National Association for Armenian Studies and Research
395 Concord Ave.
Belmont, MA 02478
Tel.: 617-489-1610
E-mail: [email protected]


Prof. James R. Russell, Mashtots Professor of Armenian Studies at
Harvard University, will give the first lecture of NAASR's fall 2008
series on Thursday, September 11, at the National Association for
Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) Center, 395 Concord Ave., Belmont,
MA. Prof. Russell's lecture will be entitled "The Rime of the Book of
the Dove: Zoroastrian Cosmology, Armenian Heresiology, and the Russian
Novel." The lecture will be a "Roman Jakobson Memorial Lecture" in
honor of the pioneering linguist, Slavicist, folklorist, and one of the
intellectual giants of the 20th century, NAASR Founding Member Prof.
Roman Jakobson (1896-1982).

The spiritual ballad or poem, or Coleridgean "rime," the Book of the
Dove (Rus. Golubinaia kniga, Stikh o golubinoi knige) exists in a number
of transcribed oral variants, most of which were collected in northern
and northwestern Russia-emanating most likely from the region of Great
Novgorod. The poem relates the deep secrets, that is, the ones that
concern cosmology. It has been called the "pearl of the Russian
mythological epic."

Russian Text with Armenian and Iranian Sources

Many aspects of the Book of the Dove suggest an Iranian source, and in
the Byzantine period the route of transmission would have been Armenia,
most likely via oral teachings transmitted by itinerant preachers and
minstrels, of the adherents of heterodox sects that flourished in
Armenia at that time.

In this lecture, Prof. Russell will take a subterranean (and, at times,
submarine) journey through the dark world of medieval Russian folklore
and Armenian and Iranian religion and spirituality, with detours through
the visionary poetry of Grigor Narekatsi and the groundbreaking novels
of Vladimir Nabokov.

Prof. James R. Russell has been the Mashtots Professor of Armenian
Studies at Harvard University since 1992. His books include Bosphorus
Nights: The Complete Lyric Poems of Bedros Tourian, Armenian and Iranian
Studies, The Book of Flowers, An Armenian Epic: The Heroes of Kasht,
Zoroastrianism in Armenia, and Hovhannes Tlkurantsi and the Medieval
Armenian Lyric Tradition.

Tribute to Roman Jakobson, a NAASR Founding Member

With Prof. Russell's lecture-one of numerous examples of his
explorations of Armenian and Slavic linguistic, cultural, and literary
connections-comes an opportunity to pay tribute to a predecessor at
Harvard who looked at similar issues. Roman Jakobson is considered the
father of modern structural linguistics, the founder of phonology, and
one of the leading Slavi-cists of his time. A founder of the
pre-revolution Moscow Linguistic Circle and later the famed Prague
School of Linguistics, his work has been a profound influence on all who
have followed him, including Claude Levi-Strauss, Roland Barthes, Paul
Ricoeur, Gilles Deleuze, and Jacques Lacan.

Among Jakobson's interests, albeit not one for which he is well known,
was medieval Armenian literature and Armenian folklore. Jakobson
received his bachelor's degree at the Lazarev Institute of Oriental
Languages in Moscow (established in the early 19th century by the
Armenian Lazarev/Lazarian family), where he learned Armenian and became
interested in Armenian affairs.

Jakobson was the Samuel Hazzard Cross Professor of Slavic Languages and
Literatures at Harvard when NAASR was developing in the 1950s and NAASR
Chairman Emeritus Manoog S. Young recalls meeting Jakobson through Prof.
Richard N. Frye, also a NAASR founding member. He took a keen interest
in NAASR's early development and the growth of Armenian Studies and
participated in the first ever NAASR symposium in June 1955 on "Armenian
Studies and Research-Problems and Needs." He also spoke at NAASR's
second anniversary symposium in 1957, giving a talk on "The Importance
of Ancient and Medieval Armenian Literature." In 1964, Prof. Jakobson
gave a NAASR-sponsored lecture at Harvard on "Slavic and Armenian
Questions in the Middle Ages."

Admission to the event is free. The NAASR Center is located opposite
the First Armenian Church and next to the U.S. Post Office. Ample
parking is available around the building and in adjacent areas. The
lecture will begin promptly at 8:00 p.m. More information about the
lecture is available by calling 617-489-1610, faxing 617-484-1759,
e-mailing [email protected], or writing to NAASR, 395 Concord Ave., Belmont,
MA 02478.