Russian Literature - Course Description

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Russian land encompasses eleven time zones and climates that range from arctic to subtropical. Russian history encompasses tyrants, heroes, artists, saints and rebels. In this block, literature is a gateway to Russian history and culture as well as to archetypal human questions. We begin with fairy tales and icons. Stories of Russia's acceptance of eastern orthodox Christianity, the Mongol invasions and the biography of Peter the Great give insights into Russia’s simultaneous attraction to and rejection of the West. We read Gogol (“The Overcoat”), Dostoevsky (“A Gentle Spirit”), Tolstoy (“What Men Live By”), Chekhov (The Cherry Orchard), Akhmatova ("Requiem") and Yevtushenko (A Precocious Autobiography), as well as many poems. The biography of each writer helps place each work in its historical context.  There are four major writing assignments designed to elicit a variety of creative and analytical responses to the literature. Each student illustrates a Russian fairy tale, copies an icon and draws a portrait of an author. Contributions to discussion and accurate note taking are significant parts of the course work.