our research

Slavonic and East European studies is not a discipline. It’s a place in the scholarly landscape  where non-Slavists are lost in translation and where linguistics, literature study, historiography, political studies and their flanking disciplines interact which each other. Although the key word here is interdisciplinarity, we all have our own specializations (or, to put it less mildly, obsessions).

A wise professor once told us that you should be able to explain to your grandmother what kind of research you’re doing. Below it comes, all in layman’s terms. It gives a general idea of the fields our students deal with in their Bachelor papers and Master theses. If afterwards you still want to know more about how we fill our days, you can take a look at our showcase, containing a selection of our publications.


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Old Slavonic


Polish literature and culture

As a literary and cultural scholar, Kris Van Heuckelom is primarily interested in various forms of border-crossing and transgression. Although people, texts, and images have always tended to move and circulate across linguistic and cultural borders, we currently experience times of increased mobility, both in virtual and in real space. As a West European Slavist, he is particularly interested in intercultural encounters, transfers, and interactions along the European East-West axis, not only in the late modern period (Interbellum, the Cold War, post-Communism and post-EU enlargement), but also in the early modern period. By looking into a wide variety of representational practices (imaginative literature, feature film, visual culture, …) and forms of cultural transfer, he tries to disclose the changing parameters (and shifting borders) of Europe’s cultural geography and to describe the specific contexts in which these texts and images have been produced, disseminated, and consumed. Quite obviously, Polish literature and culture offer multiple interesting research directions in these various domains, not only in view of the country’s long-standing tradition of emigration and cross-border mobility, but also in view of its age-old position as the main center of the Jewish diaspora. Apart from dealing with border-crossing as a theme (for instance in road narratives and migration film), Kris is also interested in more formal, stylistic, and generic aspects of transgression and hybridization (for instance in hybrid media such as the graphic novel).


Polish linguistics

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The main scientific interest of Anna Kisiel lies in the field of lexical semantics. It means she is mostly interested in what words mean and how they function within language structure. The words that make her most curious are those that we used for presenting ourselves as speakers, our certainty (Polish language is surely the most fascinating language!), our inclination to argue (In fact, there is no better language.) or to agree (It is indeed the best one of all.), our attitude towards what we are saying and how we are naming what we talk about (It is, so to say, rather unique.), and also what relations we see between the discussed matter and something else (Other languages are also interesting but generally not as much as Polish.), in short, our way of thinking (Even though it is not easy to learn Polish, it is still pretty cool to know it. Anyway, just try it out now with us!). Since her postdoctoral study, she has been trying to expand my research onto other languages: Bulgarian, Russian, English, and one day hopefully also Dutch. As you all probably have experienced these words tend to differ between languages. she tries to explain how. And since teaching Polish as a foreign language is her second, next to linguistics per se, passion, she hopes to make learning these words easier by creating a good multilingual dictionary of so-called metatextual words.

During her MA studies of teaching Polish as a foreign language, Sandra Toffel became interested in task-based language teaching and using new technologies in education. Recently, she decided to pursue a PhD degree in Slavonic and East European studies. In particular, she will be investigating how to teach discourse markers in an effective way. This means that she will be spending my time surrounded by all the tiny words which don’t have a meaning on their own, but surprisingly we cannot live without (like… ”like”).


East European Area studies

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Lien Verpoest conducts research that is situated on the tangent between area studies and political science, with a specific focus on comparative historical analysis and foreign policy analysis. She mainly focuses on the East Slavic region (Russia, Ukraine and Belarus) and covers post-Soviet foreign policy and East-West relations, more in specific the development of relations between different regional and subregional organizations on the European continent (EU-CIS, GUAM, EvrAzES, SES, …). These relations are studied on the institutional level, with a focus on the theories of state isomorphism and institutional copying. On the historical level, she similarly focuses on East-West relations, and institutional copying in the Russian Empire. Starting from historical institutionalism, Lien assesses how Russia westernized its institutions, concepts and ideas without de facto internalizing them. Her latest research focuses on the foreign policy of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus vis-à-vis the EU and the CIS, and the relation of the European Union with this region at large, in which she aims to explain the countries’ policy as a quest for legitimacy, despite the considerable institutional stagnation.


Russian history


Russian linguistics


Russian literature and culture

dosto.pngAs a literary scholar, Pieter Boulogne links up with the rich tradition of Dutch and Flemish Slavists balancing on the crossroads of Russian and Dutch literary historiography. During his doctoral research, unraveling the early Dutch reception of Dostoevsky, his focus, however, has shifted from literary criticism towards the actual texts that popularize Russian writers in the West: translations of Russian literature. Interestingly, translations have not been studied systematically, whereas they are largely responsible for the crystallization of Russian authors in our cultural systems. This is all the more remarkable, since the translators of the past could be highly creative, eliminating whole chapters, mixing various source texts up, or inventing new endings to them. As a translation scholar with an affinity for image studies, Pieter is particularly interested in the pivotal role that French and German translations have played in the construction of the Russian section of World literature(s). Lately, he has been stretching open his horizon, studying not only Dutch translations of 19th century Russian narrative, but also other translations from Russian into other European languages, and even a Russian translation of Minoes by Annie M.G. Schmidt. From descriptive translation studies and image studies, it’s a small step to adaptation studies: Pieter became also intrigued by screen adaptations and comics or graphic novels depicting Russian canonical works. Simultaneously, he is returning to his core business, with case studies analyzing various Russian literary works. His experience as a translator of the contemporary Russian poet/activist Kirill Medvedev, inspires him to stick his nose a bit deeper in the (de)politicization of post Soviet literature. banner-ruscult