Svetlana Rukhelman

Curriculum Vitae

I am a scholar of comparative literature, with a focus on 19th- and 20th-century American and Russian literary and cinematic texts. My research focuses primarily on questions of narrative structure, genre, and voice, and on ways in which themes such as deception and fate inflect narrative form and are treated within stories. I am also very interested in importing insights from cognitive neuroscience and anthropology to the study of narrative.

My book in progress, titled The (Dis)pleasures of Being Cheated, examines the workings and raison d'être of a previously undefined narrative genre -- the narrative of deception.  Relying on readings of texts by Nikolai Gogol, Vladimir Nabokov, Flannery O'Connor, and David Mamet, I argue that narratives of deception foreground, and aim to elicit from the reader, the very responses that make real-life experiences of being tricked so painful. We crave such stories, I suggest, because they help us confront our culturally conditioned anxieties about deception in the lived world. 

Other projects include articles on the narrative effects of dark comedy; the dynamics of debt and forgiveness in The Brothers Karamazov; and texts which meditate on the hidden connection between deception, disappointment, and cosmic irony. 

Related research interests:

  • irony, satire, humor, dark comedy
  • the concept of fate in Russian culture
  • new economic criticism, theories of exchange
  • the films of Joel and Ethan Coen
  • Russian language pedagogy


Ph.D. 2011 Harvard University, Comparative Literature
M.St. 2003 Oxford University, Russian Literature
A.B. 2002 Harvard University, Literature

Past Experience

2013-2014 Instructor of Russian, Harvard University
2012-2013 Visiting Assistant Professor of Russian Studies, Macalester College
2011-2012 Harvard College Fellow, Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures, Harvard University