James Patrick Scanlan: In Memoriam

Vladimir Marchenkov

Slavic and East European Journal, vol. 62, no.1 (Spring 2018), pp. 2-3

The five articles included below are dedicated to the memory of James Patrick Scanlan (1929–2016) as a tribute to his invaluable contribution to the study of Russian philosophy in the U.S. and international academy. A native of Chicago, Scanlan received all of his degrees, bachelor’s (1948), master’s (1950), and PhD (1956), from The University of Chicago. Like his friend and collaborator, George Kline, he was a World War II veteran, having served in the Marine Corps in 1945–1946. Scanlan taught at Goucher College in Baltimore, where he first began to develop an interest in Russian philosophy, then briefly at the University of Kansas, and, finally, at The Ohio State University where he remained until retirement in 1992. He was an excellent translator and made his entrance to the field in 1967 with the publication of his English translation of Peter Lavrov’s Historical Letters and as a co-editor of the anthology Russian Philosophy that went on to be a landmark and remains in wide use to this day. It is worth recalling that when Scanlan began to study Russian philosophy, the “field” amounted to no more than a few scholars. By the time of his death it had become an indispensable part of Slavic Studies in the Anglophone academy, with its own conferences, journals, steadily growing number of translated texts, and strengthening international connections. Articles, anthologies, and monographs appear regularly now devoted to Russian political, religious, ethical, and aesthetic thought and constituting perhaps a small but important part of Slavic Studies in general. Russia continues to attract scholarly attention primarily, of course, by its history, politics, and literature, while Russian philosophy remains, relatively speaking, in the shadow, but the intimate, organic link between philosophy and the arts in Russian culture makes philosophy a necessary subject of study, and many leading U.S. Slavists—literary scholars, political scientists, musicologists, historians, and film scholars—turn to it more and more frequently in their work. The study of Russian philosophy as an academic area has changed beyond recognition since the time when Scanlan began his exploration of it and his contribution to this remarkable growth can hardly be exaggerated. One can regard him and George Kline as the founders of the American school in the study of Russian thought.

Scanlan’s output includes two monographs, several seminal edited volumes, almost one hundred and fifty articles, numerous reviews and encyclopedia entries, and a striking number of lectures and presentations he made around the world. His 1985 study Marxism in the USSR: A Critical Survey of Current Soviet Thought uncovered a teeming world of differing opinions under the official veneer of uniformity, the hidden world that came into the open a few years later. His crowning achievement was the 2002 book Dostoevsky the Thinker, which immediately upon release became required reading for all interested in the Russian writer’s intellectual persona. In the course of his career Scanlan received many prestigious honors and research awards, traveled widely, and gained a solid international reputation as a leader in the study of Russian philosophical thought.

An international group of scholars commemorated James Scanlan at the 2015 ASEEES Convention in Washington, D.C., during the first meeting of the Working Group on Philosophy and Intellectual History. The essays that follow are our homage to this remarkable scholar and mentor.

Vladimir Marchenkov, Professor, Philosophy of Art (Ohio University School of Interdisciplinary Arts), is the author of The Orpheus Myth and the Powers of Music (Pendragon 2009), translator of Aleksei Losev’s Dialectics of Myth (Routledge 2003), and author as well as consulting editor on Russian philosophy for the award-winning Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Second Edition (Thomson Gale 2006). Marchenkov edited two volumes of essays: Between Histories: Art’s Dilemmas and Trajectories (Hampton Press 2013) and Arts and Terror (Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2014). He teaches courses on philosophy of art, history of aesthetics, world aesthetic ideas, and art and morality. He is currently writing a book on Three Borises: Poetic Truth against the Will to Power.