Ely, Christopher 1963–

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Ely, Christopher 1963–

(Christopher David Ely)


Born 1963. Education: University of California at Santa Cruz, B.A.; University of California at Davis, M.A.; Brown University, Ph.D.


Home—West Palm Beach, FL. Office—Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, Florida Atlantic University, Office of Admissions, 5353 Parkside Dr., Jupiter, FL 33458. E-mail—[email protected]


Florida Atlantic University, Jupiter, associate professor of history; previously served as a lecturer at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, and an adjunct professor at Lesley College, Cambridge, MA.


This Meager Nature: Landscape and National Identity in Imperial Russia, Northern Illinois University Press (DeKalb, IL), 2002.


Christopher Ely earned his undergraduate degree at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he graduated with a degree in English and comparative literature. He then continued his education, first at the University of California at Davis, earning his master's degree in European History, and then at Brown University, where he completed his history studies for his doctorate. After finishing school, Ely began working as an educator, serving as a lecturer in history and literature at Harvard University, as well as on the faculty of the Harvard Freshman Seminars Program. He also served on the faculty at Lesley College, where he was an adjunct professor. Ely moved on from the Cambridge, Massachusetts, area, taking a post on the faculty at Florida Atlantic University in Jupiter, Florida, where he works as an associate professor of history, and teaches in the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College. Ely's primary areas of research and academic interest include the Russian history of the late imperial era, from approximately 1861 to 1917. He is focused particularly on the role of the rural landscapes of Russia on the national identity of that time, as well as how the urban areas affected that impression, and their combined role in the development of the national public culture. In addition, he has done research on the changing role of the major Russian cities in the mid- to late-nineteenth century, and how this related to the politics of the time. Beyond his academic duties, Ely is the author of the book This Meager Nature: Landscape and National Identity in Imperial Russia, which sprang from much of this research.

This Meager Nature addresses the historic relationship between the Russian people and their rural landscapes. Ely delves into the way that the Russian people have traditionally tied their perceptions of themselves and their national identity with their rural areas, often because these parts of the country are readily identified as uniquely Russian and as a result aid the Russian people in their constant quest to maintain an identity that is separate from that of Europeans. The book examines this trend through a number of mediums. Ely first looks at how the Russian landscape and rural regions were played up in Russian literature and how the style of writing shifted from one that emulated the European mode to one more culturally identified as Russian. This was combined with references to the Russian mythology and to specific geographic regions, such as the Caucasus, as more rugged and mystical descriptions began to take the place of those that were lighter and more pastoral in nature. Ely follows this development into the more nationalistic works of writers such as Gogol, and eventually into the more modern, harsher works that represented the Russian landscape as harsh, flat, and lacking life. After literature, Ely moves on to artwork, specifically landscape paintings, and the ways in which they portrayed the Russian landscape as intrinsically linked to the Russian way of life. While earlier works held a distinctive influence from Southern European artists, particularly Italian painters, that influence gradually gave way to more realistic depictions of the Russian countryside. Rosalind P. Blakesley, reviewing for the Journal of European Studies, remarked that Ely's effort "not only makes an original and important contribution to our understanding of Russian literature, painting and issues of national identity, but also addresses with scholarship and intelligence the question which has intrigued so many mushroom-gatherers: why it is that Russians have such a deep and idiosyncratic attachment to the beauty of their native land." Elizabeth Kridl Valkenier, in a review for the Canadian Journal of History, found the book to be "a fine, innovative contribution to Russian studies. Dealing with the evolution of landscape imagery as related to national identity—and not just with landscape painting per se—it offers much new information, novel insights, and challenging interpretations."



American Historical Review, December, 2003, James Cracraft, review of This Meager Nature: Landscape and National Identity in Imperial Russia, p. 1557.

Canadian Journal of History, March 22, 2006, Elizabeth Kridl Valkenier, review of This Meager Nature, p. 127.

European History Quarterly, October, 2003, Peter Waldron, review of This Meager Nature, p. 551.

Historian, fall, 2004, Alexander Sydorenko, review of This Meager Nature.

Journal of European Studies, December, 2003, Rosalind P. Blakesley, review of This Meager Nature, p. 367.

Journal of Modern History, March, 2005, "Languages of the Lash: Corporal Punishment and Identity in Imperial Russia," p. 255.

Reference & Research Book News, May, 2003, review of This Meager Nature, p. 12.

Russian Review, July, 2003, review of This Meager Nature, p. 470.

Slavic and East European Journal, summer, 2004, David Wells, review of This Meager Nature.

Slavic Review, winter, 2003, Susan Layton, review of This Meager Nature.


Florida Atlantic University Web site,http://www.fau.edu/ (April 15, 2008), faculty profile.