Evgenii Bershtein

Russian symbolism, the semiotics of Soviet culture, gender and sexuality in Russian culture, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century poetry. On sabbatical and leave 2007-08.

Marat Grinberg

Russian-Jewish literature and culture, Soviet poetry, poetics and cinema studies, Russian and European modernism.

Lena Lencek

Medieval Russian, romanticism and symbolism, twentieth-century poetry, narrative theory, Old Church Slavonic.

Anna Yatsenko

Russian language: semantics, grammar, syntax and morphology, stylistics, culture study through language.

The course offerings of the Russian department are designed to meet the twofold objective of providing training in the Russian language and a critical appreciation of Russia’s literary tradition from its beginnings to the present. By following the prescribed course of studies, the student majoring in Russian will have acquired the requisite active and passive language skills to undertake senior thesis research in the original.

The language courses, from the introductory through the advanced levels, are taught in Russian and offer supplementary drill opportunities through the language laboratory and weekly conversation sections with a native speaker. In the second year, students continue their study of grammar and consolidate their active and passive language skills with reading, discussion, and written commentary on Russian lyrical poetry and texts on Russian cultural history. The third-year level offers extensive reading of the Russian short story, writing, and oral exercises, while continuing formal language training.

The literature offerings, organized by period and genre, survey the development of Russian poetry and prose from the Middle Ages to the present. A three-semester sequence (Russian 371, 372, 373) covers the most important prose texts produced within the thousand-year history of Russian letters, while a two-semester sequence (Russian 354, 355) examines the main figures and movements in nineteenth- and twentieth-century poetry.

In addition to these survey courses, the department offers a number of seminars on specialized topics, the content of which varies from year to year, as well as the opportunity for independent study by special arrangement with the instructor. Seminar topics in the past have included the critical theory and practice of the Russian Formalists and Structuralists; the experimental prose of the 1920s; and literature, film, and society since Glasnost. Independent study topics have ranged from introductory Old Church Slavonic, Czech, and readings in epic, to Serbo-Croatian and the modern dystopic novel. With the exception of the two-semester poetry sequence, which is limited to students with a reading knowledge of Russian, the literature offerings are open to non-Russian majors. Russian majors as well as students who need Russian literature credit for classes taught in English are required to read texts in the original and to attend an additional weekly discussion section.

Majors are expected to broaden their general background and to enhance their critical skills by pursuing work in the humanities, other literatures, philosophy, and the fine arts. The junior qualifying examination in Russian is given to majors at the end of their third year or, with prior consultation with the faculty, at the very beginning of the senior year. The written exam tests the student’s preparation in language and seeks to establish the breadth and depth of experience in Russian literature through a series of broadly conceived essay questions.

Of special interest to first- and second-year students who may not wish to major in Russian are the three courses in the survey sequence that are offered in English translation, as well as the one-semester, 200-level course in the Russian short story, which is offered in alternate years.

The Russian House on campus provides a focal point for extracurricular programs in Russian. Besides housing a small community of Russian majors, the Russian House hosts social gatherings, sponsors visiting lecturers or Russian guests, and helps organize the annual Russian film series. Every year a native Russian language scholar is in residence.

The Russian Old Believer community in nearby Woodburn, Oregon, and a growing number of Russian immigrants in Portland provide opportunities for students to acquaint themselves firsthand with native speakers. Arrangements can be made for Reed students to provide English lessons in exchange for Russian conversation practice.

Study Abroad

Direct exposure to the native cultural setting is indispensable to a thorough mastery of any language, and the Russian faculty strongly encourages Russian majors to apply to the semester or academic year programs at any one of the four sites (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Yaroslavl, Voronezh) administered by the American Council of Teachers of Russian (ACTR); at the Pushkin Institute, through Middlebury College; at the Smolny Institute in St. Petersburg through Bard College; or in the National Theater Institute of Moscow exchange program. Students interested in participating are advised to discuss their plans with the faculty during the semester before application. Transfer credit may also be arranged for participation in a number of other excellent exchange programs in Moscow and St. Petersburg, including summer programs. In addition, students wishing to accelerate their study of the language may enroll in any number of intensive summer programs in the United States. 

Requirements for the Major

Exclusive of work needed to meet general college and divisional requirements:

  1. Two semesters of advanced Russian: Russian 371, 372, 373.
  2. At least one more semester course in Russian poetry and one semester in other upper-division literature offerings.
  3. Russian 470 (thesis).

Recommended but not required:

  1. Humanities 210 or 220 in the sophomore year.
  2. Courses in English or other literature, philosophy, or history that may be relevant to the chosen area of concentration of the individual student.

Russian Course Descriptions

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