Robert L. Romanchuk

Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities

20022003 Forum on The Book

Robert L. Romanchuk

Slavic Languages and Literatures

Ph.D., UCLA, 1999

Monks and Master Readers: The History of a Monastic Hermeneutic in the Russian North

Out of the unlikely milieu of a 15th-century Russian monastery founded by a mystic and Hesychast came the first fruits of rational, Aristotelian thought. The Kirillov monastery at White Lake was established by Kirill and his disciples in the far north of the Muscovite state. A conflict over textual interpretations played itself out in this arena. Through their reading, most monks at Kirillov anticipated the recovery of books’ authoritative voices. These individuals considered interpretation a communicative act that directed and corrected their progress in monastic life. A smaller contingency of monks conceived of texts as sources of information, seeking knowledge through the reading, editing, and correcting of their books.

Deploying the monastery’s well-preserved collection, currently housed in at the Russian National Library, Dr. Romanchuk systematically examines how habits of reading and interpreting can illuminate distinct social, spiritual, pedagogical and intellectual agendas. He is interested in drawing out the shift from communicative readings motivated by a religious figure to instrumental monastic readers who flourished in periods of fairly strict communal rule.


Courses: The Text and the Citizen; Scandal and Body Politic