Spring 2017 X3127,
312 Fisk Office hours TuTh 1:10-2:30

Jan 22 Introduction to the course
A short history of Russian literature
Read: Pushkin, “The Bronze Horseman”*
Bely, Petersburg, Prologue, Chapters 1, 2

27 Russian Cultural Myths, “The Bronze Horseman,” Petersburg
Symbolism and Bely
Read: Petersburg, Chapters 3, 4
Prepare: pick two or three sentences to explicate orally in class

29 Apollo/Dionysus; Motifs and mythological doubles in Petersburg
Read: Petersburg, Chapters 5, 6, 7
Write: a chart of as many character pairings (within the text; to figures outside the text)
as you can and find and what words/images establish them

3 Circles, spirals, mirrors
Read: Petersburg, Chapter 8, Epilogue; Bible: Revelation
Write: a chart of parallels between Revelation and Petersburg

5 Time, history, explosions and anthroposophy: Revelation and Petersburg
Read: “A Slap in the Face of Public Taste”*
Blok, “The Twelve”*
“On Party Policy”; “VAPP Platform”*
Write: a brief summary (one page maximum) of the implications for literature of the two
policy statements (bullet points are fine, with a sentence or two summarizing them)

10 Blok, Bely and the Russian Revolution
Read: Zoshchenko stories; Babel, Red Cavalry stories*

12 Literary schools and politics of the 1920s; The Red Army, Cossaks, Jews, Intellectuals
Read: Zamyatin, We (1/2); start tracing one color motif

17 The narrator of We; Motifs; the color system; the Crystal Palace
Presentation: Calculus in We
Read: We (finish); Bible: Genesis
Write: a chart of parallels between Genesis and We

19 Genesis and We; Utopias and anti-utopias
Presentation: Plato’s Republic and We
OR Brave New World, 1984, or Woody Allen, “Sleeper” and We
Read: Olesha, Envy, Part I
Submit by e-mail: your proposal for a motif study

24 A close reading of Kavalerov’s mind
Presentation: “Oedipus” and Envy
Read: Envy, Part II

26 Envy: Who wrote what letters? Why is Part II in the 3rd person?
Presentation: “Hamlet” and Envy
Read: Platonov, The Foundation Pit, the first 8 pages
Write: PAPER #1: Trace a motif from Petersburg (see guidelines for motif papers)

The Foundation Pit: a close reading of the first 8 pages
Read: Platonov, The Foundation Pit (1/2)
Pick a passage (not more than 3 sentences) to explicate, focusing on Platonov’s language

5 Language: Soviet slogans vs. reality
Presentation: Platonov’s language
Read: Platonov, The Foundation Pit (1/2)
Write: a paragraph formulating Platonov’s vision, using any of his images


24 Platonov’s interpretation of the new Soviet state
Read: The Gospel According to Saint Matthew
The Master and Margarita, Chapters 1-13
Write: Moscow and Jerusalem in Chapters 1 and 2, respectively:
Make a chart of points in common between Moscow and Jerusalem

26 Moscow and Jerusalem
Read: The Master and Margarita, chapters 13-21

31 Compare “the Affair at Griboedov’s” and the scene in the Variety Theater
Presentation: Goethe’s “Faust” and Master and Margarita
Read: The Master and Margarita, chapters 22–end
2 The Gospel According to Saint Matthew:
Compare it to Bulgakov’s treatment of the passion story
Presentation: Is there a new evangelist?
Presentation: Who wrote which manuscript?
Read: Nabokov, “The Return of Chorb,” “A Visit to the Museum”** The Orpheus Myth
Write: How is the Orpheus Myth present in one of the two stories, and how does it help to
understand Nabokov’s design?

7 The Pain of Emigration
Read: A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich; “Matryona’s Home”**

9 Brick-laying, the camp artists, hierarchies; the mice behind the wallpaper; Raw materials
Read: Varlam Shalamov, Kolyma, 5 stories (20th Century Russian Reader 3; course pack 2)
Watch: Varlam Shalamov, video; prepare one question for the director of the film

14 The GuLag: Shalamov
**Visiting lecturer Alexandra Sviridova, documentary film maker**
Read: Aksenov, “The Victory”* (5 pages long)
Write one sentence to hand in: who won what game?
Read: Bitov, “Life in Windy Weather”* (25 pages long)
Write: interpret my brief outline of the wind motif (hand-out): with what is it
Submit by e-mail: proposal for a subtext study (due in one week)

16 The 1960s: Young Prose
Read: Fazil Iskander, “Belshazzar’s Feasts”*
Bible: The Book of Daniel
Write: outline points of contact between the two texts

4:15 210 Fisk
**LECTURE: Maxim D. Shrayer, “Leaving Russia: A Jewish Story”**

21 “Belshazzar’s Feasts” and The Book of Daniel:
Stalin and Sandro: Who plays the role of Daniel?
PAPER #2 DUE : do a subtext study (see guidelines)
Read: Aleshkovsky, “The Song of Stalin,” “Nikolai Nikolaevich,” “From the Book of Final
Meyer, “Skaz in the Work of Yuz Aleshkovsky”*
Write: two questions for Aleshkovsky, about the tales, Aleshkovsky’s career, Soviet
life/literature/politics, the effect of emigration on a Russian (or any) writer, Putin

23 **Yuz Aleshkovsky! The author will answer your questions**
Read: Gandlevsky, Trepanation of the Skull (1/2)

28 The poet and his world, Trepanation
DUE BY E-MAIL: proposal for term paper
Read: Trepanation of the Skull (1/2)
Write: A question about the text for Professor Fusso

30 Trepanation of the Skull
**Professor Susanne Fusso, translator of Trepanation of the Skull, will answer your questions**
Read: Petrushevskaya, The Time: Night

5 Petrushevskaya’s “Blackening”
Finale: the theme of writing in the semester’s readings: the distorting effect of enforced dialogue

*in the course pack **in The 20th Century Russian Reader

Term papers are due in the Russian department mailbox (212 Fisk Hall) on the second day of exam period.

I will be e-mailing you occasional annotations to our readings in the form of photos, short texts. Please check your e-mail regularly. The course schedule is on the class website. E-mail me anytime if you have questions.

The course depends on discussion. Participation in discussions, whether by contributing or listening to your peers, teaches you ways to interpret any text. Please try to arrange your life such that you don’t have to leave during it.

If you receive a B or lower on a paper, you may revise it. The grade for a revision will replace the grade for the original paper (except in the unlikely case that the second grade is lower, in which case you will retain your original grade). Revisions must be based on careful reconsideration of the paper’s argument. If you want to revise a paper, meet with me within one week of receiving the original paper, and submit your revision at least one week prior to the deadline for the next paper.

Writing Center: Use the writing center! You can make an appointment online via the link at

In the course pack

Historical Chart
Pushkin, “The Bronze Horseman”
Mayakovsky, “A Slap in the Face of Public Taste”
Alexander Blok, “The Twelve”
“On Party Policy and Belles-lettres”
VAPP Platform
Five stories by Zoshchenko: “The Aristocrat”; “The Overshoe”; “Nervous People”; “The Receipt”; “The
Five Stories by Isaac Babel: “Gedali”; “The Rabbi”; “The Rabbi’s Son”; “A Letter”; “Salt”
Vasily Aksenov, “Victory: A Story with Exaggerations”
Andrei Bitov, “Life in Windy Weather”
Yuz Aleshkovsky, “The Song of Stalin”; “Nikolai Nikolaevich”; “Tractor Driver Malykin”
P. Meyer, “Skaz in the Work of Yuz Aleshkovsky”