John MacKay

John MacKay's picture
Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures and of Film Studies and Chair of Slavic Languages and Literatures
304 Elm Street, Arnold Hall B31


John MacKay was born and raised in Northern Alberta, Canada, and attended high school in Fairview, Alberta and college at the University of British Columbia, where he received a BA in English. After studying Russian in the Soviet Union and teaching at a community college, he came to Yale in 1991 to pursue studies in Comparative Literature. He completed his PhD dissertation on Romantic and post-Romantic lyric inscriptions in 1998, under the direction of Geoffrey Hartman and Tomas Venclova. He began as an assistant professor in Yale’s Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures the same year, and has over the years taught courses on film and media theory, Soviet cinema, Chinese cinema, Russian culture, slavery and serfdom in US and Russian literature, Marxist theory, Chekhov, and other topics. He has a particular interest in exploring historicizing modes of interpretation, primarily but not exclusively emerging from the Marxist and psychoanalytic traditions, in their application to a variety of different kinds of 19th and 20th century cultural production.

Research Interests

Russian, English, German, French, and Spanish literature; history and theory of cinema; interpretive methodologies; Russian and Soviet film; media studies; Marxism and Marxist theory; non-fiction and experimental film; Russian and Soviet culture; theories of kinship; comparative slavery studies.

Education History

BA, English, University of British Columbia, 1987
Pushkin Russian Language Institute (certificate in Russian), 1989
Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, Yale University, 1988


Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the nineteenth century’s best-selling novel worldwide; only the Bible outsold it. It was known not only as a book but through stage productions, films, music, and commercial advertising as well. But how was Stowe’s novel—one of the watershed works of world literature—actually received outside of the American context? True Songs of Freedom explores one vital sphere of Stowe’s influence: Russia and the Soviet Union, from the 1850s to the present day.

Recent Publications

Dziga Vertov: Life and Work (Volume 1: 1896-1921)

Stride Soviet (1926) and Vertovian Technophobia

Disorganized Noise: ‘Enthusiasm’ and the Ear of the Collective. (KinoKultura Journal)

Inscription and Modernity: From Wordsworth to Mandelstam (Indiana University Press)

Dziga Vertov: Life and Work (forthcoming from Indiana University Press)

Allegory and Accommodation: Vertov’s Three Songs of Lenin (1934) as a Stalinist Film (forthcoming in Film History: revised 1 Nov 2006)

Film Energy: Process and Metanarrative in Dziga Vertov’s “The Eleventh Year” (1928) (Forthcoming in “October”)

The “Subjective” Camera in Vertov’s Lullaby (1937