Courses

RUSS 101(F)Elementary Russian I

An introduction to contemporary standard Russian, this course provides opportunities to acquire basic proficiency in all five language skills--listening comprehension, speaking, reading, writing, and culture--through immersion, intensive use of authentic materials, and a strong emphasis on the spoken word in all class activities. Greater emphasis is placed on writing in the second semester. For students who already know some Russian, consultation with the department is required before registering for any Russian language course in the sequence 101 through 202. As an EDI course, RUSS 101 focuses on the relationship between language and culture, exploring how different linguistic contexts and practices arise from and contribute to cultural difference. [ more ]

RUSS 102(S)Elementary Russian II

An introduction to contemporary standard Russian, this course provides opportunities to acquire basic proficiency in all five language skills--listening comprehension, speaking, reading, writing, and culture--through immersion, intensive use of authentic materials, and a strong emphasis on the spoken word in all class activities. Greater emphasis is placed on writing in the second semester. For students who already know some Russian, consultation with the department is required before registering for any Russian language course in the sequence 101 through 202. As an EDI course, RUSS 102 focuses on the relationship between language and culture, exploring how different linguistic contexts and practices arise from and contribute to cultural difference. [ more ]

RUSS 103(F)Intermediate Russian I

A continuation of Elementary Russian 101-102, this course seeks to develop conversation, comprehension and composition skills through a variety of materials that treat topics from Russian and Soviet culture, current events, and daily life. Selected readings from the Russian literary cannon and the popular press will be included, as will the review and expansion of grammar topics covered in 101-102. As an EDI course, RUSS 103 focuses on the relationship between language and culture, exploring how different linguistic contexts and practices arise from and contribute to cultural difference. Class is conducted in Russian. [ more ]

RUSS 104(S)Intermediate Russian II

This course continues to develop all five skills-listening comprehension, speaking, reading, writing, and culture-by focusing on a variety of topics geared to students' interests. Coursework includes the review and expansion of grammar topics, as well as a variety of unabridged authentic materials from Russian literature, film, and other media. Students who complete RUSS 104 should be well prepared to undertake study abroad in Russia and are encouraged to do so. Class is conducted in Russian. As an EDI course, RUSS 104 focuses on the relationship between language and culture, exploring how different linguistic contexts and practices arise from and contribute to cultural difference. [ more ]

RUSS 201(F)Advanced Russian I

This course continues to develop all four skills--conversation, listening comprehension, reading, and writing--for students who have completed at least two years of college-level Russian or the equivalent. Coursework includes the study of higher-level Russian grammar, as well as an examination of a variety of materials-print and other media-from Russian and Soviet culture, current events, history, and the arts. As an EDI course, RUSS 201 focuses on the relationship between language and culture, exploring how different linguistic contexts and practices arise from and contribute to cultural difference. Class is conducted entirely in Russian. [ more ]

RUSS 202(S)Advanced Russian II

This course continues to develop all five skills-listening comprehension, speaking, reading, writing, and culture-by focusing on a wide range of authentic textual, audio, and video materials in Russian. Students will further deepen their command of Russian grammar, vocabulary, and style by reading, writing and speaking about Russian society, culture, and politics. Upon completion of RUSS 202 students should be well prepared to undertake study abroad in Russia and are encouraged to do so. As an EDI course, RUSS 202 focuses on the relationship between language and culture, exploring how different linguistic contexts and practices arise from and contribute to cultural difference. [ more ]

RUSS 203Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature in Translation

Not offered this year

This course introduces students to landmark texts of 19th century Russian literature, exploring their aesthetic, social and philosophical implications and significance. We will begin by reading Pushkin, Lermontov and Gogol's innovative realist variations on pre-existing Romantic literary tropes. We will then trace how these initial themes and ideas are expanded upon and given new dimensions by subsequent "giants" of Russian realism: Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. Additional literary and ideological issues of the century will be addressed in the works of Turgenev and Goncharov, two other representative authors of the "Golden Age". Finally, we will turn to the works of Chekhov, which accentuate ambiguity and uncertainty within the realist method of portrayal, thus anticipating modernist sensibilities of the 20th century. Knowledge of Russian is not required; all course readings will be in English. [ more ]

RUSS 204(S)Revolution and its Aftermath: A Survey of 20th-Century Russian Literature

We are fast approaching the one-hundredth anniversary of Russia's Great October Revolution, a political event that had prodigious cultural consequences and eventually polarized artists and intellectuals alike. Nowhere is this struggle more prominently played out than in the pages of Russian/Soviet literature. In this course, we will read a variety of works by canonical and non-canonical writers and consider the many forces-historical, political, spiritual, ethnic, and cultural-that shaped national belles lettres in the course of the 20th century. [ more ]

RUSS 206(S)Feasting and Fasting in Russian History

This course will use the methodology of food history to explore the broader historical, economic, and artistic conditions that gave rise to Russian culture. We will examine culinary practice as well as the social context of cooking and eating in Russia. In order to elucidate the important interplay between culture and cuisine, we will discuss such issues as the domestic roles of women and serfs, the etiquette of the table, the role of drinking and temperance movements, and the importance of feasts and fasts in the Russian Orthodox Church calendar. Short stories, memoirs, and cookery books will provide insight into class and gender differences, cooking techniques, and the specific tastes that characterize Russian cuisine. This class will present Russian culture from a predominantly domestic point of view that originates from the wooden spoon as much as from the scepter. Knowledge of Russian is not required. [ more ]

RUSS 210 TTolstoy: The Major Novels

Not offered this year

This tutorial will focus on Lev Tolstoy's four novelistic masterpieces--War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Resurrection, and Hadji Murat--placing them in their appropriate historical, social, and philosophical context. For each week of class, students will read a significant portion of a novel by Tolstoy, as well as a selection of secondary literature taken from those works that inspired the author, reactions that arose at the time of the novel's publication, and scholarship that seeks to explain the power and enduring significance of these novels. Students will meet with the professor in pairs, with one student writing a five-page paper for each class session and the other student providing a critique of the paper. For those students without Russian language skills, all works will be read in English translation. Those students who have completed at least three years of college-level Russian may take the course in Russian. [ more ]

RUSS 213From Putin to Pussy Riot: Discourses of Post-Soviet Gender

Not offered this year

Before 1991, Russians typically appeared in the Western media as macho villains in the nuclear arms race or a James Bond film. Today, however, news from the Former Soviet Union often sounds like a bizarrely gendered media stunt. For example, Russian president Vladimir Putin has been photographed topless while fishing on vacation in Siberia, while the feminist punk-rock collective Pussy Riot protested Putin's regime by performing in day-glo balaclavas in Russia's largest cathedral. This course examines related post-Soviet media spectacles in the attempt to understand the Western press's fascination with Russia, as well as key social trends defining the post-Soviet era. We will focus on the ways in which gender and sexuality have come to mark post-Soviet culture and discourse as different from those in the West. In addition to Vladimir Putin and Pussy Riot, we will consider the so-called crisis of masculinity in post-Soviet Russia, the trafficking of women from the Former Soviet Union, the Ukrainian feminist collective Femen, the Eurovision Song Context, and the 2013 legislation in the Russian Federation banning homosexual propaganda among minors. We will try to understand how concepts, such as feminism, tolerance of sexual minorities, and performed gender, have been deemed dangerous in the post-Soviet East at the very time they have attained normative status in the West. This course is part of the Exploring Diversity Initiative because it engages in cultural comparison, explores how power and privilege are allocated differently in post-Soviet societies than in Western liberal democracies, and engages in the critical theorization of post-Soviet culture and discourse. All readings will be in English. [ more ]

RUSS 214Contemporary Russian Culture and Politics

Not offered this year

This course explores contemporary Russian society and politics through an analysis of literary works and films of post-Soviet Russia. We will study the social and political settings of particular plots and opportunities not only in fiction but in the real lives of Russians. In addition to novels and short stories by some of the best contemporary Russian authors, we will read scholarly materials explaining the social and political trends characteristic of Russia's post-socialist transformation under Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin's leadership. All course readings will be in English. Knowledge of Russian is not required. [ more ]

RUSS 220(S)World War II in Russian Culture

This course traces the development of state-sponsored collective memory of the Great Patriotic War, as the Eastern front of World War II is called in Russia, and its counter-narratives. The veritable cult of the war, as it was shaped by the late Soviet period, took decades to coalesce and went through multiple stages. The relative disregard in the immediate post-war years under Stalin was followed by the striking re-enactments in literature and film of the period of Khruschev's Thaw. The memory of the war for new generations was further defined in state-sponsored memorials, museums and public events under Brezhnev. While Soviet ideology was discredited in the wake of the USSR?s collapse, ordinary Russians and politicians alike continue to this day to see Russia?s victory over Nazi Germany with pride and as part of their national identity. This course explores the contradictory elements that make up the images and narratives of the war -- in novels, short stories, feature films, and oral histories -- which bring together state violence and individual freedom, patriotism and oppression, remembrance and forgetting. After an initial acquaintance with the colossal human cost of the war, we will examine the artistic, cultural and political traditions of addressing the national trauma that have evolved in the official and unofficial discourses of the war. The search for a "usable past" of the war continues in contemporary Russia, breaching previously suppressed topics yet also obfuscating public attempts to critically examine people?s experiences of the war beyond the inherited Soviet myths. [ more ]

RUSS 248 T(F)Altering States: Postsoviet Paradoxes of Identity and Difference

Critics and apologists of Soviet-style socialism alike agree that the Soviet ideology was deeply egalitarian. Putting aside for a moment the very reasonable doubts about how justified this perception actually was, it is still worth asking, how did people who lived in the world in which differences in rank, class, gender or ethnicity were not supposed to matter, make sense of their postsocialist condition, one in which new forms of difference emerged, and old ones assumed greater prominence? And how do these encounters with difference impact current events, such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict or the persistent tensions between East and West Germans? This tutorial will examine new dilemmas through ethnographic studies and documentary films that aim to capture in real time the process of articulating and grappling with newly discovered divides. We will focus especially closely on Russia, but will also read studies on East Germany, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Poland. This course fulfills the EDI requirement by exploring comparatively the ways in which people in different countries made sense of the social, cultural and political heterogeneity of the postsocialist condition. [ more ]

RUSS 305(F)Dostoevsky: Context and Interpretation

This course examines some of the best-known works of Fedor Dostoevsky by exploring the richness of their possible interpretations. On the one hand, we will situate the novels in the Russian social and ideological context of the author's time. On the other, we will study the ways in which Dostoevsky's texts engage universal questions of human existence in a post-traditional and fluid society of the modern age. Key works of Dostoevsky criticism are assigned alongside the following novels: Poor Folk, The Double, Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, and The Brothers Karamazov. All readings are in English. [ more ]

RUSS 306Tolstoy and His Age

Not offered this year

This course will examine the life and works of the great Russian writer Lev Tolstoy in the context of Western intellectual history. Readings will include Tolstoy's two major novels, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, as well as a number of shorter works, such as The Kreutzer Sonata and Hadji Murat. We will also examine some of Tolstoy's aesthetic and didactic works. Ultimately, we will develop an understanding of the writer's environment and his impact on the numerous social movements calling for change in the second half of the nineteenth century. All readings will be in English. [ more ]

RUSS 331 TThe Brothers Karamazov

Not offered this year

Widely hailed as one of the greatest novels ever written, Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov contains a series of enigmas, not the least of which is precisely who murdered the Karamazov father. In addition to exploring the shared guilt of all four of the brothers Karamazov in the crime of patricide, Dostoevsky poses the most probing questions of his day: Are families tied together merely by blood or by deeper spiritual bonds? Is religious faith possible in an age of reason, science, and technology? Can man's earthly laws ever carry out divine justice? Is humanity prepared to bear the burden of responsibility that comes with freedom? This tutorial will spend an entire semester exploring Dostoevsky's masterwork, and we will read a variety of secondary sources alongside The Brothers Karamazov, including history, philosophy, and literary theory. Our goal will be to understand Dostoevsky's answers to these so-called "accursed questions" through the unique artistic form of The Brothers Karamazov. [ more ]

RUSS 343Spectacles on His Nose and Autumn on his Heart: The Oeuvre of Isaac Babel

Not offered this year

Known alternately as "master of the short story" and "Russian Maupassant," Isaac Babel was not only one of the most celebrated and intriguing authors of early Soviet Russia, but also a cultural figure of profound national and international significance. For a number of reasons (political, aesthetic, professional, ethical) Babel was not prolific and this will allow us to read almost all of his creative output, something we rarely get to do in the course of a single semester. Babel's writing is extremely varied--it includes sketches, journalistic prose, short stories, plays, movie scripts, one unfinished novel--and richly intertextual. This will afford us the opportunity to read the work of some of his contemporaries and predecessors, from both Russia and abroad, with whom he fashioned brilliant literary conversations, among them Guy de Maupassant, Anton Chekhov, Sholem Aleichem, and Ivan Turgenev. Babel saw self-definition as the core of his writing and as an EDI offering, this course will ask students to reflect on what it meant to be a Russian, a Jew, and a non-party author--an outsider, insider, and problematic hybrid rolled into one--in the highly unsettled, and unsettling, 1920s and 1930s. All course readings will be in translation, but students are highly encouraged to read in the original (Russian, French, Yiddish) whenever possible. [ more ]

RUSS 401(F)Senior Seminar: Putin and Putinism

This seminar asks: Who is Vladimir Putin and how has he restored Russia's status as a global superpower in his less than twenty years in power? We will approach these questions by investigating Putin, the man and the myth, as well as programmatic changes that have taken place in the Russian Federation under his leadership. Focusing on the neotraditionalism, neonationalism, and neoliberalism that characterize Putinism, we will study topics ranging from the social sciences (the country's much bemoaned demographic crisis, new social policy and legislation, the annexation of Crimea) to popular culture (television, fashion, and rap music). All coursework will be conducted in Russian. This seminar is part of the Exploring Diversity Initiative because we will consider the differences between Russian society and culture and our own, the historical context that has given rise to both Putin and Putinism, and the distinct history of power and privilege in post-socialist Russia, using theoretical paradigms that allow us to understand the growing social disparities in Russia today. [ more ]