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

Professor Rubins works on Russian literature and cultural history of the 19th-21st cc. from a comparative and interdisciplinary perspective. Her research interests include modernism, exile and diaspora, cultural hybridity, canon formation, bilingual and transnational writing, Russian-French cultural relations, and Russophone literature in Israel. 

Her book Crossroad of Arts, Crossroad of Cultures: Ecphrasis in Russian and French Poetry (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 global Russian literature(s). 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. 

Most recently, she has edited a collective monograph, Redefining the Russian Literary Diaspora, 1920-2020 (UCL Press,  2021). This book proposes a new agenda for the study of Russian diaspora writing, countering its conventional reception as a subsidiary branch of national literature and reorienting the field from an excessive emphasis on the homeland and origins to an analysis of transnational circulations that shape extraterritorial cultural practices. Diverse conceptual approaches discussed in the book are framed by a focused examination of diaspora as a methodological perspective and its relevance for the modern human condition. 

Professor Rubins has also written over 100 articles, book chapters, and essays on a range of literary topics. 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 of the recent decades, with particular attention to the interaction between Russian, Hebrew and Arabic cultural and geopolitical discourses.

Teaching summary

Courses Taught

SEEE2009 Narratives of Exile (BA)

SERS2024 The Petersburg ‘Text’ in Russian Literature and Culture: From Romanticism to Modernism (BA)

SEESGE86 Literatures of Rupture: Modernism in Russia and Eastern Europe (MA)

SEESGR26 Nabokov and Russian Emigre Literature (MA)

Professor Rubins has supervised and examined a broad range of PhD dissertations on Russian, Eastern European and French literatures and cultures.


Brown University
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1998
University of Georgia
Other higher degree, Master of Arts | 1993
Leningrad State University
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts | 1989


Maria Rubins was born in Saint Petersburg (formerly Leningrad), and studied at St. Petersburg State University in Russia and at Brown University in the United States, as well as 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. 

Professor Rubins is Editor of the BRILL book series “Studies in Slavic literature and Poetics” and the FRINGE series of UCL Press, and an editorial board member of Slavonic and East European Review (U.K.), The New Review (USA), Filologicheskie nauki (Russia), and Arabic and World Literature: Comparative and Multidisciplinary Perspectives (UK/UAE). She is an honorary Associate Member of the Centre d’Etudes sur la Russie, le Caucase et l’Europe Centrale of CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France) and of Institut d’Etudes Slaves (Paris). She is also a member of several international learned societies, including Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), Association for Jewish Studies (AJS), and Modern Language Association (MLA). 

She has been the recipient of grants and residential fellowships from the Slavic-Eurasian Research Center of Hokkaido University (Japan), Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (Germany), the American Council of Learned Societies, the Kennan Institute (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington), the British Academy, Future of Russia/Rothschild Foundation, and other institutions. 

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, short stories, and memoirs of Elizabeth Gaskell, Judith Gautier, Irène Némirovsky, Arnaud Delalande, Vasily Yanovsky, Helen Izwolsky, and others. 

Professor Rubins has been nominated for the UCL Student Choice awards in the categories “Outstanding Teaching” and “Outstanding Support for Teaching.”