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)


My current project: Teaching Nabokov’s Lolita in the #MeToo Era (edited volume): 

The volume seeks essays that explore the experience of teaching Lolita in the #MeToo Era. I hope to bring together responses to Nabokov’s art that blend pedagogy and critical analysis. After teaching the novel for years, many of us have witnessed (and continue to witness) a fascinating shift in student responses to the text following the start of the #MeToo movement. Some of us rethought the methodology of presenting Lolita to students and of navigating productive class discussions. I see this volume as a space to start a conversation about the evolving nature of the intellectual (and emotional) task of bringing Lolita to our students and to share faculty insights and best practices. Please send a 350 word abstract and a CV to Dr. Elena Rakhimova-Sommers elena.sommers@rit.edu by June 15, 2019. Strong publisher interest. 

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 and 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



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
A critical examination of themes, topics, theories and practices in a literary or writing studies area associated with existing courses in the English curriculum, or with a special topics area. The approach to this literary or writing studies topic will be specially geared to honors students and others who wish to participate in a more in-depth and rigorous exploration of a literary or writing set of topics.
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 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 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?

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.