James McGavran, a Kenyon alumnus of the class of 2002, first joined the Kenyon faculty in 2010, teaching for two years as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow and then visiting assistant professor of Russian. He then held visiting positions at St. Olaf College, Rutgers University and the University of Pennsylvania before returning to Kenyon in 2015. He teaches Russian language courses at the introductory and advanced levels and Russian literature, especially poetry, in the original and in translation. McGavran is a winner of Kenyon's Junior Faculty Trustee Teaching Excellence Award (2018).

Areas of Expertise

Twentieth-century Russian poetry, poetic translation, theories of the comic


2008 — Doctor of Philosophy from Princeton University

2008 — Doctor of Philosophy from Princeton University

2005 — Master of Arts from Princeton University

2002 — Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College

Courses Recently Taught

This is an introductory language course that emphasizes language proficiency in all four skills: speaking, reading, listening and writing. After the first year, students will be able to discuss most everyday topics; they will learn essentials of Russian grammar and vocabulary. The course also will introduce students to facts about Russian life, culture, history and geography. This course includes required practice sessions with an apprentice teacher (AT), which will be scheduled at the beginning of the semester. Students enrolled in this course will automatically be added to RUSS 112Y for the spring semester. Offered every fall.

The second half of Intensive Introductory Russian places greater emphasis on authentic target-language input (poems, songs, film clips) and student-to-student communication. Students will do groupwork and make formal and informal presentations for their peers while continuing their study of new vocabulary and grammar. This course includes required practice sessions with an apprentice teacher (AT), which will be scheduled at the beginning of the semester. Prerequisite: RUSS 111Y or equivalent. Offered every spring.

The central aim of this course is to introduce students to classic works in prose and poetry of 19th- and 20th-century Russian literature, and to develop their ability to discuss and analyze various genres and individual styles. Lectures and discussions will focus on works by Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov. While our emphasis will be on close readings and analysis of individual texts, we will pay special attention to the development of realist aesthetics and to the special role played by literature in Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet society. Though centered on the novel, this course examines various genres and their boundaries: short story, drama and film. This course is taught in English. No prerequisite. Generally offered every three years.

This course is designed to provide advanced students the opportunity to refine and increase their ability to write, read and speak Russian. Students will review grammatical structures and work on developing written and oral proficiency. Readings and class discussions will center on cultural and literary material, Russian print media and occasional films. A strong emphasis will be placed on a comprehensive grammar review, with special attention to typical topics of difficulty. This course can be repeated for credit up to 1.0 Kenyon unit. In such a case, permission of the instructor is required. Prerequisite: RUSS 213Y-214Y. Offered every year.

Tolstoy and Dostoevsky may be Russian literature's best-known ambassadors to the West, but at its heart, Russian literature is a tradition of poetry, not prose. Because this poetry has fared poorly in translation, its rich heritage has remained all but off-limits to the rest of the world. This course will introduce students to Russian lyric poetry by showing its historical development from the late 18th to the 20th century, encompassing both Golden and Silver Ages. We will pay particularly close attention to Pushkin, whose genius is notoriously underappreciated outside Russia. We will weave our way through poetic movements including Symbolism, Acmeism and Futurism, but we will also look beyond these convenient categories in our assessment of the figures who towered above them: Block, Akhmatova, Mandelstam, Mayakovsky, Pasternak and Tsvetaeva. Our day-to-day focus will be on reading, translating, understanding and appreciating Russian poetry. All poetry readings will be in Russian. Prerequisite: RUSS 213Y–214Y or permission of instructor.