If you have alighted here, you might be wondering how to pronounce my name. You might be surprised to find it is pronounced ‘Lay-nuh’. If you are up for a challenge, try the Russian ‘lee-ye-nah’, for bonus points. Its etymological roots mark the name’s holder (c.f. ‘Helen’ and ‘Magdalena’) as a ‘bearer of light’: a formidable assignment for this former night owl.
I want to find new ways to illuminate traditional understandings of our past, present, and future. So if you really want to get my attention, talk to me about: (1) The Enlightenment: ‘You have to be Russian to understand Voltaire’s sense of humor,’ a mentor once opined. No question: a shared sense for acerbic wit and a disdain for authority between Paris and Petersburg set the stage for my path into Enlightenment studies. In a twist of fate fit for the best of all possible worlds, I have been conducting a digital humanities study of Voltaire’s library, located in St. Petersburg (ask me how it got there!). With over 6,700 books, the library is a rich source of data on reading practices in the early modern world, and a perfect case study for DH methods. My undergraduate thesis at Stanford University bridged DH and intellectual history by examining the influence of texts on Jewish history and religion in the library on Voltaire’s idea of toleration. I look forward to continuing my research into the development of toleration in the early modern world for my master’s thesis.
(2) Digital humanities: Digital tools have the power to bring the past to life, and to illuminate unforseen dimensions of our cultural heritage. Diving into Voltaire’s library has pushed me to think about how digital humanities can transform the way we research, visualise, and communicate academic work. Following a summer at the Voltaire Lab at Oxford’s Voltaire Foundation, I am fortunate to work with mentors in the Oxford DH community on bridging technology and humanistic research. I always relish the opportunity to talk about digital humanities, and welcome enquiries on this topic.
(3) Dogs: Small or large, fluffy or scruffy, they are all good boys and girls.
I am deeply grateful to the Ertegun Graduate Scholarship Programme in the Humanities and its benefactors for making the next stage of my education and a year in the City of Dreaming Spires a reality. I would also like to thank my mentors at Stanford University for supporting me every step along the way.