First-Year Russian I
Introduction to the contemporary Russian language, presenting the fundamentals of Russian grammar and syntax. The course helps the student make balanced progress in listening comprehension, speaking, reading, writing, and cultural competence. Five meetings per week.
Fall semester. Five College Lecturer Dengub.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2022, Fall 2023
First-Year Russian II
Continuation of RUSS 101.
Requisite: RUSS 101 or equivalent. Spring semester. Five College Lecturer Dengub.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2023
Second-Year Russian I
This course stresses vocabulary building and continued development of speaking and listening skills. Active command of Russian grammar is steadily increased. Readings from authentic materials in fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Brief composition assignments. Five meetings per week, including a conversation hour and a drill session.
Requisite: RUSS 102 or the equivalent. This will ordinarily be the appropriate course placement for students with 2 to 3 years of high school Russian. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Lecturer Nazarova.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2022, Fall 2023
Second-Year Russian II
Continuation of RUSS 201.
Requisite: RUSS 201 or equivalent. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Rabinowitz.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2023
The Rise of the Russian Novel
How and why did Russian culture produce world-famous fiction in the first half of the nineteenth century? This course traces the evolution of innovative narrative forms in Russian story-telling from Pushkin's novel-in-verse, Eugene Onegin, to the early works of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. We shall pay particular attention to the characteristic Russian mimicry and parody of Western literary conventions in the short stories of Pushkin and Gogol before examining the experimental novel-length fiction of Lermontov (A Hero of Our Time) and Turgenev (Fathers and Sons). The course also introduces important lesser-known writers like Pavlova, Aksakov, and Leskov who contributed greatly to the rise of a distinctive Russian prose tradition. Readings in translation, with special assignments for those able to do reading in Russian.
Fall semester. Professor Peterson.2023-24: Not offered
Survey of Russian Literature From Dostoevsky to Nabokov
An examination of major Russian writers and literary trends from about 1860 to the Bolshevik Revolution as well as a sampling of Russian émigré literature through a reading of representative novels, stories, and plays in translation. Readings include important works by Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Gorky, Sologub, Bely, and Nabokov. The evaluation of recurring themes such as the breakdown of the family, the “woman question,” madness, attitudes toward the city, childhood and perception of youth. Conducted in English.
Spring semester. Professor Rabinowitz.2023-24: Not offered
Russian Literature in the Twentieth Century
The Russian intelligentsia expected its writers to be the conscience of the nation, twentieth-century saints, or, as Solzhenitsyn put it, “a second government.” Stalin demanded that writers be “engineers of men’s souls.” Are these two visions all that different? Did the avant-garde’s view that art should change the world and the intelligentsia’s moralizing tradition open the door for the excesses of Stalinism and Socialist Realism? Has the fall of the Soviet regime liberated Russian writers or deprived them of their most powerful subject? In search of answers, we will study major works of twentieth-century prose, and some poetry, by Zamiatin, Mayakovsky, Akhmatova, Babel, Platonov, Bulgakov (The Master and Margarita), Olesha, Solzhenitsyn, Sinyavsky, Brodsky, Chukovskaya, and others. We will pay considerable attention to parallel developments in the visual arts, using materials from the College’s Thomas P. Whitney Collection. Conducted in English, all readings in translation (students who read Russian will be given special assignments). Two meetings per week.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2011-12.2023-24: Not offered
Strange Russian Writers: Gogol, Dostoevsky, Bulgakov, Nabokov, et al
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.
Limited to 35 students. Not open to first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Rabinowitz.2023-24: Not offered
Seminar on One Writer: Vladimir Nabokov
An attentive reading of works spanning Nabokov’s entire career, both as a Russian and English (or “Amero-Russian”) author, including autobiographical and critical writings, as well as his fiction and poetry. Special attention will be given to Nabokov’s lifelong meditation on the elusiveness of experienced time and on writing’s role as a supplement to loss and absence. Students will be encouraged to compare Nabokov’s many dramatizations of “invented worlds” and to consider them along with other Russian and Western texts, fictional and philosophical, that explore the mind’s defenses against exile and separation. All readings in English translation, with special assignments for those able to read Russian. Two meetings per week.
Limited to 20 students. Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2011-12. Professor Peterson.
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2020, January 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Fall 2023
Among the many paradoxes Dostoevsky presents is the paradox of his own achievement. Perceived as the most “Russian” of Russian writers, he finds many enthusiastic readers in the West. A nineteenth-century author, urgently engaged in the debates of his time, his work remains relevant today. The most influential theorists of the novel feel called upon to account for the Dostoevsky phenomenon. How can we understand Dostoevsky’s appeal to so many audiences? This broad question will inform our reading of Dostoevsky’s fiction, as we consider its social-critical, metaphysical, psychological, and formal significance. We will begin with several early works (“Notes from Underground,” “The Double”) whose concerns persist and develop in the great novels that are the focus of the course: Crime and Punishment, The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov. All readings and discussion in English. Conducted as a seminar. Two class meetings per week.
Omitted 2011-12. Professor Ciepiela.Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2023
Count Leo Tolstoy’s life and writings encompass self-contradictions equaled in scale only by the immensity of his talent: the aristocrat who renounced his wealth, the former army officer who preached nonresistance to evil, the father of thirteen children who advocated total chastity within marriage and, of course, the writer of titanic stature who repudiated all he had previously written, including War and Peace and Anna Karenina. We will read these two masterworks in depth, along with other fictional and non-fictional writings ("The History of Yesterday," Childhood, Strider, Confession, Sebastopol Stories, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, "What Is Art?"), as we explore his abiding search for the meaning of ever-inaccessible "self," his far-reaching artistic innovations, and his evolving views on history, the family, war, death, religion, art, and education. Conducted in English, all readings in translation, with special assignments for students who read Russian. Two class meetings per week.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2011-12. Professor Wolfson2023-24: Not offered
Chekhov And His Theater
(Offered as RUSS 229 and THDA 229). Anton Chekhov's reputation rests as much on his dramaturgy as on his fiction. His plays, whose staging by the Moscow Art Theater helped revolutionize Russian and world theater, endure in the modern repertoire. In this course, we will study his dramatic oeuvre in its cultural and historical context, drawing on the biographical and critical literature on Chekhov, printed and visual materials concerning the late nineteenth-century European theater, and the writings of figures like Constantin Stanislavsky, who developed a new acting method in response to Chekhov's art. We also will examine key moments in the production history of Chekhov's plays in Russian, English, and American theater and film.
Spring semester. Professor Ciepiela and Playwright-in-Residence Congdon.2023-24: Not offered
In this course we will study modern Russian cultural history by attending to how key social actors have been represented. Beginning with the 17th-century religious schism and continuing up through the present day, we will study the lives of the saint, the aristocrat, the peasant, the poet, the intellectual, the revolutionary, the exile, the leader, and the merchant. We will draw on memoirs and eyewitness accounts such as Archpriest Avvakum’s “autobiography,” the first example of the genre in Russia, Alexander Herzen’s My Life and Thoughts (alongside Tom Stoppard’s renovation of his story as a recently staged trilogy of plays, Coast of Utopia), the testimony of women terrorists like Vera Figner, and the diaries of average Soviet citizens during the Stalin era. We also will consider fictional renderings of typical or historical figures in various media, works like Ivan Turgenev's A Huntsman's Sketches, Sergei Eisenstein’s film Ivan the Terrible, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. No acquaintance with Russian language or culture is assumed.
Omitted 2011-12. Professor Ciepiela.2023-24: Not offered
Russian Literature at the Frontier: Encounters with Eurasia
From medieval times to the present, Russians have defined themselves as positioned between Western and Eastern cultural traditions, claiming for themselves a unique role in an historic “clash of civilizations.” This course closely examines influential representations, in literature and film, of Russia’s encounter with the peoples on the southern and eastern borders of Imperial, Soviet, and contemporary Russia. Beginning with the depiction of pagan “others” in the ancient monastic chronicles and narrative poetry of early Russia’s Orthodox civilization, the course will focus on the secular literature of Imperial Russia, reading attentively the texts that shaped popular conceptions of the “natives” with whom Russians battled, traded, and incorporated into their own sense of a non-Western identity. We shall examine the long history of Russian “Orientalism” in poems, stories, and films that powerfully imposed or challenged racial stereotypes of the tribal peoples of the Caucasus and Central Asia. And we shall follow the development in more recent times of the ideology of “Eurasianism,” which proclaims to be the historic center of an emerging civilization that blends the races and cultures of East and West. Inevitably, the course will pause occasionally to consider comparisons and contrasts with the North American encounter with the indigenous peoples on its borders. Works to be studied include Russian literary classics by Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, and Tolstoy as well as more recent Soviet and post-Soviet depictions of Russia’s “inner Asia” in film and writing. All readings in translation with special assignments for any students who read Russian.
Omitted 2011-12. Professor Peterson.2023-24: Not offered
The Soviet Experience
(Offered as RUSS 234 and FAMS 313.) With the dissolution of theSoviet Union, the great utopian experiment of the 20th century–a radical attempt to reorganize society in accordance with rational principles–came to an end. This course explores the dramatic history of that experiment from the perspective of those whose lives were deeply affected by the social upheavals it brought about. We begin by examining the early visions of the new social order and attempts to restructure the living practices of the Soviet citizens by reshaping the concepts of time, space, family, and, ultimately, redefining the meaning of being human. We then look at how “the new human being” of the 1920s is transformed into the “new Soviet person” of the Stalinist society, focusing on the central cultural and ideological myths of Stalinism and their place in everyday life, especially as they relate to the experience of state terror and war. Finally, we investigate the notion of “life after Stalin,” and consider the role of already familiar utopian motifs in the development of post-Stalinist and post-Soviet ways of imagining self, culture, and society. The course uses a variety of materials–from primary documents, public or official (architectural and theatrical designs, political propaganda, transcripts of trials, government meetings, and interrogations) and intimate (diaries and letters), to works of art (novels, films, stage productions, paintings), documentary accounts (on film and in print), and contemporary scholarship (from the fields of literary and cultural studies, history and anthropology). Course assignments emphasize careful writing and experiential learning; students will have an opportunity to work on projects involving multimedia production and community-based research. No previous knowledge of Soviet or Russian history or culture is required; course conducted in English, and all readings are in translation. Students who read Russian will be given special assignments.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2011-12. Professor Wolfson.2023-24: Not offered
The Soviet Century: Rise and Fall of the Communist Experiment
(Offered as HIST 136 [EU] and RUSS 235.) This course will explore the history of Soviet state and society through the revolutionary turmoil, Stalin’s socio-economic transformations and terror, World War II and the Cold War. As we follow the development of the Soviet Union, we will focus on topics such as the role of ideology in policy and everyday life, people’s reactions and adaptations to unprecedented pressures of “really existing socialism,” function of terror, repression and accommodation in Communist society, and the place of the USSR on the changing map of world powers in the twentieth century. While we will discuss the role of leaders and institutions, we will also pay attention to cultures and practices of everyday life that developed behind the Iron Curtain. Materials for the class will include writings by contemporary historians, memoirs, novels, films, and art works from the Mead Museum. Two class meetings per week.
Fall semester. Five College Professor Glebov.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2021, Fall 2023
Russian and Soviet Film
(Offered as RUSS 241 and FAMS 321.) Lenin declared “For us, cinema is the most important art,” and the young Bolshevik regime threw its support behind a brilliant group of film pioneers (Eisenstein, Vertov, Kuleshov, Pudovkin, Dovzhenko) who worked out the fundamentals of film language. Under Stalin, historical epics and musical comedies, not unlike those produced in 1930s Hollywood, became the favored genres. The innovative Soviet directors of the 1960s and 1970s (Tarkovsky, Parajanov, Abuladze, Muratova) moved away from politics and even narrative toward “film poetry.” Post-Soviet Russian cinema has struggled to define a new identity, and may finally be succeeding. This course will introduce the student to the great Russian and Soviet film tradition. Conducted in English. Two class meetings and one or two required screenings a week.
Omitted 2011-12. Professor Wolfson.2023-24: Not offered
Third-Year Russian: Studies in Russian Language and Culture I
This course advances skills in reading, understanding, writing, and speaking Russian, with materials from twentieth-century culture. Readings include fiction by Chekhov, Babel, Olesha, Nabokov, and others. Conducted in Russian, with frequent writing and grammar assignments, in-class presentations, and occasional translation exercises. Two seminar-style meetings and one hour-long discussion section per week.
Requisite: RUSS 202 or consent of instructor. First-year students with strong high school preparation (usually 4 or more years) may be ready for this course. Fall semester. Professor Rabinowitz and Senior Lecturer Babyonyshev.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023
Third-Year Russian: Studies in Russian Language and Culture II
We will be reading, in the original Russian, works of fiction, poetry and criticism by nineteenth-century authors such as Pushkin, Tolstoy, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Turgenev and Chekhov. Conducted in Russian, with frequent writing and translation assignments.
Requisite: RUSS 301 or consent of instructor. Spring semester. Professor Ciepiela and Senior Lecturer Babyonyshev.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2023
Advanced Conversation and Composition
A half course designed for advanced students of Russian who wish to develop their fluency, pronunciation, oral comprehension, and writing skills. Major attention will be given to reading, discussion and interpretation of current Russian journalistic literature. This course will cover several basic subjects, including the situation of the Russian media, domestic and international politics, culture, and everyday life in Russia. Two hours per week.
Requisite: RUSS 302 or consent of the instructor. Fall semester. Senior Lecturer Babyonyshev.2023-24: Not offered
Advanced Intermediate Conversation and Composition
A half course designed for intermediate-level students who wish to develop their fluency, pronunciation, oral comprehension, and writing skills. We will study and discuss Russian films of various genres. Two hours per week.
Requisite: RUSS 301 or consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Senior Lecturer Babyonyshev.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2022, Spring 2023
Birth of the Avant-Garde: Modern Poetry and Culture in France and Russia, 1870-1930
(Offered as EUST 311 and RUSS 311.) Between the mid-nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth century, poetry was revolutionized both in France and in Russia; nowhere else did the avant-garde proliferate more extravagantly. This class will focus on the key period in the emergence of literary modernity that began with Symbolism and culminated with Surrealism and Constructivism.
With the advent of modernism, the poem became a “global phenomenon” that circulated among different languages and different cultures, part of a process of cross-fertilization. An increasingly hybrid genre, avant-garde poetry went beyond its own boundaries by drawing into itself prose literature, philosophy, music, and the visual and performing arts. The relation between the artistic and the literary avant-garde will be an essential concern.
We will be reading Rimbaud; the French Symbolists (Mallarmé, Laforgue, Valéry); the Russian Symbolists (Blok, Bely); Apollinaire, Dada, and the Surrealists (Breton, Eluard, Desnos, Char, Michaux); and the Russian avant-garde poets (Mayakovsky, Pasternak, Khlebnikov, Tsvetaeva).
Our study of the arts will include Symbolism (Moreau, Redon); Fauvism (Matisse, Derain, Vlaminck); Cubism, Dada, and early Surrealism (Duchamp, Ernst, Dali, Artaud); the “World of Art” movement; Primitivism and Constructivism (Goncharova, Malevich, Rodchenko, Eisenstein). Course will be taught in English. Students who read fluently in French and/or Russian will be encouraged to read the material in the original language.
Omitted 2011-12. Professors Ciepiela and L. Katsaros.
Advanced Studies in Russian Literature and Culture I
The topic changes every year. Taught entirely in Russian. Two class meetings per week.
Fall semester. Senior Lecturer Babyonyshev.
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023
Independent Reading Course.
Fall and spring semesters. The Department.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023
Senior Departmental Honors
Meetings to be arranged.
Open to, and required of, seniors writing a thesis. Fall semester. The Department.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023