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Svetlana Boym, a scholar and artist whose work illuminated the haunting, quicksilver counterpoint of myth, memory and identity, died on Aug. She was Her death, from cancer, was announced by Harvard University, where she was the Curt Hugo Reisinger professor of Slavic languages and literatures and comparative literature.

An essayist, photographer, novelist and playwright as well as the author of myriad scholarly articles, Dr. In that work, which ranges meditatively over philosophy, history, art, literature and the experience of displaced persons, she explored the web of memory and mythologizing that underpins the human longing for vanished worlds. Throughout the book, Dr. Boym grappled with two essential questions: Can a past that has slipped out of reach be reclaimed by means of nostalgia?

Should it ever be? She identified two types of nostalgia, one salubrious, the other far less so. In consequence, she argued, it fosters empathy and a bittersweet consolation. In the other type of nostalgia, Dr. Boym said, lies danger. This type, which she called restorative nostalgia, seeks to resuscitate the past as rigorously as possible. Svetlana Goldberg was born on April 29, , in what was then Leningrad and is once again St.

Petersburg; some of her later writings recall what it was like to grow up in a communal apartment there, alongside many other people. She was told that if she did so, she would never be able to return home and would never again see her parents. After time in a refugee camp in Vienna, she arrived in the United States in Her parents, Yury Goldberg and the former Musa Beskin, both engineers, were repeatedly denied exit visas.

Both lost their jobs, and Mr. Goldberg later worked as a night watchman. The young Dr. She became an assistant professor at Harvard that year. In recent years, Dr. Boym, who lived in Cambridge, Mass. Her photographs include a series of portraits of fire hydrants , which she likened to immigrants for their stoical, somewhat anomalous, often overlooked presence in the urban landscape.

Her photos also include multilayered, manipulated images that with their half-seen, half-obscured quality, seem to conjure the workings of memory itself. Besides her parents, who are now living in the United States, survivors include her husband, Dana Villa, a political scientist at the University of Notre Dame.

She was the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship in for the study of Slavic literature. Running throughout even the most scholarly of Dr. Boym, she reprises a riddle that offers a dark, comic reflection of that time. Home Page World U.


The Future of Nostalgia

Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? Combining personal memoir, philosophical essay, and historical analysis, Svetlana Boym explores the spaces of collective nostalgia that connect national biography and personal self-fashioning in the twenty-first century. She guides us through the ruins and construction sites of post-communist cities-St. From Jurassic Park to the Totalitarian Sculpture Garden, Boym unravels the threads of this global epidemic of longing and its antidotes.


Svetlana Boym, 56, Scholar of Myth and Memory, Dies

The current U. Despite modern technology and conveniences, we enjoy A little verbose, but also really touching. A rare combination. Rigorously routed in the examination of monumentality, it also offers insight into the political climes and memories of the soviet bloc


Writing in the spirit of Walter Benjamin, Boym traces the history of a seemingly universal sentiment. But the word nostalgia , if not the traditions of return associated with it, is not as old as its Greek roots suggest. First used in a Swiss medical dissertation in , nostalgia was the name for a medical condition curable through use of leeches or opium or, of course, return to the patient's homeland. Over time, the sentiment became a generalized cultural condition and in recent decades was only still in use as a medical diagnosis in Israel; in that case, however, it "is unclear whether this reflects a persistent yearning for the promised land or for the diasporic homelands left behind. She identifies two main tropes of the modern condition, "restorative nostalgia" and "reflective nostalgia," though she recognizes these as simply tendencies along a continuum. The former "puts emphasis on nostos and proposes to rebuild the lost home and patch up the memory gaps," while the latter "dwells in algia , in longing and loss, the imperfect process of remembrance. Boym's book is a case study en route to "an alternative, nonteleological history"—a historiography that "includes conjectures and counterfactual possibilities" but avoids the most dangerous aspects of invented traditions and truths.

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