Introduction to Classic Russian Literature

Russian literature holds a universal appeal in the eyes of many generations of readers. In a listing by Great Books, 10 of 100 world’s greatest novels are by Russian authors.  How do these writers convey the particularities of Russian culture and shape our understanding of Russia? How do they reflect the turbulent history of their land, yet capture imagination of readers around the globe?  What are some unique ways in which they define human psychology, the quest for the meaning of life and self-realization in the world?  In this course, we will explore the works of classical Russian writers of the nineteenth and twentieth century, including stories and novels by Dostoevsky,  Tolstoy, Chekhov,  Bunin, Nabokov, Platonov, Solzhenitsyn and others. In the first part of the course we will read the works of the major nineteenth-century Russian authors, focusing on their approaches to portraying self and society. In the second part of the course, we will look at how writers responded to pivotal events in Russian history – revolutions, wars, years of the Soviet regime, and the collapse of the communist system.  All readings in English.

Students interested in completing some readings and a project in Russian should register for 21G.618.