Russian Language & Literature Curriculum

Our students must complete seven contracts, three Independent Study Projects and a senior thesis project to graduate. Contracts consist of three to five academic activities — courses, tutorials, internships, independent reading projects, etc. — that will develop your personal educational goals during a semester.

Here’s a list of recent course offerings in Russian:

Beginning Russian I
This course will focus on the basics of Russian grammar and syntax, and it is envisioned as the first component of a four semester Beginning/ Intermediate sequence. It is designed for students with a serious and confirmed interest in the language. Although Russian is not as daunting as many assume and as it might first appear to the uninitiated, even early mastery of materials in the text will require real commitment on the part of the student. Faithful class attendance and consistent, conscientious preparation of assignments will be essential. We will be using Golosa, Book 1, which stresses active use of the written and spoken language. Handouts and other materials will be included to supplement the book and to make the learning process exciting and rewarding. Interactive assignments, games and a final project will be part of this introductory course. The course is open to all interested students.

Beginning Russian II
A continuation of Beginning Russian I.

Intermediate Russian I
This course is the third component in the four-semester Beginning-Intermediate language sequence. We will use Golosa Book 2 as our primary text with supplementary materials from the BBC Russkaya sluzhba and other online news and cultural sources. As in the past, our goal will be increased facility in reading Russian and greater fluency in oral and written expression. Students who have completed at least two semesters of college-level work in Russian at another institution are welcome to enroll, but prior consultation with the instructor is strongly advised.

Intermediate Russian II
Intermediate Russian II is the last part of the four semester Russian language sequence designed for university level students. The purpose of this course is to prepare students with prior knowledge of basic Russian grammar to interact in Russian in various communicative situations, to continue developing writing skills and to read adapted Russian texts. We will focus on expanding vocabulary, using more sophisticated syntax and tackling increasingly challenging grammar problems. Because speaking is an essential part of the language learning process, attendance and class participation will be extremely important, as we learn to produce idiomatically correct Russian. We will work with Golosa, Book 2 and use games, role-play and other interactive activities to make language learning enjoyable and effective. At the end of the semester several days will be devoted to a final project. Students will work in small groups to present a skit or a mini-show in Russian using the material covered in this class in a creative way. Students who have completed at least three semesters of college-level work in Russian at another institution are welcome to enroll, but prior consultation with the instructor is strongly advised.

The Brothers Karamazov: A Seminar
An in-depth examination of Dostoevsky’s last novel from a variety of literary and extra-literary perspectives. The seminar will include both a close reading of Dostoevsky’s text and consideration of a wide range of relevant critical, literary-historical, theological, and socio-political sources. Recommended for students with previous college-level experience in the study of literature and literary theory. Each student will be responsible for leading two forty-minute discussions, one devoted to a section of the text, the other focusing on one or another of the contextual areas suggested above. Not for the faint of heart.

Dostoevsky: The Major Novels
Perhaps the most polarizing of Russian writers, Dostoevsky challenges and provokes his readers with deeply unsettling questions dramatized by his characters. Can we ever gain adequate understanding of another mind? What kind of spirituality (and morality) is possible in today’s increasingly secular societies? Is the God of today’s unjust, suffering world ethically acceptable? How can the ideals of neighborly love and individual freedom survive and remain relevant in the face of unspeakable violence and the rise of totalitarian ideologies? We will engage with these questions and place them in the context of both, 19th century intellectual debates and contemporary philosophical discussions. The course offers a close examination of four major novels, Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov, as well as some of Dostoevsky’s short fiction. Secondary readings may include excerpts from relevant works in Russian and European philosophy and examples of several critical approaches to Dostoevsky’s oeuvre. All readings are in English.

Nabokov's Early Novels: Resident and Stranger
The course examines the early fiction of the acclaimed and controversial Russian-American author Vladimir Nabokov. We will focus on the Russian period of Nabokov’s oeuvre, discussing five major texts produced by the author in European exile roughly between 1925 and 1938: Mary, The Eye, Despair, Invitation to a Beheading and The Gift. We will attempt to assess Nabokov’s place in the history of European modernism as well as his complex and often uneasy relationship with the Russian literary tradition. In addition to the primary texts, the students will be introduced to relevant secondary literature representing various critical approaches to Nabokov. All readings will be available in English translation.

Readings in Russian: Language and Verbal Art (A)
In this fifth-semester language offering, students will have the opportunity to read both short fiction and poetry in Russian. As envisioned, the course will be divided into two modules. During the first module we will read and discuss, in Russian to the extent possible, short stories by Pushkin, Tolstoy, and Chekhov. The second module will be devoted to an examination of selected poetry from Romanticism to Acmeism (a period of approximately one hundred years), including work by Pushkin, Lermontov, Tyutchev, Fet, Bryusov, Bely, Blok, and Akhmatova. Students may choose to enroll in either or both of the modules. This course has been designed for student who have completed four semesters of Russian language study at New College or the equivalent at other colleges or in travel study programs. Native speakers and heritage speakers of Russian may find this course of interest as well; their participation will be especially welcome. We will meet twice per week; one short essay in Russian will be required for each module. All qualified students are encouraged to enroll.

Russian Realism
In Russian literature the second half of the nineteenth century produced prosaic and dramatic works of unsurpassed emotional and psychological depth. Largely classified under the rubric of “realism,” the writers of the period created literary oeuvre vastly different in its philosophical outlook, style and artistic technique. The goal of this course is to arrive at more precise meanings of “critical realism,” “psychological realism” and “fantastic realism” in nineteenth century Russian literature through the analysis of works by Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Leskov, Alexander Ostrovsky, Chekhov and others. Lectures, discussion questions and relevant secondary readings will illuminate the historical development of 19th century Russian literature, centering on its most celebrated, “golden” period. All texts will be available in translation.

The Russian Short Story
The Russian short story is not only one of the most fascinating and challenging genres in the Russian literary tradition--it is also one of the most exciting and vibrant genres today. Although smaller in scope and shorter in length than the novel, the short story succeeds in raising no less fundamental moral, political, and philosophical issues and can serve as an excellent introduction to Russian literature and culture. This introductory course is designed to foster a deeper understanding of Russian literary currents from the 19th century to the present by focusing on aesthetic, ethical and sociological aspects of storytelling. We will read and discuss the nineteenth-century masterpieces of Pushkin, Gogol, Lermontov, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy as well as some of the best short stories written in the twentieth century and during the post-Soviet era, from Daniil Kharms to Ludmila Ulitskaya. Throughout, we will pay particular attention to formal matters like narrative structure, style, symbols and themes, and we will make every effort to put these works in their historical context. All readings are offered in English translations.

Tolstoy and Chekhov
This course will be devoted to a comparative study of selected short stories and short novels by L.N. Tolstoy and A.P. Chekhov. We will examine, among other works, Tolstoy’s The Cossacks (1862), The Death of Ivan Il’ich (1886), and The Kreutzer Sonata (1889) and Chekhov’s The Duel (1891), Ward #6 (1892) and Peasants (1897). This will be a lecture and discussion course; two brief analytical essays will be required. Limited to 15 students. Consistent participation in class discussions will be required for satisfactory evaluation.

Women in Russian Literature: 1780s-1990s
This course examines genres, themes and styles of writing popular among Russian women readers and writers from the late 18th to the 20th century. We will study renowned female authors, such as Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetaeva, and the lesser known figures, examining women’s self-perception and self-representation within the context of relevant literary movements. To situate women’s literary self-expression within a broad cultural tradition we will also consider the images of women in several canonical texts by male authors. Course topics include women’s memoir at the age of Enlightenment; women as readers and writers of high society tales in the 1830s; gender roles and radical politics in the 1860s; Tolstoy and the debate on sexual morality; decadent art in the 1900s; the woman question and the revolution; women writers as chroniclers of Stalin’s terror, the siege of Leningrad and the Chernobyl disaster. We will also discuss the shifting Soviet and post-Soviet perceptions of gender and sexuality as registered in the works of Grekova, Petrushevskaya and Tolstaya. All readings are in English.

For detailed requirements, check out our General Catalog and the Russian Academic Learning Compact.

For a complete list of courses, click here.

[Did you know?]


Six students received Fulbright awards for study and research in Germany, Taiwan, the Czech Republic and Sweden in 2013, and four were awarded in 2012. A record eight students received Fulbrights in the previous year for Namibia, Russia, Taiwan, Turkey, Germany, Mexico and Malaysia.

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