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Organization, Regulations, and Courses 2023-24

RUSS 31 The World as Word: 19th Century Russian Fiction

In his Philosophical Letters, Pyotr Chaadaev, a 19th century Russian intellectual, compared Russian history to the history of Western civilization. Chaadaev proclaimed that Russia had been cut off from the global community, belonged to no cultural system, and contributed nothing to the progress of the human spirit. Since then, Russian writers and thinkers have wrestled with Chaadaev’s categorical verdict. One response from the 20th century poet Osip Mandelstam pointed out that Chaadaev had overlooked one singular contribution: the Russian language. “Such a highly organized, such an organic language is not merely a door into history, it is history itself.” Taking Mandelstam’s point to its logical conclusion, it is Russia’s literature that becomes the Rosetta stone to the exceptional nature of the Russian experience. In this course, we will explore some of the texts that make up this Rosetta stone. While reading some of the most celebrated works from 19th century Russian fiction – texts by Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, Turgenev, Goncharov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov – we will attempt to account for the distinct character of Russian literature and its unique role in Russian history and culture.



Degree Requirement Attributes

Dist:LIT; WCult:W

The Timetable of Class Meetings contains the most up-to-date information about a course. It includes not only the meeting time and instructor, but also its official distributive and/or world culture designation. This information supersedes any information you may see elsewhere, to include what may appear in this ORC/Catalog or on a department/program website. Note that course attributes may change term to term therefore those in effect are those (only) during the term in which you enroll in the course.


  • Winter