Elena Sommers Headshot

Elena Sommers

Principal Lecturer

Department of English
College of Liberal Arts
Provost's Faculty Associate for Non-Tenure-Track Faculty

Office Location

Elena Sommers

Principal Lecturer

Department of English
College of Liberal Arts
Provost's Faculty Associate for Non-Tenure-Track Faculty


Ph.D., University of Rochester
Dissertation: 'The Ona of Nabokov's Hereafter'
MA, University of Notre Dame
BA, MA, Moscow State Pedagogical University (Russia)


Check out my 2nd volume on Nabokov: Teaching Nabokov’s Lolita in the #MeToo Era (2021) This collection seeks to critique the novel from the standpoint of its teachability to undergraduate and graduate students in the twenty-first century. In the #MeToo era and beyond, how do we approach Nabokov’s inflammatory novel, Lolita? How do we read a novel that describes an unpardonable crime? How do we balance analysis of Lolita’s brilliant language and aesthetic complexity with due attention to its troubling content? This student-focused volume offers practical/specific answers to these questions. Link is in the title: Teaching Nabokov’s Lolita in the #MeToo Era (March 2021) 

Check out my 1st volume on NabokovNabokov’s Women: The Silent Sisterhood of Textual Nomad, Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.

Courses Taught at RIT:

  • Dangerous Texts: Propaganda/Disinformation/Censorship
  • Great Authors: Nabokov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy
  • Global Literatures
  • Film Studies
  • Global Film
  • The Novel
  • The Short Story
  • Literature & Cultural Studies
  • Women’s & Gender Studies in Literature

Select Scholarship

Full Length Book
Sommers, Elena. Teaching Nabokov’s Lolita in the #MeToo Era. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield (Lexington Books), 2021. Print.
Rakhimova-Sommers, Elena. Nabokov's Women: The Silent Sisterhood of Textual Nomads. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. Print.
Book Chapter
Rakhimova-Sommers, Elena. "“Your Stork Might Disappear Forever!: Russian Public Awareness Advertising and Incentivizing Motherhood”." Cultural and Political Imaginaries in Putin’s Russia. Leiden/Boston, MA: Brill Eurasian Studies Library, 2018. 177-192. Print.
Rakhimova-Sommers, Elena. "Nabokov’s Passportless Wanderer: A Study of Nabokov’s Woman”." Nabokov’s Women: The Silent Sisterhood of Textual Nomads. Ed. Elena Rakhimova-Sommers. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. XV-XXXi (Volume Introduction). Print.
Rakhimova-Sommers, Elena. "Nabokov’s Mermaid: ‘Spring in Fialta'"." Nabokov’s Women: The Silent Sisterhood of Textual Nomads. Ed. Elena Rakhimova-Sommers. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. 57-75. Print.
Journal Editor
Rakhimiva-Sommers, Elena, ed. From Russia with Love Conference. Rochester: RIT Scholarly Publishing Studio, 2014. Web.
Published Conference Proceedings
Rakhimiva-Sommers, Elena. "The New Woman is a Fertile One: Public Awareness Advertising and Russia's Boost the Birthrate Campaign." Proceedings of the From Russia with Love. Ed. Elena Rakhimiva-Sommers. Rochester, NY: RIT Scholarly Publishing Studio, 2014. Web.
Invited Keynote/Presentation
Rakhimiva-Sommers, Elena. "Selling the Joys of Procreation: Russian Public Awareness Advertising and Putin's Boost the Birthrate Campaign." Centre for European Studies. Lund University. Lund, Sweden. 2 Oct. 2014. Guest Lecture.
Journal Paper
Sommers, Elena. "“Nabokov’s Mermaid: ‘Spring in Fialta’”." Nabokov Studies 12. (2011): 31-48. Web.

Currently Teaching

3 Credits
In this course, students will study literature, movements, and writers within their cultural contexts and in relation to modes of literary production and circulation. Students will hone their skills as attentive readers and will engage with literary analysis and cultural criticism. The class will incorporate various literary, cultural, and interdisciplinary theories--such as psychoanalytic theory, feminist and queer theories, critical race studies, and postcolonial theory. Using these theoretical frameworks in order to study texts, students will gain a strong foundation for analyzing the ways literary language functions and exploring the interrelations among literature, culture, and history. In doing so, they will engage issues involving culture, identity, language, ethics, race, gender, class, and globalism, among many others.
3 Credits
This course explores the evolution of an influential literary form (the short story, drama, poetry, autobiographical literature, or the novel). Reading a series of variations on this literary form, likely bridging cultural or historical contexts or themes, the course develops critical perspectives and artistic insights into this genre of writing. Criticism and theory appropriate to the genre will be discussed as a way to understand the form, its social functions, and its cultural and political significance. The course can be taken up to two times, for a total of 6 semester credit hours, as long as the topics are different.
3 Credits
This course presents a study of global literature by engaging in critically informed analysis of texts from different geographical regions or cultural perspectives. Students will discover new modes for thinking about what global literature is, and how globalizing impulses have changed and shaped our world. One of the goals of the class is to analyze and discuss the works in their respective socio-historical contexts, with a special focus on the theme of encounter or contact zones. The impact of various factors such as migration, nationality, class, race, gender, generation, and religion will also be taken into consideration. The course can be repeated up to two times, for 6 semester credit hours, as long as the topics are different.
3 Credits
This course will examine how suppression of information has been orchestrated throughout history in different contexts. The process of suppressing information –of people in power attempting to hide images, sounds and words– must itself be viewed in perspective. We must recognize acts of censorship in relation to their social settings, political movements, religious beliefs, cultural expressions and/or personal identities. The texts that we will study were all considered dangerous enough to be banned by governments. They are dangerous because they represent sexuality, race, politics, and religion in ways that challenge the current political/cultural norms of their given culture. What, then, is so dangerous about a fictional representation? What is it that makes a certain work dangerous at a particular time and how does this danger manifest itself in stories, novels (print and graphic), and poetry? Studying these dangerous texts and watching some dangerous films we will ask: what features of political and cultural regimes do artists tend to single out for criticism? What is the range of expressive tools they use, including the contemporary context of digital media? What is it that makes intellectuals in general and imaginative writers in particular so potent a threat to established power? Do issues like these matter only in totalitarian regimes, or can we learn something about the book-banning pressures in our own society? How do social media technologies complicate discussions of censorship and creativity?
3 Credits
This course familiarizes students with a number of different critical approaches to film as a narrative and representational art. The course introduces students to the language as well as analytical and critical methodologies of film theory and criticism from early formalist approaches to contemporary considerations of technologies and ideologies alike. Students will be introduced to a selection of these approaches and be asked to apply them to a variety of films selected by the instructor. Additional screening time is recommended.
3 Credits
This course provides an in-depth look at literary giants and the masterpieces of prose or poetry they have created; it's an opportunity to see the role they played both within the context of their own time and within the larger span of literary history. These great authors confront key questions of modernity that continue to occupy us to this day; they ask the question of what it means to be human and explore fundamental human themes. They give us a fresh perspective on the past and on ourselves.

In the News

  • September 24, 2021

    portrait of professor Elena Rakhimova-Sommers next to book cover for Teaching Nabokov's Lolita in the Me Too Era.

    Professor explores teaching Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’ in the #MeToo era

    Elena Rakhimova-Sommers, principal lecturer in RIT’s Department of English, has taught Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial novel, Lolita, in her Dangerous Texts course for many years. As the #MeToo movement gained strength and global attention in 2018, however, the novel became particularly relevant.