Dr Connor Brian Doak

BA (Cantab.), MSt (Oxon.), PhD(Northwestern)

  • BS8 1TE

Personal profile

Research interests

I am a scholar of Russian and comparative literature whose research explores the relationship between art and lived experience, language and power, as well as theory and practice. I specialize in Russian culture and society from the Romantic period to the present day, with a particular interest in cultural manifestations of gender and sexuality, and especially how the expression of gender and sexual identities are encoded in formal experimentation. I have published on queer aspects of Dostoevsky's novels, on fatherhood in Chekhov's short stories, and contested national identities and histories in Pushkin and Byron's narrative poems. Most recently, I edited a special issue of the journal AvtobiografiЯ focused on Queer Life Writing in Russia and Beyond (2023).

I am currently working on a monograph on masculinity and power in the work of Vladimir Maiakovskii. The book deconstructs the popular image of Maiakovskii as a 'manly' poet, a myth propagated not only by the writer himself, but by generations of critics in both Russia and the West, seduced by his work, and in possession of a powerful, but unarticulated and uncritical, gender essentialism. The book offers a new approach to Maiakovskii, going beyond essentialist readings, to show the poet as using verse to negotiate the shifting terrain of masculinity in revolutionary Russia and the early Soviet period. 

My work on how cultures and ideas travel across borders have sparked an interest in translation studies, as well as transnational and decolonial thought. I have collaborated with colleagues Andy Byford (Durham) and Stephen Hutchings (Manchester) to develop a transnational vision for Russian Studies, laid out in our co-edited volume Transnational Russian Studies (2020). Currently, we are working on a piece on how Russia's invasion of Ukraine is reshaping our discipline and how thinking transnationally and decolonially might help us respond.

Undergraduate Teaching

At Bristol, my teaching focuses primarily on Russian literature, culture and society from 1800 to present, with occasional forays into other national literatuers and comparative approaches. Units that I teach regularly include Understanding Russia: Literature and Visual Culture, Engineers of the Human Soul: Russian Culture and Politics 1917-1941 in Year 2, and Russia and the World 1991-present in Year 4. 

I have taught Russian language at all levels and especially enjoy teaching Russian-English literary translation. I have supervised several practical translation projects and contributed a session on Queer Translation to our Bristol Translates summer school. 

Postgraduate Teaching

I regularly contribute to teaching on both the MA Translation and the MA Comparative Literatures and Cultures programme, and convene an comparative MA unit on Queer Lives

At MPhil level, I have supervised research students working on the image of Moscow in Russian literature, on Dostoevskii's Brothers Karamazov, and queer digital cultures in Russia. Currently, I am co-supervising three PhDs, one on Soviet translation theory, one on machine translation of contemporary Russian poetry, and one on how Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath have been translated into Russian.

I am open to enquiries from prospective MPhil and PhD students for our research degrees in Russian, Comparative Literature and Cultures, and Translation. Students working on topics related to Russian literature, gender and sexuality, as well as literary translation, and transnational and decolonial approaches to Russian Studies are especially welcome. 


Originally from Northern Ireland, I read Russian and Spanish at Robinson College, Cambridge (first-class honours), and then took my Master's in European Literature at Oxford (with distinction) after a year working in Riga, Latvia. I then lived in the USA for six years while working on my PhD in Slavic Languages & Literatures at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois, just outside Chicago. 

I joined Bristol University in 2013 and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2021. I have served as Director of Teaching for Russian and Czech (2016-19) and Head of Subject (2020-23). 

Beyond the university, I am actively involved in service to the field. I served as representative for Slavonic & East European Languages to the University Council For Languages (2018-21). I was co-organizer of the BASEES 19C Study Group for several years (2015-23). Currently, I represent Slavonic and East European Languages on the Advisory Board of the Institute for Languages, Cultures, and Societies (ILCS) at the University of London (2021-present).

Recent publications

 •  (with Callum Doyle) 'Interview with Evgeny Pisemskiy: LGBTQ+ Activist', edited special issue of AvtobiografiЯ 11 (2022): 339-356.

 •  'Queer Life Writing in Russia and Beyond', edited special issue of AvtobiografiЯ 11 (2022).

 •  'Conflict', in Transnational Modern Languages: A Handbook, ed. Jennifer Burns and Derek Duncan (Liverpool: Liverpool Univ. Press, 2022), 59–68).

 •  (with Andy Byford and Stephen Hutchings) Transnational Russian Studies (Liverpool: Liverpool Univ. Press,  2020)

 •  Myshkin’s Queer Failure: (Mis)reading Masculinity in Dostoevsky’s The Idiot’, Slavic and East European Journal (SEEJ) 63.1, Spring 2019, 1–27.


External positions

External Examiner for Russian, University of Birmingham

2023 → …

External Examiner for Russian, Durham University

2022 → …

External Examiner for Slavonic Studies, University of Cambridge

1 Oct 201730 Sept 2020

External Examiner for Russian, Kingston University



  • Russian literature
  • comparative literature
  • poetry
  • novel
  • gender
  • sexuality
  • modernism
  • transnational
  • decolonial
  • queer
  • masculinity
  • nineteenth century
  • twentieth century


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