Hooten visits Solzhenitsyn’s Russia

Colleagues and students of  Assistant Professor of English Dr. Jessica Hooten are aware of her passion for Russian literature, and just recently she was able to travel to Russia and fulfill a lifetime dream.

On March 20, Hooten boarded a plane bound for Moscow to attend an exclusive book launch for Solzhenitsyn’s Thought and Art: Essays from the West. The book is a collection of essays by Western scholars on Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s worldview.

Hooten said,“A lot of Western scholars write about Solzhenitsyn’s theology and philosophy more than his politics. Russian writers usually only view him politically.”

Solzhenitsyn was a Russian writer and Nobel Peace Prize recipient. His first novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, published in 1962, exposed the evils of                  communism.

His novel has been compared to Uncle Tom’s Cabin in that it brought awareness to the bleak situation in Russian concentration camps.

Eventually he was arrested and deported for his political insurrection, spent 20 years in America and continued his writing. After his extended stay in America, the communist government in Russia fell, and he was able to return to his homeland.

In 2008 Solzhenitsyn died of heart      failure.

His wife, Natalia, came up with the idea for the book, and Professor Emeritus Edward Ericson, Jr. of Calvin College edited the volume. The Russian scholars eagerly received the book, and they are enthusiastically   praising it.

“Mrs. Solzhenitsyn actually took me to the apartment where he was arrested and sent into exile. That was an amazing opportunity because it will probably be a museum in 10 years,” Hooten said.

She had an opportunity to speak with the Solzhenitsyns.

“Getting to meet the family was an opportunity to tell them how much her husband’s work means to so many people,” she said.

Only three weeks before the book launch, Hooten was invited on the trip. She took  passport photos the next day, and the next week she went to Houston to apply for her visa.

The English department chair  Dr. Brady Peterson and fellow faculty supported her trip.

Peterson said, “Jessica Hooten’s being in Russia showcases UMHB to the global community and brings the global community back to UMHB.”

Professors as well as students substituted for her classes for the week she missed. Though the purpose of the trip was for the book launch, Hooten still kept up her work. She spent time each night grading papers and keeping in touch with those subbing her classes.

Junior social work major Amberly Clay subbed for Hooten’s British literature class.

“She was supportive when I was facilitating her class ….     Because of some of her pointers she gave me before she left, I was really able to engage them in class,” Clay said.

Hooten’s trip was a success. She had the opportunity to attend a book launch and have dinner with the wife of Solzhenitsyn.

“She was discussing how it is a losing battle in the education system, that more and more people are studying business and technical skills and less and less are studying the liberal arts … which is a shame because those are the things that make us human,” Hooten said.

“She kept saying ‘where is the hope?’ That’s what her husband was fighting for – hope.”

Author: Ethan Mitra

Bio info coming soon!

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