The Influence of National Classical Literature on Moulding National Identity

To what extent can national classical literature be regarded as a source and a pivot of national identity? Professor Svetlana Ter-Minasova discusses the influence of national classical literature on moulding national identity.

An intense interest in national identity is a paradoxical but an utterly human reaction to globalisation.

This talk will consider the role of national literature in shaping and preserving national identity with Russian classical literature as a source material. The word “classical” is pivotal here because it implies that a work of literature has been read and acknowledged by many generations of the nation despite changes in their way of living, culture, ideology and world outlook – inevitable in the course of history.

Consequently, it is classical literature, among other factors, that moulds a nation, its identity, character and culture. Therefore it may serve as a key to a magic door behind which the nation’s enigmatic soul dwells because all differences of national identities are obscure and mysterious to other nations. The reason for this is ethnocentrism, i.e. perception of one’s own culture as the only right, acceptable and standard one. It causes hostility, xenophobia and aggression thus threatening humanity.

The best way to ensure a peaceful life on the Earth is to give the right for self-identity to all nations. We should be grateful to that national literature which stops the word and the hand threatening other peoples.

The main questions discussed are:

To what extent can national classical literature be regarded as a source and a pivot of national identity?

Why do some greatest Russian national classics (like Pushkin, Lermontov) not become international ones (like Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov)?


Professor Svetlana Ter-Minasova

Professor Svetlana Ter-Minasova is President of the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Area Studies at Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia, and Professor Emeritus in the University. She holds a Doctorate of Philology from the University, and has published more than 200 books and papers on Foreign Language Teaching, Linguistics and Cultural Studies, and has lectured widely throughout the world.

She is Chair of the Russian Ministry of Education’s Foreign Language Research and Methodology Council, President and founder of both the National Association of Teachers of English in Russia, and the National Association of Applied Linguistics. She holds the Lomonosov Award, Fulbright’s 50th Anniversary Award, and was named Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Birmingham in the UK, the State University of New York in the USA, and the Russian-Armenian University, in Armenia.

Professor Svetlana Ter-Minasova was a Keynote Speaker at The European Conference on Literature & Librarianship 2014 in Brighton, England.

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