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In Memoriam: Deborah Anne Martinsen (1954–2021)
November 30, 2021

After a courageous battle with cancer, Deborah Anne Martinsen (Associate Dean of Alumni Education, Columbia College, and Adjunct Associate Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature, Columbia University) died peacefully at her home in Upper Manhattan on November 28, 2021.

Martinsen is past president of the International Dostoevsky Society and former executive secretary of the North American Dostoevsky Society; author of Surprised by Shame: Dostoevsky’s Liars and Narrative Exposure (OSU Narrative Series, 2003); editor of Literary Journals in Imperial Russia (Cambridge, 1997; paper 2010); co-editor with Irina Reyfman and Cathy Popkin of Teaching Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature: Essays in Honor of Robert L. Belknap (Academic Studies Press, 2014); and co-editor with Olga Maiorova of Dostoevsky in Context (Cambridge, 2016). In 2016, she received the Donald Barton Johnson Award for best essay published in Nabokov Studies that year: “Lolita as Petersburg Text.” In 2012, she was awarded the Lehrpreis zur Förderung von Innovationen in der Lehre from the University of Leuphana for her Skype class “Love and Madness: Reading Nabokov’s Lolita.”

The Bloggers Karamazov interviewed Martinsen and co-editor Maiorova about Dostoevsky in Context.

During her illness Martinsen worked on completing two book manuscripts. Her Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment: A Reader’s Guide will be published by Academic Studies Press in February 2022. The book builds on her decades of teaching Dostoevsky’s novel in the Columbia Core and teaching others how to teach the novel. The second book, A Very Short Introduction to Dostoevsky, will be published by Oxford University Press.

In addition to her scholarly and professional accomplishments, Deborah Martinsen will be remembered particularly for her generous mentorship and her rare gift for friendship. She was a longstanding and vital member of the Harriman faculty.

She is survived by her husband Randall Butler and her son Rory Butler.

The International Dostoevsky Society and the North American Dostoevsky Society have set up a memorial page.

Obituary on the Columbia Slavic Department website.