Gitta Hammarberg is DeWitt Wallace Professor of Russian Studies, and has been teaching at Macalester since 1983
Education: Diplom, Handelshogskolan vid Abo Akademi, Finland, 1964; A.M., Purdue University, 1977; Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1982
Areas of Interest: 18th and 19th century Russian literature, Russian Sentimentalism, and salon literature
Publications: Prof. Hammarberg's publications include a book on Russian Sentimentalism, From the Idyll to the Novel: Karamzin's Sentimentalist Prose (Cambridge University Press, 1991) and numerous articles on minor literary genres and gender in late 18th century literature.
Current Projects: Prof. Hammarberg's current research addresses popularizers of Sentimentalism, who have generally been dismissed as marginal figures, and equally marginal "feminized" salon genres, such as amateur album verse--from doggerel to witty madrigals--and improvisational domestic verse and prose. She is currently researching Russian spa culture.
Office: Humanities 209B
Phone: (651) 696-6556
From Macalester Today:
Gitta Hammarberg arrived at Macalester in 1983, charged with reinvigorating the college's Russian program. "I'm happy to say that national trends at the time were on my side. Our enrollments grew by leaps and bounds in the '80s," she says.
Her colleague Rachel May is more explicit about Hammarberg's role: "She pretty much built this program. She did heroic things." Indeed, the Russian program grew from one tenure-track professor to three. Hammarberg helped hire the other two--May and Jim von Geldern--and initiated the regular hiring of native speakers from Russia.
And the program began to build the reputation it enjoys today. "Even though I graduated with a degree in English, I count my classes with Gitta among the most memorable and valuable learning experiences of my student years," wrote Kevin Brooks '89, who took four courses from her. A Russian major, Laird Cenotto '90, who worked in Moscow for six years, said that "if not for Gitta's enthusiasm in the early semesters of my Russian studies, I might not have pursued Russian for more than a semester or two. . . . Gitta and Jim [von Geldern] may not even realize to what degree they have influenced my life."
Growing up in Finland, in a Swedish-speaking family, the bilingual Hammarberg never considered learning the language of the giant next door. The Finns had fought against the Russians during World War II, and there was still a lot of animosity toward Finland's traditional enemy. It wasn't until the 1960s, when she was doing post-graduate work in economics at Indiana University, that she became interested in the Russian language while studying the Soviet budget. She ended up earning a Ph.D. in Russian literature from the University of Michigan.
Hammarberg, who was named DeWitt Wallace Professor of Russian, is a highly regarded scholar in a field--18th century Russian literature--that is never taught in any depth at the undergraduate level. "That's when Russian literature really became modern, through a wave of volatile Westernization much like the one we're experiencing now. It's a tremendously dynamic period. My research has been pretty much separate from my teaching. That's been good and bad. It's harder to keep up with 18th century scholarship. But on the other hand, I've learned a lot about other periods through my teaching."
Hammarberg has helped broaden the definition of what "literature" was then. Her work on Nikolai Karamzin, a major literary innovator, led to a theoretical redefinition of Russian Sentimentalism. Her current research addresses popularizers of Sentimentalism, who have generally been dismissed as marginal figures, and equally marginal "feminized" salon genres, such as amateur album verse--from doggerel to witty madrigals--and improvisational domestic verse and prose.
"One of my aims is to affirm the potency of trivia and to show that frivolity and lighthearted wit were positive aesthetic values in 18th century Russia," Hammarberg says. "My focus is literature, but I espouse a wider view of literature than has been traditionally taken."