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.
Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Senior Lecturer Babyonyshev.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
Continuation of RUSS 101.
Requisite: RUSS 101 or equivalent. Limited to 12 students per section. Spring semester. Senior Lecturer Babyonyshev.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
Who is to blame? What is to be done? How can we love, and how should we die? In an age when such larger-than-life questions animated urgent debates about self and society, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekhov and other writers whose famous shorter works we’ll read in this course reinvented the idea of literature itself. Political terrorism and non-violent resistance, women’s rights and imperial expansion, quests for social justice and personal happiness: as nineteenth-century Russian authors explored the cultural anxieties provoked by these challenges of modernity, their ambition was not to mirror experience but to transform it by interpreting its deepest secrets. This is an introduction to the daring, contradictory visions of life and art that forever changed how we do things with words. No familiarity with Russian history or culture expected. All readings in English.
Spring semester. Professor Wolfson. Omitted 2019-202019-20: Not offered
Russia was launched on a unique path by the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917: it was intended to become the first Communist society in history. The Cultural Revolution that followed sought to remake institutions and even persons in the name of realizing a classless society. This utopian project came up against the actual history of the twentieth century not just in Russia but internationally: world wars, the collapse of empires, and the victory of “capitalism” over “communism.” Much of the best Russian literature and film of the twentieth century addresses the tensions of this historical period. We will trace these tensions in landmark texts, grouping them around particular moments of catastrophic change – the Revolution, the Civil War, the “internationalizing” of non-Russian peoples, collectivization and famine, Stalin’s purges, World War II and the siege of Leningrad, urbanization, and the collapse of the Soviet empire. We will consider, among other texts, Esther Shub’s “The Fall of the Romanovs,” Isaak Babel’s Red Cavalry, Nadezhda Mandelstam’s Hope Against Hope, the poetry of Anna Akhmatova, Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate, Lydia Ginzburg’s Blockade Diary, Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Stalker,” Alexander Sokurov’s “Russian Ark,” and the installation art of Ilya Kabakov. All readings and discussion in English. No familiarity with Russian history and culture is assumed. Three meetings per week.
Omitted 2019-20. Professor Ciepiela.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as HIST 112 [AS/EUCP], ASLC 112, EUST 112 and RUSS 130) In the course of five hundred years, the Russian empire in Eurasia evolved as the largest territorial polity in the world. In this course, we will explore the medieval foundations of the imperial state and look at its predecessors and models (Kievan Rus’ and the empire of the Mongols), discuss ways in which cooperation and resistance shaped the imperial state and society, and study cultural and political entanglements among different ethnic, linguistic and confessional groups in Eurasia. Chronologically, we will cover the period from the tenth century to the crisis of the empire in the early twentieth century. Thematically, we will focus on structures of imperial state and society (the imperial house, peasantry, nobility, confessions, intelligentsia, revolutionary movement) and most important regions of the Russian Empire (Ukraine, the Caucasus, the Baltics, Siberia, Central Asia). Two class meetings per week.
Omitted 2019-20. Five College Associate Professor Glebov.2019-20: Not offered
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 two to three years of high school Russian. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Professor Kunichika.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
Continuation of RUSS 201.
Requisite: RUSS 201 or equivalent. Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Professor Ciepiela.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
We will examine the revolutionary upheavals of early twentieth-century Russia through the lens of three modernist texts: Andrei Bely’s experimental novel Petersburg (the failed revolution of 1905), Isaac Babel’s story cycle Red Cavalry (the civil war that followed the Bolshevik takeover in 1917) and Mikhail Bulgakov’s phantasmagorical masterpiece The Master and Margarita (the “cultural revolution” of 1929-32 and the rise of Stalinist society). Reshaped by the crises that they confronted in their works, these Russian writers reached beyond literature – to the images, sounds and ideas of their Russian and European contemporaries – to reimagine the place of artistic innovation and esthetic tradition in times of trouble, and so revolutionized the very idea of what literature can do in negotiating the relationship between text and experience. All readings and discussion in English. No familiarity with Russian history or culture is assumed.
Spring semester. Professor Wolfson.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
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.
Not open to first-year students. Limited to 35 students. Fall semester.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as RUSS 225 and ENGL 315) This course undertakes a sustained examination of the works of Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977). Drawing on the literary masterpieces of Nabokov’s Russian and English periods, we seek to gain a critical appreciation of his literary art and the cultural and aesthetic contexts from which they emerged. Throughout the course, we will consider his abiding themes such as the complex relationship between art and life, and between the poet, the state, and society; the narration of the experience of time; metafiction, its possibilities and constraints; bad art; the experience of exile; and the privileged position of art and aesthetics. The latter are variously inflected as refuge, asylum, or a space of revolt, as well as what enables the artist to counter, but also to inflict, cruelty. The course will also situate Nabokov’s work with the currents of literary modernism; to that end, readings are also drawn from such figures as Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, and Virginia Woolf. Our access into these themes and the author’s narrative art will be through attentive reading, itself a preeminent theme of Nabokov’s work. No familiarity with Russian history or culture expected. All readings in English.
Professor Kunichika. Omitted 2019-20.2019-20: Not offered
Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novels remain relevant to readers across the globe for their daring critique of modernity. A journalist himself, he took his material from the newspapers – stories of crime, corruption, poverty, addiction, terrorism, politics – and mined it for existential meaning. He also drew on his own difficult experience as a political prisoner who spent a decade in Siberia, an eternal debtor, and an incurable epileptic. In this course we will study Dostoevsky’s fiction and journalistic writings, alongside reactions to his work from international thinkers (Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche), writers (D.H. Lawrence, Richard Wright, David Foster Wallace) and filmmakers (Alexander Sokurov, Robert Bresson). We will begin with several early works (“Notes from Underground,” “The Double,” House of the Dead) whose concerns persist and develop in the novels that are the focus of the course: Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. All readings and discussion in English.
Fall semester. Professor Ciepiela.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the great utopian experiment of the twentieth 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 early visions of the new social order and attempts to restructure the living practices of 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. No previous knowledge of Soviet or Russian history or culture is required; the course is conducted in English, and all readings are in translation.
Professor Wolfson. Omitted 2019-20.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as HIST 236 [EU], EUST 238, and RUSS 237) The Cold War indelibly shaped the second half of the twentieth century. Spies seemed ubiquitous; nuclear annihilation imminent. Films such as Red October and the James Bond series forged a Western image of the Soviet Union. But how were these decades experienced behind the Iron Curtain? This course explores Soviet history between the end of World War II and the collapse of the USSR. We will study the roots of the Cold War; the politics of de-Stalinization in the USSR; the unfolding of Soviet influence in Eastern Europe; and Soviet relations with the West, China, and the developing world. We will also explore the internal dynamics of Soviet society: the rise of the Soviet middle class, consumerism, tourism, the entertainment industry, demographic trends, education, and public health. Two class meetings per week.
Omitted 2019-20. Five College Professor Glebov.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as HIST 240 [EU], EUST 240, and RUSS 240) This course explores the tumultuous and unprecedented transition from the late Soviet Communism to contemporary Russian Federation. We will discuss the state of the Soviet Union on the eve of dissolution and politics of nationalism; emergence of the post-Soviet states and divergence in their historical development; transition to capitalism and privatization; challenges of federalism and regionalism in post-Soviet Russia; relations between the Russian Federation and “Near Abroad,” NATO and China, and the social and cultural developments from the late Soviet period to the early twenty-first century. The class will also explore the historical evolution of the phenomenon of Putinism as rooted in long-term transformation of the former Soviet space. Two class meetings per week.
Spring semester. Five College Professor Glebov.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
Each bold innovation in twentieth-century theater sought to redefine in its own way the very idea of theatricality, and so to reshape the relationship between text and performance, experience and interpretation, social reality and cultural tradition. The conviction that a director can, as Peter Brook put it, “take any empty space and call it a bare stage” led the great reformers whose theoretical writings and theatrical practices are examined in this course to conflicting visions of theater’s role in the esthetic, cultural and social revolutions of their times. We explore the experimental esthetics of Konstantin Stanislavsky, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Bertolt Brecht, Antonin Artaud, Jerzy Grotowski, Tadeusz Kantor, Heiner Müller, and Robert Wilson—and each director’s radical reinventions of theater as naturalistic, realistic, symbolist, constructivist, expressionist, epic, cruel, poor, deathlike, painterly, and holy.
Omitted 2019-20. Professor Wolfson.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as RUSS 245 and FAMS 357) This course focuses on Sergei Eisenstein (1898–1948), whose seminal works in the history and theory of cinema are the subject of our sustained examination. As Eisenstein postulated in 1939, “the method of cinema, when fully comprehended, will enable us to reveal an understanding of the method of art in general.” In our effort to comprehend his work and enduring relevance, we will consider Eisenstein’s stylistics through attentive viewing of his key films: Strike, Battleship Potemkin, October, Old and New, the never completed ¡Que Viva México!, Alexander Nevsky, and Ivan the Terrible. Along with examining their formal features and rich historical and ideological contexts, we will also consider Eisenstein’s theoretical texts on cinema and culture, attending in particular to his theories of montage, method, and his writings on the histories of literature and art. The course aims to situate his work within the broad aesthetic, philosophical, and political currents of his time, which he reflected upon in his work, and to which he, a quintessential modernist, made his distinctive and influential contributions. No familiarity with Russian history or culture expected. All readings in English.
Omitted 2019-20. Professor Kunichika.2019-20: Not offered
In this course, we consider the century that lay between the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the present day by focusing on labor. We reconstruct how labor and work have been represented in primarily Russian and Soviet literature and film, while drawing comparisons from American and European cultural sources. We will consider the Revolution as a historical phenomenon, examining central texts in which its ambitions and significance were contested. We then consider chapters in the on-going career of labor from the 1920s to the present-day. We examine the seminal statements of Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky; the groundbreaking films of Dziga Vertov and Sergei Eisenstein; and the enduring literary works of Andrei Platonov and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, among others. Alongside the Russian texts, we will read or screen works by John Steinbeck, Charlie Chaplin, Fritz Lang, and Eugene O’Neill. Throughout, we will be guided by several questions and concerns: how does an artistic work represent labor and conceive its value? What is the nature of work? How is intellectual labor understood in relation to others forms of labor? How are bodies configured by different labor processes? And, lastly, what might this history tell us about the present state and challenge of labor and social inequity at the centennial of the Revolution? All readings in English.
Omitted 2019-20. Professor Kunichika.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as RUSS 252, BLST 392 [D] and FAMS 352) This course focuses on the modes by which race has been represented in Russian and Soviet culture. We approach this topic in two ways: first, we examine how Russian and Soviet culture grappled with questions of race, focusing on episodes in the representation of minority peoples throughout the empire and the Soviet Union; secondly, we consider how Russian and Soviet culture served as a mirror in which minorities from other countries saw their experiences partially reflected or as a source from which they found models to articulate their own experience of race. These two concerns guide us through the course as we study such works as Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground as it enters into dialogue with Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man and Leonid Tsypkin’s Summer in Baden Baden; the representation of Central Asia by such figures as Langston Hughes and Andrei Platonov; the appeal of the Soviet Union to Western intellectuals, in particular African-American thinkers and writers, from W.E.B. Du Bois, Hughes, and Claude McKay; Alexander Pushkin and the question of his “blackness” and universality; the cinematic representation of minorities in the films of Dziga Vertov and Vsevolod Pudovkin. We will draw our critical theoretical models from Homi Bhabha, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Patricia Hall Collins, Johannes Fabian, Stuart Hall, and Mary Louise Pratt, among others.
Spring semester. Professor Kunichika.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(Offered as RUSS 254 and ENGL 314) The problem with facts is that they can be unwieldy, unbelievable, and also unknowable. The problem with fiction is that it doesn’t have the veracity of facts. Or does it? It is commonplace that fiction can be truer than nonfiction. That, in turn, raises the question of what truth is. The Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich has talked about the “emotional truth” of her books, the factual accuracy of which has been questioned. In this course, we will read Alexievich’s work and discuss this criticism - and the less-than-certain boundary between fiction and nonfiction. But before we get to that, we will be reading, side by side, works of fiction and nonfiction about the great tragedies of twentieth-century Russia: the Gulag; the siege of Leningrad; the war in Chechnya; and more. We will also watch several films. Reading closely, we will ask how the narratives and characters in fiction and nonfiction shape our understanding of “what really happened.” We will be reading both Russian and English-language authors, but all readings will be in English. This is a writing-attentive course in which students will be asked to write essays and fiction.
Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Gessen.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
This course investigates various figures of imposture. Beginning with Nikolai Gogol’s classic figure of Chichikov from Dead Souls and his genre-bending reversal of the theme in The Inspector General, the course will examine how authors have used confidence games and imposture to reveal particular ploys and gambits in literature. The course will also consider the ways that con-men, swindlers, and pretenders reflect and manipulate the cultural, political, and social dilemmas of their respective periods. While we will focus particularly on the case of Russia—and the distinct place the arts of confidence have had there – we will also consider forms of imposture beyond just a hustle for money and beyond the case of Russia. We will examine imposture in terms of race (as in Nella Larsen's Passing), in the realm of politics (as in Alexander Pushkin's “Boris Godunov”), in relation to the Holocaust (as in Stefan Maechler’s definitive report on the memoirist Benjamin Wilkomirskij), and in such expansive novelistic treatments of this theme by Herman Melville and Thomas Mann. All readings in English. No previous knowledge of Russian culture or history expected.
Fall semester. Professor Kunichika.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
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 the instructor. First-year students with strong high school preparation (usually 4 or more years) may be ready for this course. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Professor Wolfson and Senior Lecturer Babyonyshev.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
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 the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Professor Kunichika.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
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.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(Offered as EUST 303, ENGL 320 and RUSS 310) Acts of translation underwrite many kinds of cultural production, often invisibly. Writers of the Harlem Renaissance, for instance, engaged with black internationalism through bilingualism and translation, as Brent Edwards has reminded us. In this course we will study literary translation as a creative practice involved in the making of subjects and cultures. We will read key statements about translation by theorists and translators, such as Walter Benjamin, Roman Jakobson, Lawrence Venuti, Peter Cole and Gayatri Spivak. We also will directly engage in translation work: each student will regularly present translations in a workshop format to produce a portfolio as a final project. The class will be “polyglot,” meaning that students are welcome to translate from any language of which they have knowledge; when they share translations, they will be asked also to provide interlinear, or “literal,” translations for those who may not understand the language they are working in.
Requisite: Two years of college-level study of the chosen language. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professors Bosman and Ciepiela.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
The contemporary Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk claimed in 1999 that “the book of the millennium is Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. I know of no other book which dramatizes with such beautiful intensity, and on almost encyclopedic scale, the problems of living in this world, of being with other people, and dreaming of a next world.” Through a careful reading of Dostoevsky’s final work of fiction (1880) and universally regarded supreme artistic masterpiece, we shall investigate the applicability of Pamuk’s claim, availing ourselves of additional works that shed light on the novel’s socio-political, psychological, religious/spiritual, philosophical and aesthetic dimensions. Other texts to be considered include: 1) Dostoevsky’s early travelogue “Winter Notes on Summer Impressions” (1862); 2) excerpts from Nikolai Chernyshevsky’s utopian novel What is to be Done? (1863); 3) a medieval saint’s life, “The Life of St. Theodosius”; and 4) two critical studies by American Dostoevsky specialists James Rice (Dostoevsky and the Healing Art, 1985) and Liza Knapp (The Annihilation of Inertia: Dostoevsky and Metaphysics, 1996). Our semester-long examination of The Brothers Karamazov will conclude with a discussion of Jose Ortega y Gasset’s “Why Dostoevsky Lives in the Twentieth Century,” from his 1925 essay “Dostoevsky and Proust,” and Leonid Tsypkin’s short novel Summer in Baden Baden (1980), which will help us to articulate further the attractions, the challenges and the ambiguities we encounter when reading a writer as profound, and as controversial, as Dostoevsky.
Limited to 20 students; not open to first- or second-year students, or to students who have taken a course on Dostoevsky.
Spring semester. Professor emeritus Rabinowitz.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
This course approaches pre-revolutionary Russian cultural history by attending to how key social actors have been represented. We will study the lives of tsar and tsarina, saint, aristocrat, salon hostess, peasant, revolutionary and merchant as represented in letters, memoirs, fiction, verse, painting and performance. Examples of lifewriting will include seventeenth-century archpriest Avvakum’s “autobiography” (the first example of the genre in Russia), revolutionary Alexander Herzen’s My Life and Thoughts (alongside Tom Stoppard’s renovation of his story as a trilogy of plays, Coast of Utopia), the memoirs of women terrorists, and the testimonial of a nineteenth-century serf. Alongside these we will consider fictional representations such as Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time, Karolina Pavlova's A Double Life, and Tolstoy's "Master and Man." Knowledge of Russian history and culture is not assumed, and all course materials are in English. Students studying the Russian language will be provided with excerpts from the originals.
Spring semester. Professor Ciepiela.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(Offered as HIST 445 [EU] and RUSS 345) The Russian Revolution of 1917 was the end of the dynastic imperial regime and the onset of the new, unprecedented attempt to create a utopian society of universal equality and justice. It was also the beginning of the bloody and brutal Civil War and foreign intervention. Yet the Russian Revolution as a modernist project of remaking the social order and human nature had a much longer history as it developed since the nineteenth century in politics, science, literature, and arts. Following the Revolution, the Bolshevik reordering of state, society and empire developed along with and conflicted with the futuristic project of global transformation of the old world. What Soviet life would look like and how the Soviet multiethnic empire should be built became highly contested projects. This seminar introduces students to the new research into the elaboration, implementation, domestication, taming, or overcoming of revolutionary utopianism and futurism. Studying secondary and primary sources, we will explore how people created new forms of life, moral, knowledge, gender order, postcolonial arrangements, and new state institutions. Students will produce a research paper based on primary sources, including those at the Amherst Center for Russian Culture. One class meeting per week.
Limited to 18 students. Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2019-20. Five College Professor Glebov.2019-20: Not offered
The topic changes every year. Taught entirely in Russian. Two class meetings per week.
Fall semester. Senior Lecturer Babyonyshev.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
Independent Reading Course.
Fall and spring semesters. The Department.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020
Open to, and required of, seniors writing a thesis.
Fall semester. The Department.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019