Spring 2021

The Agony of Comedy: Nikolai Gogol and His Interlocutors

Listed in: Russian, as RUSS-226


Polina Barskova (Section 01)


Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852) was perhaps the most mysterious and influential Russian writer of the nineteenth century… and beyond. In this course, we will travel through his fictional universe—the world of menacing mermaids, flying dumplings, and meteorological cataclysms. On our way, we will examine issues of Romantic authorship and nationalism, the challenges of writing outside one’s homeland and language, and the relationship of sexuality and creativity. Gogol’s literary inventions allow us to trace the intersections of many distinctive artistic imaginations: the legacy of Alexander Pushkin and E.T.A. Hoffmann, whose influence shaped Gogol’s esthetic sensibility, and the experiments of Fedor Dostoevsky, Dmitry Shostakovich, Daniil Kharms, Yuri Tynianov, and Vladimir Nabokov, for all of whom Gogol became an object of fascination, by turns enchanting and dangerous. Our readings will include a range of genres: fragments, novellas, a play, and a narrative-poem-in-prose. We will pay special attention to the afterlives of Gogol's works in music, the visual arts, and the cinema. 

In 2020-21, this course will be taught online. Course materials, including readings, will be provided in advance, and all student work can be submitted electronically. Please contact the instructor for any questions regarding the course format.


Attention to Issues of Class, Attention to Issues of Gender and Sexuality, Online Only, Transnational or World Cultures Taught in English


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021