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 range of topics related to contemporary Russia. Coursework includes the review and expansion of grammar topics, as well as a variety of authentic materials from Russian journalism, media, film and literature. In 2018, the course includes a springbreak trip to the Russian Federation, paid for by the College, during which students will activate their knowledge of the language, expand their oral skills and vocabulary, and conduct a study project. Students who complete RUSS 104 should be well prepared to undertake study abroad in Russia and are encouraged to do so. 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. Class is conducted in Russian. [ 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: Moscow and St. Petersburg

This course is thematically organized around the two largest Russian cities: Moscow and St. Petersburg. Mastering all the four language skills (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) on a higher level, we will address various aspects of historical development and contemporary life of these cities. Drawing on the everlasting competition between the two capitals, we will examine their roles as political, business, educational, and cultural centers. The authentic materials used for this course will include newspaper articles, film, short literary texts, song lyrics, blogs, etc. The topics will be as diverse as the Russian revolution and other political upheavals, the cities' architectural heritage and musical scene, and the differences between the Moscow and St. Petersburg dialects of Russian. The class is conducted entirely in Russian. During spring break students in this course will be taken on a group trip to Moscow and St. Petersburg (at no cost) to activate their knowledge of Russian, visit key historical and cultural sites, and carry out assigned study projects in Russian. 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 ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

RUSS 203(F)Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature: Rebels and Rebellion

"God save us from seeing a Russian revolt, senseless and merciless," famously proclaimed Alexander Pushkin. But is revolt always senseless? And if it's not, what is the meaning behind it? Throughout the nineteenth century, Russian literature gave different answers to these questions. In this course, students will familiarize themselves with the masterpieces of the Golden Age of Russian literature with a particular focus on rebellion understood in its broadest sense: philosophical, psychological, social, sexual, and aesthetic. We will examine the confrontation of the archetypal figure of Russian literature, the "superfluous man," with his milieu in Pushkin, Lermontov, Turgenev, and Goncharov. The social and psychological revolt of another key figure--the "little man"--will be addressed in the works of Pushkin and Gogol. We will then discuss woman's sexual rebellion in Nikolai Leskov and the forms of spiritual rebellion in Leo Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Finally, we will examine the aesthetic revolution of Chekhov's plays, which challenged the principles of the old theater and marked the turn to new modernist drama. All readings are in English. [ more ]

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

Not offered this year

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 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 select aspects of contemporary Russian society and politics through 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 and film but as they emerge in the lived reality of Russians since 1991. 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. Analysis of the political and social processes will be framed in a comparative approach, drawing on parallels and differences with countries of Eastern Europe. All course readings will be in English. Knowledge of Russian is not required. [ more ]

RUSS 215(F)Race and (post)Colonialism in Eurasia

This course explores representations of non-Slavic peoples of Eurasia in Russian art and thought from the 19th century to the present. In the process of its historical expansion across Eurasia, the Russian Empire subsumed under its political, military, economic and linguistic domains a variety of non-Slavic ethnic groups across the Caucasus and Central Asia. Their non-Slavic appearance, languages, and religious and cultural practices--broadly taken as markers of "race"--gave rise to oriental and exotic images in Russian prose fiction and visual art of the 19th century. In the 20th century, however, Soviet generations of indigenous minorities could not only claim the Russian language and cultural heritage as part of their hybrid linguistic and cultural identities, but also actively contribute to the evolving body of the Russian cultural canon, from novels to cinema, while developing their own national traditions. The new (self)representations of Russia's frontier minorities, former imperial "others" and new Soviet "brothers and sisters," within the Russian cultural sphere combined and problematized the notions of imperial subjugation and peripheral agency, colonialism and modernization. In the post-Soviet period, destabilization of the political boundaries of the Russian state is paralleled by new images of non-Russian "others" who appear (threateningly) close to the Russian "heartland" as never before. At the same time, the lasting influence of the Russian language and culture continues to impact the cultural developments in the former Soviet republics across Eurasia, raising questions of identity, power, and heritage.This course fulfills the EDI requirement by studying how Russian and other Eurasian cultures have interacted and responded to each in history and how such interaction continues to influence their contemporary cultural development. [ more ]

RUSS 220World War II in Russian Culture

Not offered this year

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 222(S)Russian Literature and European Existentialism

Existentialism was a highly influential movement in twentieth-century European literature and thought. Nowadays the terms existentialism and existentialist are broadly used to describe the worldview and literary style of writers and thinkers as different as Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leonid Andreyev, Martin Heidegger, Franz Kafka, and Jean-Paul Sartre. Reflecting the shift to irrationalism in early twentieth-century philosophy and psychology, as well as the global cataclysms of the twentieth century, existentialism focuses on the problem of human alienation in the modern world, suggesting ways of overcoming it. In this course addressing the key concepts of existentialist philosophy (angst, borderline situation, the absurd, freedom), we will examine the origins of the existentialist worldview in nineteenth and early twentieth-century Russian literature (Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Leonid Andreyev); read and discuss existentialist texts by Kafka, Albert Camus, and Sartre; and look at the existentialist legacy in contemporary Russian and Western culture, including rock music. All readings are in English. [ more ]

RUSS 248 T(S)Altering States: Post-Soviet 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, Hungary, 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 286(F)Russian Politics under Vladimir Putin

In 1939, Winston Churchill has famously characterized Russia as a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. In the 75 years that followed, Russian politics has continued to defy expectations and conventional explanations. The collapse of the Soviet Communist dictatorship in 1991 has caught most observers by surprise, and has led Russia on a path of political and economic liberalization of an unprecedented scope. But despite the initial optimism, these processes produced an economic system characterized by crony capitalism and an electoral authoritarian regime--a political system that formally espouses institutions like multipartyism, parliaments and elections, but violates democratic norms in practice. Why did Russia follow this particular trajectory? Why did Russia's political and economic transition fail to produce the intended results? What are the factors that gave rise to and sustain Vladimir Putin's system? And as Russia faces extraordinary challenges again--marked by the protest wave in 2011-12, the country's economic crisis, the wars in Ukraine and Syria, and the renewed confrontation with the West--what lessons can we draw for the future? This course will explore the key perspectives on these issues. The first part of the course will provide a concise overview of Russia's historical background, the roots of the communist collapse, and the country's subsequent trajectory. It will place particular emphasis on the events, processes and legacies that shaped Russia's transition, and its cataclysms and distortions. The second part of the course will look into the rise of the Putin regime, its key pillars, and its contradictions. The third part of the course will survey the impact of Putin's regime on Russia's economy, governance, identity politics and foreign relations. In this segment, we will also examine how protests and civil society activism shaped post-Communist Russian politics, and conclude with a discussion of the scenarios for the future trajectory of Russia. The course will approach many of these topics from a comparative perspective, contrasting how political, economic and social processes in Russia diverged from other countries in post-Communist East Europe and the Former Soviet Union. The course will also take an interdisciplinary approach, integrating perspectives from political science, economics, history, anthropology, social psychology and other disciplines, as it attempts to address the key puzzles of contemporary Russian politics. To provide a more intimate understanding of the social changes and political processes affecting Russia, we will also survey key films, documentaries and other relevant sources and materials in the media and popular culture. [ more ]

RUSS 305Dostoevsky: Context and Interpretation

Not offered this year

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 306(S)Rise and Shine with Tolstoy

Prepare to alternately fall in love and lock horns with this illustrious nineteenth-century Russian author. He is worth it! This course will examine the life and major works of Leo Tolstoy in the context of Western intellectual history. Readings will include his two great novels, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, as well as a number of shorter works, such as The Cossacks and Hadji Murad. We will also consider some of Tolstoy's aesthetic and didactic works as we examine his broad, rich, and sometimes unexpected development as an artist and thinker. [ 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 402(S)Senior Seminar: Russia under Putin

This course is conducted in Russian and explores cultural and political trends of Russian society since 2000. We will work with authentic print and audiovisual media reports, feature and documentary films, analytical and research materials to develop a wide-ranging understanding of ordinary Russians' lives, their outlook and political views. In 2018, the course includes a trip to Russia, paid for by the College, during which students will interact with Russians, visit key sites of interest, and conduct a study project within the parameters of the course. [ more ]