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From Russia with Love- Elena Sommers

Digital Humanities Distinguished Speaker Series

On April 18 the College of Liberal Arts will host a symposium -From Russia with Love: Literature, Music, Art, Film, organized by Elena Sommers, a Global & Russian Literature professor.

"The event seeks to support RIT’s commitment to international education and a culture of global inclusiveness and awareness," said Sommers. "I hope the symposium fosters interdisciplinary connections, facilitates new discussions and contributes to the RIT spirit of intellectual community."

When asked about the idea behind the symposium, Sommers credits Hillary Clinton with an early inspiration. While Secretary of State, Clinton presented the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a mock "reset" button designed to signify the United States' willingness to improve relations with Moscow. Instead of translating "reset" correctly as perezagruzka , the American translation read peregruzka, which means "overload."

"I interpreted this moment in the Post-Soviet era of international relations as symbolic of how little the two countries know and understand about each other. More importantly, this 'linguistic' episode was a window into how little attention we assign to the nuances of language and culture –an important skill for every professional to develop and master. If our students hope to be competitive and successful in the global marketplace, they need to be given skills to develop this important sense of cultural awareness," said Sommers.

Sommers hopes that RIT study abroad initiatives will include Russia, a country with a growing economy and enormous demand in precisely the kind of specialists RIT nurtures.

"Russia is investing significant financial resources in creating its own Silicon Valley and openly acknowledges its need for foreign educated specialist in the field of cutting edge technologies," said Sommers."While the knowledge of Russian is not required, what is essential is awareness and understanding of cultural norms and traditions, those subtle elements of culture the knowledge of which is invaluable in creating partnerships and securing long -term professional/business relationships."

Sommers sees initiatives such as From Russia with Love as an opportunity for RIT community to participate in conversations on global issues.

"The College of Liberal Arts is uniquely positioned to be at the forefront of the global education initiative as we have the most diverse faculty in the University, offering a rich array of courses with an international focus," said Sommers.

"I want to extend a special thank you to Dean Winebrake for his most enthusiastic support of the symposium. I feel very fortunate to have been able to work with my colleagues from across the College in the field of art, philosophy, music, film, and poetry who shaped and enriched the event with their creativity and expertise."

"I also want to thank Nick Paulus and Erica MacArthur, the creative team at the RIT Scholarly Publishing studio, who worked with me on the symposium publicity materials and From Russia with Love On-Line Journal."

The first issue with Symposium Proceedings will come out this summer.

The Symposium talks will address topics such as: "Comics, Social Activism, and Russian Youth." "Tolstoy's Jesus versus Dostoevsky's Christ: A tale of Two Christologies." "Dostoevsky and Nietzsche" "Red, White, and Blue: Jazz in Russia from 1920 to the present." "Public Awareness Advertising and Russia’s ‘Boost the Birthrate’ Campaign." "Global Nabokov"

In the afternoon RIT students will lead a Nabokov panel: "Author, Narrator, Reader: Love and Morality in Lolita."

Award-winning author Maxim D. Shrayer will read from Waiting for America, the first English-language book to explore the experience of Soviet Jews waiting, in transit, to enter the New World.

Sommers hopes to continue the message and lessons of From Russia with Love in the coming year.

"I plan to organize an international film symposium –"The Globe Goes to the Movies!" I hope to work with my colleagues at the School of Film and Animation and across the institute to bring to RIT film directors who can share their vision and tell their stories," said Sommers. "This can be an exciting event for RIT and Rochester community as a whole."

The symposium acknowledges the generous support of the College of Liberal Arts, the COLA Honors program, M&T Bank and the Department of English.

For the full program, visit:

or the symposium website/From Russia with Love on-line journal: