The Russian Revolution was one of the most important events in human history.
The Soviet Union which grew out of that revolution and its seemingly sudden
collapse were among the most influential events of the 20th century. The fate
of the new, consumerist Russia will have an equally profound impact on the 21st
century. In this course we will use Russian literature and films and historical
studies to understand those events and some of the lives of people who lived
Isaac Babel, Collected Stories.
Orlando Figes, A People's Tragedy. The Russian Revolution 1891-1924.
Vassily Grossman, Forever Flowing.
Victor Pelevin, The Blue Lantern.
David Remnick, Lenin's Tomb. The Last Days of the Soviet Empire.
Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons.
Assignments and grading
Class Participation and Presentations 25%
Three Short Essays (1500 words) 50%
Final Essay (3000-3500 words) 25%
You will have the option of rewriting the short essays. If you choose to do so, the first and second versions will each count as 50% of your grade on that assignment.
General Schedule of Class Meetings
(There will be a more detailed schedule for each section as we begin it.)
Aug. 29-Sept. 14 Section One: The 19th Century nobility and the emancipation
The historical and cultural background to Russian class structure and ideological debates in the 1860s.
Reading: Turgenev, Fathers and Sons
Essay One will be due at the end of this section.
Sept. 19-Nov. 2 Section Two: The Russian Revolution
The causes and different explanations for the Revolution; the Civil war and its aftermath.
Readings: Babel, Collected Stories
Figes, A People's Tragedy
Essay Two will be due at the end of this section.
Nov. 7, Nov. 9 Section Three: Stalinist Terror
Reading: Vassily Grossman, Forever Flowing
Nov. 14-30 Section 4: The Collapse of the Soviet Union
Perestroika and the nature and reasons for the collapse
Reading: Remnick, Lenin's Tomb
Essay Three will be due at the end of this section.
Dec. 5-12 Section Five: Contemporary Russia
Consumerism, Capitalism, and popular culture
Reading: Pelevin, The Blue Lantern
The final paper will be due during the final exam period.