Arpi Movsesian

Assistant Professor of Russian

Assistant Professor of Russian
109 Decio Faculty Hall
Notre Dame, IN 46556
Office Hours
MW 2:00pm - 3:00pm in person



Ph.D. University of California, Santa Barbara, 2022

M.A. California State University, Northridge, 2014

B.A. California State University, Northridge, 2011

Research and Teaching Interests

Russian literature and culture

Dostoevsky and his contemporaries

Literature and philosophy

Empire and colonialism

Armenian literature and culture

Comparative foolery


Arpi Movsesian is a comparatist whose research focuses on Russian literature and culture, especially on foolishness, be it holy foolishness, clowning, roguery, buffoonery, pantomime, feigned or unfeigned fooling, and any other performativity that could be characterized as “weird” or non-normative. Movsesian’s current research examines Dostoevsky’s and Shakespeare’s reimagining of the literary fool’s marginality and active empathy as essential gateways to understanding otherness, perceived deviancy, and disability. To a student’s question as to how Movsesian has come to her interests especially in Dostoevsky and Shakespeare, Movsesian responded that there has not been a singular moment of a light bulb going off (or on), and that she leaves such “Aha” moments to the Marxists, especially those who have read Nikolai Chernyshevskii’s What Is to Be Done? five times in one summer and were married to Nadezhda Krupskaia. Speaking of Lenin, in her work, Movsesian also examines the Russian nineteenth-century political and radical movements of the 1840s and 1860s that became blueprints for the twentieth-century revolutionaries. Movsesian is interested in the ways in which the question “what ought to be done” was presented in the important journals, almanacs, and pamphlets of the time as not only an attempt to show what was possible within the bounds of officialdom, but also to ring the bells of conscience. 

Movsesian’s first book (co-authored with Michael Bryson) entitled Love and Its Critics: From the Song of Songs to Shakespeare and Milton’s Eden (2017), which grew out of her dual degrees in English literature, is a comparative project with a new historicist take on the challenge love offers to laws and customs throughout Western literary history, with special emphases on the sublimation of sexuality and the erasure of women’s voices from medieval and Renaissance poetic genres. The curse, or rather the benefits of being a comparatist, is that Movsesian is also interested in literatures other than Russian and Early Modern English, such as Armenian literature from the classical to postmodern. Her current book project, Bloodied Ballads, Living Empires: Transculturality in Armenian Lyrical Verse, which is a study of Armenian lyrical poetry in its multiple imperial contexts from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century, explores the transliterary and transnational connections between Armenian literature and those from the Near East and Russia, using Armenian lyrical poetry as a point of departure. The project’s aim is to examine these poems within their appropriate literary and imperial contexts and explore questions about identity, imperial domination, and international solidarity in and between the different ethnic groups of each respective empire (Ottoman, Russian, Persian, Soviet). Movsesian’s ethos and the way she relates to the world, as well as her research directions when it comes to concepts like center, periphery, empire, and imperial subject, have been influenced by the fact that she is the great-grandchild of survivors of the 1915 Armenian Genocide and by the feeling Homi Bhabha captures in the phrase, “The state of emergency is also always a state of emergence."

Representative Publications and Accomplishments

“Elenchus from Other Shores: Alexander Herzen’s Dialogue in Absentia," in Socrates in Russia, eds. Alyssa DeBlasio and Victoria Juharyan (Brill, 2022): pp. 63–82.

“Soviet (In)finite Jest: Leonid Yengibarov’s Pantomime and State Erasure," in Law, Culture, and the Humanities, ed. Austin Sarat (Special Issue, 2022): first published online.

“The Poetics of Schism: Dostoevsky Translates Hamlet," in Humanities Vol. 9, No.3 (2020): pp. 111–126.

“Re-membering Armenian Literature in the Soviet Borderlands,” in Territories: A Trans-Cultural Journal of Regional Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2020): pp. 78–99.

Love and Its Critics: From the Song of Songs to Shakespeare and Milton's Eden, co-authored with Michael Bryson (Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2017).