Posted by: gdevi | August 26, 2013

English 499 Russian Literature in Translation

Dr. Devi
English 499 Classics of Russian Literature in Translation (I.S)

Course Description

Russian literature emerged as a truly formidable artistic, spiritual and social force in mid- nineteenth century in the hands of its masterful practitioners, Aleksandr Pushkin, often billed as the national poet of Russia, and novelists and prose stylists such as Mikhail Lermontov, Nikolai Gogol, Ivan Turgenev, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, and Maksim Gorky to name a few of these great men of Russian Literature. (Women writers began to emerge in number in the post-1900 period.) While literature had always occupied a prestigious position in Russian society, we do not fully know what caused this unprecedented and prolific blossoming of great literature in the nineteenth century. This efflorescence continued in the twentieth century in the hands of such great writers as Ivan Bunin, Nadezhda Teffi, Aleksandr Blok, Yevgeni Zamyatin, Anna Akhmatova, Boris Pasternak, Osip Mandelstam, Bella Akhmadulina, Mikhail Bulgakov, Valdimir Nabakov, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn et al. Writers in the western world from Hesse to Gide to Bernard Shaw to Joyce to Katherine Mansfield to Faulkner to Hemingway have expressed their admiration and debt to these great Russian writers.

In this course, we will read several full-length as well as shorter pieces of fiction and poetry by select writers from the Russian canon of nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A primary focus of our reading would be to arrive at an aesthetic, formal and conceptual understanding of the “Russianness” of Russian literature. For instance, how do we understand the spiritual fervor of Dostoevsky with the psychological quietness of Tolstoy or Chekhov? How does the existential satire of Gogol relate to the absurd fictions of Yevgeni Zamyatin? How do we understand the deliberate flaunting of closed genre conventions and bold experiments in Russian literature? How do the writers create a sense of authentic Russian experience while appealing to any one of us regardless of where and what century we are from? What is the relation of an individual to the community and to the nation? What do these great texts tell us about the role of literature in a society? Russian literature abounds in glorious tributes to the “Russian language” itself; how do we understand this Russian preoccupation with the “truth” and “beauty” of their language?

This is a reading intensive course. Please remember to budget your time accordingly, and come prepared with the readings.


3 Response Papers no less than 4-5 typed, double-spaced pages on assigned texts – 25 points each (primary sources only)

Final Term paper on a text/ author of your choice – no less than 10-12 typed, double-spaced pages – 50 points (primary and secondary sources, research to be cited in MLA style)

Reading List and Schedule

Tuesday August 27th – Introduction to the course

September 3 – Aleksandr Pushkin “The Shot”; Pushkin, Eugene Onegin, chapters 1-4

September 10 – Pushkin, Eugene Onegin, chapters 5-8; Finish Eugene Onegin; Catriona Kelly, “Tidings of me will go out over all great Rus”: Pushkin and the Russian Literary Canon” (handout)

September 17 – Mikhail Lermontov, “My Native Land,” ; “Farewell” (tran. By Vladimir Nabakov); Russian Folk Proverbs; Russian folk tales – Vasilisa the Beautiful; The Firebird and Princess Vasilisa

September 24 – Nikolai Gogol, “The Nose,” “The Overcoat”#1 Response paper on Pushkin due for grading

October 1 – Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons, pp-1-145

October 15 – Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons, pp – 146-245

October 22 – Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, Parts 1, 2

October 29 – Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, Parts 3, 4; #2 Response paper on Gogol or Turgenev (pick one) due for grading

November 5 – Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, Parts 5, 6, Epilogue

November 12 – Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Illych (handout)

November 19 – Anton Chekhov, “The Lady with the Dog”; “Gooseberries”; “The Bishop”

November 26 – Finish Chekhov; #3 Response paper on Dostoevsky due for grading

December 3 – Selections from Anna Akhmatova, Bella Akhmadulina, Yevgeny Zamyatin, “The Cave”

December 10 – Vladimir Nabokov, “The Return of Chorb”

December 14 – Final term paper due in D2L dropbox


Vasilisa the Beautiful at Baba Yaga’s hut by the great illustrator, Ivan Bilbin


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