Fall 2020

Strange Russian Writers: Gogol, Dostoevsky, Bulgakov, Nabokov, et al

Listed in: Russian, as RUSS-317

Formerly listed as: FYSE-13  |  FYSE-22  |  RUSS-17

Moodle site: Course


Stanley J. Rabinowitz (Section 01)


A course that examines the stories and novels of rebels, deviants, dissidents, loners, and losers in some of the weirdest fictions in Russian literature. The writers, most of whom imagine themselves to be every bit as bizarre as their heroes, include from the nineteenth century: Gogol (“Viy,” “Diary of a Madman,” “Ivan Shponka and His Aunt,” “The Nose,” “The Overcoat”); Dostoevsky (“The Double,” “A Gentle Creature,” “Bobok,” “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man”); Tolstoy (“The Kreutzer Sonata,” “Father Sergius”), and from the twentieth century: Olesha (Envy); Platonov (The Foundation Pit); Kharms’ (Stories); Bulgakov (The Master and Margarita); Nabokov (The Eye, Despair); Erofeev (Moscow Circles); Pelevin (“The Yellow Arrow”). Our goal will be less to construct a canon of strangeness than to consider closely how estranged women, men, animals, and objects become the center of narrative attention and, in doing so, reflect the writer Tatyana Tolstaya’s claim that “Russia is broader and more diverse, stranger and more contradictory than any idea of it. It resists all theories about what makes it tick, confounds all the paths to its possible transformation.” All readings in English translation.

Though taught online, this course expects to engage students in rigorous and lively discussion, as we collectively explore the intricacies and challenges of the texts under consideration. Traditional office hours will be replaced by pre-arranged individual telephone conversations, where students can have the opportunity to discuss the three written assignments before submitting them.

Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Emeritus Rabinowitz

If Overenrolled: Majors receive preference. All other Amherst students are decided by lottery

Cost: 22.00 ?


Attention to Issues of Class, Attention to Issues of Social Justice, Attention to Writing, Online Only, Transnational or World Cultures Taught in English


2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2020