CREECA Welcomes Maksim Hanukai

In fall 2018, Maksim Hanukai became an assistant professor of Russian in the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic at UW-Madison. Hanukai received his BA from the University of California-San Diego, an MA in comparative literature from San Francisco State University, and his MA and PhD in Russian literature from Columbia University.

On September 6, 2018, Hanukai joined two other CREECA faculty members—Kathryn Hendley (Voss-Bascom Professor of Law and Political Science) and David Danaher (Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature, GNS)—at a roundtable event and reception, where he discussed his research and teaching. CREECA spoke with Hanukai to continue that conversation.

Portrait of Maksim Hanukai

Where were you before coming to UW-Madison?

I initially came to UW-Madison two years ago as a visiting assistant professor. Prior to that, I held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Harriman Institute in New York and was a visiting faculty member at the University of Notre Dame.

Your dissertation focused on Pushkin. Are you continuing work in that direction?

I’m currently revising my dissertation into a book, which will be entitled Pushkin’s Tragic Visions. I imagine that I will continue to work on Romanticism long after I’m done with this project, but I also have interests in other topics and periods.

What classes are you teaching this semester? Can you tell us something about your approach to teaching?

This semester I’m teaching the Russian Capstone Seminar (on Russian short stories) and a course on Dostoevsky. Next semester I will teach Fourth Year Russian II and a graduate seminar on Contemporary Russian Performance. My teaching approach largely depends on the course subject and the needs of each particular cohort of students, but I generally try to balance lecturing with group exercises and discussion, bringing in works in other media—e.g. theater, film, different types of visual aids—if I think it will further the learning objectives for the particular course. I am currently a fellow in the Madison Teaching and Learning Excellence (MTLE) program—a year-long pedagogy workshop for junior faculty—so I’m constantly reflecting on my teaching practices and looking to try out new approaches.

So you are also interested in contemporary Russian theater? Is there anything about the current scene in particular that interests you?

After a period of stagnation in the 1990s, Russian theater experienced a revival in the early 2000s and continues to flourish today despite recent pressure from the authorities. I became interested in the topic while visiting Moscow in the early 2010s. Since then, I have made an effort to see as many shows as I can whenever I’m in Russia—sometimes 7-8 per week—and to stay reasonably up-to-date on the latest events when in the United States. I have written about the Russian documentary theater Teatr.doc and am currently finishing work on an anthology of plays from the New Russian Drama movement that should be out in the spring.

I also have several articles (and possibly a book) in the pipeline, which will deal with the intersection of performance and politics in contemporary Russia. There’s much that fascinates me about this topic, but mainly I’m interested in the recent “performative turn” in Russian cultural politics, the way performances—from documentary theater shows and works of performance art to various “immortal regiments” and “historical reenactments”—have become, in effect, weapons in an ongoing war over the representation of reality in Russia.

Are you enjoying Madison?

I feel incredibly lucky to have landed at a university that provides many opportunities for junior faculty to grow as teachers and researchers. UW-Madison also has one of the best Slavic programs in the country. Although we are going through a transitional period, I’m very excited about our future.