Geopoetics and Geopolitics: Landscape, Empire, and the Literary Imagination in the Great Game


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Comparative Literature


This project examines the literature of the “Great Game,” the nineteenth-century rivalry between the British and Russian empires for influence in Central Asia. While the period typically has been studied in terms of its lasting political impacts, this dissertation argues that the imaginative literature which emerged in multiple local and imperial languages is also fundamental to contemporary conceptions of Central Asia and this imperial rivalry. In a series of focused readings ranging from Afghan epic poetry to Russian realist fiction about the Central Asian steppe and Rudyard Kipling’s “Kim,” the project compares Central Asia’s politically symbolic role as a buffer between empires to its function in imaginative and aesthetic realms. It also takes up current discourses on world literature, ultimately suggesting that the archive of Great Game literature produces a space that is autonomous from the instrumental role that global politics assigned to the region.