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History professor named Guggenheim Fellow

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor

Released 4/16/2007

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A University of Illinois history professor has won a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship.

Mark Steinberg, a professor of modern Russian history, has been appointed a 2007 Guggenheim Fellow on the basis of his “distinguished achievement in the past and exceptional promise for future accomplishment,” according to the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

He was among 189 artists, scholars and scientists who were named winners on April 5.

Steinberg won for his proposal to write a book about St. Petersburg, Russia, in the “years of crisis” between two revolutions – those of 1905 and of 1917 – “as a site to explore Russian history in a critical era, but also to explore a particular location and instance of the modern age and how it was experienced, interpreted and negotiated,” he said.

The book will be titled, “St. Petersburg Fin de Siècle: Landscapes of the Darkening Modern, 1905-1917.”

Steinberg said that in the book he plans to explore journalism, cultural criticism, literature and art, among other evidence, as “windows into both the actual textures of everyday urban life and how ‘the times’ were viewed and comprehended.”

Topics he will take up include ideas of modern crisis in a comparative context; the “imperial metropolis,” including economic and social development and cultural images of urban life; city streets, including spectacle, danger and crime and their interpretation; “black masks,” meaning disguise, deception and uncertainty; death and suicide as “social phenomena and interpretive touchstones”; melancholy of public emotions and efforts to “overcome the darkness of melancholy”; the “poetics of the modern,” especially in the literary work of Alexander Blok and Andrei Bely, as well as visual imagery of the city.

Steinberg already has completed most of his research for the book in St. Petersburg, but with the fellowship funds, he will make one more visit to that city to obtain photographs from the Petersburg archive of photography to use in his book.

Steinberg specializes in the cultural, intellectual and social history of Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His research interests have focused on labor and business history, revolution, the monarchy, urban history, worker poetry, visuality, and the development of moral, social, religious and political ideas and values.

He is author, co-author, editor or co-editor of nine books, including the most recent, “Sacred Stories: Religion and Spirituality in Modern Russia,” co-edited with Heather Coleman. He has published dozens of articles in scholarly journals in both English and in Russian.

Steinberg also is the author of “A History of Russia: From Peter the Great to Gorbachev,” a 36-lecture video/audio course with supplementary booklets.

In 2006, he was named editor of the interdisciplinary journal Slavic Review, which has had its editorial offices on the U. of I. campus since 1996.

Steinberg has received at least 10 other major research fellowships and grants from the U. of I. and from external sources, such as the Carnegie Corp., the International Research and Exchanges Board, the U.S. Department of Education and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

At Illinois, Steinberg teaches courses on all periods of Russian history, as well as comparative urban history and European popular culture. He has won several major awards for his excellence in teaching at Illinois.

Steinberg joined the history department in 1996, and he also is a professor in the Slavic languages and literatures department and the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory. He was director of Illinois’ Russian, East European and Eurasian Center from 1998 to 2004.

He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz and his doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley.

Prior to coming to Illinois, Steinberg taught at the University of Oregon at Eugene and at Harvard and Yale universities. He also has worked in New York City in the 1970s as a taxi driver and a printer’s apprentice.