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)


Forthcoming: Teaching Nabokov’s Lolita in the #MeToo Era (Lexington Books, 2020)


The #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault has spurred a reassessment of what constitutes appropriate professional and sexual relations, a reassessment that has also challenged how we teach our students, especially when we are exploring highly controversial works. How, for instance, can anyone teach Vladimir Nabokov’s inflammatory masterpiece, Lolita in the wake of #MeToo? How do we balance analysis of its brilliant language and its aesthetic complexity with due attention to its troubling content? My volume hopes to answer these questions by blending pedagogical approaches to teaching the novel, with new, gender contextualized analysis of Nabokov’s art. 

The impetus for producing this collection is my recognition of an urgent need to discuss, explore, and critique Nabokov’s Lolita it terms of its “teachability” to American undergraduate and graduate studentsin the twenty-first century. This volume is a place to learn about the evolving nature of the intellectual (and emotional) task of bringing Lolita to our students and about sharing faculty (and student) insights and best practices. 

Check out my recent volume: Nabokov’s Women: The Silent Sisterhood of Textual Nomad, Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.

Courses Taught at RIT:

  • Great Authors: Nabokov
  • Great Authors: Dostoevsky & Tolstoy
  • Dangerous Texts: The Literature of the Russian Underground (in translation)
  • Global Literatures: “What Russians Read”
  • The Novel
  • The Short Story
  • Global Cinemas
  • Film Studies
  • Women’s and Gender Studies in Literature
  • The Future of Writing



Personal Links

Currently Teaching

3 Credits
The short story has been one of the most dynamic and innovative genres in literature. This course uses the genre of the short story to provide material for critical commentary and cultural understanding. Students read a variety for short stories to develop an understanding of the form and its impact on culture.
3 Credits
This First Year Writing Intensive course is designed to develop first-year students’ proficiency in analytical writing, rhetorical reading, and critical thinking by focusing on particular uses of narrative. Students will read, understand, and interpret a variety of texts representing different cultural perspectives and/or academic disciplines. Increasingly, scholars, artists, public figures and other professionals recognize the value of using stories across genres to inform analytical practice. Students will gain informed practice in using narrative in different disciplines, and become aware of storytelling as one among a number of rhetorical strategies for inquiry. Students will be expected to give presentations as well as write papers both in response to the reading material and in services of their own independent arguments.
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 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
Students will study literary and cultural texts selected from traditional literature to contemporary media and culture (including mythology, poetry, plays, novels, film, graphic novels, television, and digital literature). Students will analyze these texts from a variety of perspectives and become familiar with the history of debates about literature and/or culture as arenas of human experience. Individual sections will vary in their foci.

Select Scholarship

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.
Full Length Book
Rakhimova-Sommers, Elena. Nabokov's Women: The Silent Sisterhood of Textual Nomads. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. 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.