Press/Palgrave, 2000; revised Russian edition 2003) was the first book-length study of ecphrasis (the verbal rendering of the visual arts) in the Russian literary tradition. The book integrates the legacy of 19th – century French authors for the Russian modernist poets within the broader context of European literature dating back to Antiquity and also provides a critical inquiry into the methodologies of interdisciplinary analysis. Both in its English and Russian versions, this study remains a standard reference for scholars investigating the relations between word and image in Russian culture. 

Much of her subsequent work has focused on the exilic experience, Russian émigré writing and the evolution of the diasporic literary canon. Her book Russian Montparnasse: Transnational Writing in Interwar Paris (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015; Russian-language edition, 2017), represents a case study in transnational modernist literature generated by exile, dislocation and cross-cultural exchanges, focusing on the younger writers of the interwar Russian Parisian diaspora known as “Russian Montparnasse”. She argues that their hybrid, bicultural and bilingual writing transcended the Russian national master narrative, anticipating the more recent phenomenon of writing in Russian in different transnational contexts. The book sets the Russian Montparnasse corpus into trans-cultural and intertextual dialogues with key Western and Russian texts, films, theatre, painting and photography, to demonstrate that these writers’ artistic response to the challenges of urban modernity and cultural rupture resonated with broader aesthetic trends in interwar Europe. By systematically reassessing the role of Russian Montparnasse in the articulation of modernism, this study expands our knowledge of the evolution of the transnational literary canon, contributes to the academic debate about national vs. transnational analytical approaches to bicultural artistic production, and challenges the conventional status of language as the chief marker of literary affiliation. 

Dr. Rubins has also written articles, book chapters, and essays on a range of twentieth-century authors, including Joseph Brodsky, Milan Kundera, Irène Némirovsky, and Andreï Makine. She has examined the reception of Wagner in Russia and France in the introductory essay to Judith Gauthier’s memoirs about Wagner, which she edited, translated and annotated (Judith Gauthier. Vstrechi s Wagnerom. Logos, 2007).  Her work in international archives contributed to the publication of several edited and annotated volumes of Russian émigré prose, in particular Irina Odoevtseva and Vasily Yanovsky. 

Her current book project examines Russian-Israeli writing as a hybrid phenomenon informed by its transitional position between metropolitan Russian and Middle Eastern cultural contexts.


Brown University
, | 1998
University of Georgia
, | 1993
Leningrad State University
, | 1989


Maria Rubins was born in Saint Petersburg (formerly Leningrad), and studied in Russia and the United States, with a brief interlude at Charles University in Prague. After earning her doctoral degree, she lived in Boston, New York, Houston, and Washington, and taught Russian literature, culture and language at various American universities. In 2004, she moved to Europe and joined UCL's School of Slavonic and East European Studies.
Dr. Rubins is Associate Member of the Centre d’Etudes sur la Russie, le Caucase et l’Europe Centrale of CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) and of Institut d’Etudes Slaves (France).
She is Editor of the BRILL book series “Studies in Slavic literature and Poetics” and member of the editorial boards of the FRINGE series of UCL Press, Slavonic and East European Review (U.K.), The New Review (USA), and Filologicheskie nauki (Russia).
In addition to academic research and teaching she also works as a literary translator from English and French into Russian, and has edited and translated novels and short stories of Irène Némirovsky and Arnaud Delalande, and memoirs of Elizabeth Gaskell, Judith Gautier, Vasily Yanovsky, Helen Izwolsky, and others.
Dr. Rubins has been the recipient of grants from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Kennan Institute (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars), the British Academy, Future of Russia/Rothschild Foundation, and other institutions.