RU 220/320 Survey of Slavic Literature

In this course we will examine a series of works from Slavic literature, with a special emphasis on Russian literature, in order to understand the particular concerns and perspectives of some Slavic authors from different periods and countries. Readings will include the longer works described under Required Readings below and a few shorter works to be handed out in class. We will also watch one or more Slavic films depending on student interest. Class meetings will be conducted as rolling discussions with some student presentations and little lecturing. In papers and discussions students from different fields will have the opportunity of pursuing their own particular interests. Please feel free to communicate them to me. There will be no exams in the class. The papers are described under evaluation below.

Required Texts
Andrey Bely, Petersburg
(A fantastic novel about Petersburg in which the forces of reason and irrationality duel for the city's soul and the hero has to decide whether to kill his own father to prove his allegiance to revolution.)
Nikolai Gogol, Petersburg Tales
(Stories and plays about Petersburg by the comic author who portrayed the city as a place where devils lurk, noses can live own their own, and a man can lose his soul to an overcoat.)
Jan Kochanowski, Laments
(In a cycle of poems, which is almost unique in European Renaissance literature because of its personal subject matter, and which has been newly translated by the Noble Prize winning poet Seamus Heany, the leading Polish Renaissance poet comes to terms with the childhood deaths of his two daughters. How can either Classical stoicism or Christian faith explain and accept the harsh reality of undeserved human mortality? Kochanowski's solution is both justly famous and tinged with a surprising irony.)
Mikhail Lermontov, Hero of Our Time
(A famous set of episodes from the life of a Byronic rebel arranged into one of the first Russian novels. Still read by nearly all Russians as teenagers, Lermontov's work shows the plight of a man who has no outlet for his superior abilities other than the destruction of others' happiness. Is he evil, or merely misunderstood? Will he meet the woman who could save him, and will he recognize her if he does? Can a European live among the natural "savages" of the mountains?)
Josef Skvorecky, The Miracle Game
(A Czech comic novel which has been called the best possible introduction to modern Czech literature. Can anyone believe in miracles (even secular ones) after the events of this century?)

Class participation 25%
Short papers 50%
(You will write a 2-3 page essay on a topic of your choice at the end of the second, fourth and sixth parts of the course. These papers may be rewritten. Topics will be suggested for students who want them.)
Final Paper 25%
(You will write a 6-8 page paper on a topic of your choice. You will also have the opportunity of rewriting this paper.)

There will be no final exam in this course.

Schedule of Class Meetings

Part One: Russia's Image of Itself and Poland's Image of Russia

Week 1: Medieval Russian Views of the City and of the Prince; Encounters with the Nomads
Reading: Hilarion's Sermon
Lay of the Host of Igor

Week 2 Mickiewicz and Pushkin on Petersburg
Reading: poems by Mickiewicz and Pushkin

Part Two: Polish Renaissance Humanism and the Blending of Classical and Catholic Culture

Weeks 3,4 Reading: Kochanowski
Essay One Due.

Part Three: Gogol's Petersburg

Weeks 5, 6 Reading: selection from Gogol

Part Four: Lermontov: the Superfluous man and the Romance of the Caucasus

Weeks: 7,8, 9 Reading: Lermontov
Film: Oblomov
Essay Two Due.

Part Five: Revolution and Decadence

Weeks 10, 11 Reading: Bely

Part Six: Stalinism and Central Europe

Weeks 12,13, 14 Reading: Skvorecky

Essay Three Due.

Final Discussions

Be sure to familiarize yourself with the college policy on academic dishonesty in the Pathfinder.