Dr Isobel Palmer

Department of Modern Languages
Lecturer in Russian

Contact details

Russian Studies
Department of Modern Languages
Ashley Building
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston, Birmingham,
B15 2TT, United Kingdom

My work focuses on twentieth-century poetry and literary theory, with an emphasis on Russian modernist poetry and Russian Formalism. My current research draws on theories of the lyric, old/new media, and the urban environment to place questions of literary form in the dynamic contexts of the modernizing city and the 1905 and 1917 revolutions.


  • PhD University of California, Berkeley (Slavic Languages and Literatures)
  • MA University of California, Berkeley (Slavic Languages and Literatures)
  • BA University of Cambridge (Russian and German)


I joined the Modern Languages Department at Birmingham in September 2018. I completed my MA and PhD at the University of California, Berkeley, where I taught Russian and Czech language, Russian literature, and college composition, and held a fellowship in Global Urban Humanities. I hold a BA in Russian and German from the University of Cambridge.


In 2018/19, I am teaching Core Russian modules in Year 2 (Language in Context), Year 4 translation (Russian to English), and Russia Unwrapped, a module on Russian culture and identity. I am supervising final year dissertations and students for the MA in Practical Translation.

Postgraduate supervision

• Russian poetry (19th-21st Century)
• Russian Formalism and literary theory
• Comparative modernisms
• (Modernist) performance culture
• Thaw culture
• Urban humanities
• Intersections between literature and new media.

Find out more - our PhD Russian Studies  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


My research draws on theories and methods from literary theory, media theory, sound and performance studies, and urban theory to investigate the relationship between art and society in twentieth- and twenty first-century Russia and the Soviet Union.

My current book project, Vital Signs: Rhythm, Image and Voice in Russian Modernist Poetry and Theory 1905-1922, addresses the continued currency in Russia of traditional poetic forms alongside radical modernist experimentation during the turbulent period surrounding modernization, urbanization, and the revolutions of 1905 and 1917. It argues that modernist poets and formalist theorists regarded the formal devices of poetry as a kind of technology and as the means by which poetry could actively intervene in the social, political, and historical circumstances of their time.

My new project concerns public poetry performance and issues surrounding public space and the public sphere in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia. This project examines poetry’s capacity to create communities, and offers a timely perspective on debates surrounding the role of poetry and literature more generally as a space for social engagement, intervention, and change.

Other activities

Dr Palmer is acting Subject Liaison for Russian 2018-19 and convenor for Core III/IV and Year 4 Core, and Tutor for the Summer Course in Russia.

Examples of recent talks and conference participation:

  • Invited talk, “Poetry as Medium: Russian Modernism and Rhythm in ‘A Time without Time’”. Vanderbilt University (December 2017)
  • Round table, “Transgressing the Text: Form vs. Emotion in Russian Literary Theory and across Disciplines.” Annual Meeting of ASEEES (November 2017)
  • Discussant, “Sounds out of Bounds: Obscenity, Noise, Laughter, and the Tuning of the Russo-Soviet Soundscape.” Annual Meeting of ASEEES (November 2017)
  • Paper, “The Rhythm of History: Blok’s prosody and the revolution of 1905.” Berkeley-LMU Symposium (Munich, June 2017)
  • Panel co-organizer, “Old/New Media in Russia and Eastern Europe.” Annual Meeting of AATSEEL (San Francisco, February 2017)
  • Discussant, “Ugly Intimacies: An International Workshop.” UC Berkeley/Danish Independent Research Council (Berkeley, May 2016)
  • Paper, “Orality, Technology, and the Russian Modernist Poetry Evening.” California Slavic Colloquium (USC, April 2016)
  • Panel co-organizer, “Thinking/Feeling Lyric.” Annual Meeting of AATSEEL (Austin, January 2016)

Memberships and Professional Associations:

  • Association of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies [ASEEES]
  • American Association of Teachers of Slavic and Eastern European Languages [AATSEEL]


Recent publications


Palmer, I 2023, Revolutions in Verse: The Medium of Russian Modernism . Studies in Russian Literature and Theory, Northwestern University Press.


Palmer, I 2022, 'Re(-)vision in Boris Pasternak’s “City”', The Slavic and East European Journal, vol. 66, no. 3, pp. 411-427. <https://seej.org/issues/66.3.html>

Palmer, I & Poole, C 2021, 'Notes Inside a White Cube', Modern Languages Open, vol. 1, 10. https://doi.org/10.3828/mlo.v0i0.356

Palmer, I 2019, 'Mayakovsky’s voices: futurist performance and communication in verse', International Yearbook of Futurism Studies, vol. 9, pp. 157–187. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110646238-006

Palmer, I 2019, 'Paper, Scissors, Stone. Metaphor and Medium in Russian Modernism', Post-45.

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Palmer, I 2023, Performed poetry. in Oxford Handbook of Russian Poetry. Oxford University Press.


Palmer, I 2023, Verse Forms II. in Cambridge History of Russian Literature. Cambridge Histories - Literature, Cambridge University Press.

Palmer, I 2017, St. Petersburg and Moscow in twentieth-century Russian literature. in J Tambling (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Literature and the City. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 197-214. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-54911-2_12

Book/Film/Article review

Palmer, I 2020, 'Review: In Search of Russian Modernism, Leonid Livak', The Slavic and East European Journal, vol. 64, no. 2.

Palmer, I 2016, 'Lyric and Its Discontents. Review: Theory of the Lyric, Jonathan Culler', Qui parle, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 233-242.

Other contribution

Palmer, I 2022, Literature in Art: Literature beyond Literature. Cambridge University Press.

Palmer, I 2022, Maiakovskii's lesenka: Close readings . Cambridge University Press.

View all publications in research portal