The course offerings of the Russian department are designed to meet the twofold objective of providing training in the Russian language and achieving 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 active and passive language skills required for undertaking 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 19th and 20th 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; terror and the sublime in Russian literature; Russian masculinity; art of political discourse; and literature, film, and society since Glasnost. A unique dimension of the Reed program in Russian is represented by offerings in the literature, film and theater of East and Central European Jews.
Independent study topics have ranged from introductory Old Church Slavonic to Russian comix. 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, history, 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 start 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 on 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.
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 three sites (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Vladimir) 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 language; 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 120 - First-Year Russian
Full course for one year. Essentials of grammar and readings in simplified texts. The course is conducted in Russian as much as possible. Conference.
Russian 220 - Second-Year RussianFull course for one year. Readings, systematic grammar review, verbal drill, and writing of simple prose. The course is conducted in Russian and is intended for students interested in active use of the language. Prerequisite: Russian 120 or placement based on results of the Russian language exam. Conference.
Russian 266 - Russian Short FictionFull course for one semester. Intended for lower-division students, this course is devoted to close readings of short stories and novellas by such 19th- and 20th-century writers as Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Babel, Bulgakov, Nabokov, Askyonov, and Tolstaya. Our approach is twofold. First, we attempt “open” readings, taking our texts as representatives of a single tradition in which later works are engaged in a dialogue with their predecessors. Second, we use the readings as test cases for a variety of critical approaches. Meets English departmental requirement for 200-level genre courses. Prerequisite: students who wish to take the course for Russian credit must have completed Russian 220 or obtain the consent of the instructor. Cross-listed as Literature 266. Conference.
Russian 300 - Advanced Russian: Language, Style, and Culture
Full course for one semester. This course is designed to meet the needs of students striving to reach an advanced level of competency in reading, speaking, listening, and writing in Russian. The course expands and deepens the student's understanding of expressive nuances of Russian through a study of select lexical, morphological, syntactical, and rhetorical features and through an examination of their contextual usage in appropriate target texts—nonfiction research literature, belles-lettristic, and mass media—and corresponding cultural matrices. Case study materials include neoclassical, romantic, realistic, and modernist poetic and prose texts: scholarly texts, journalism, "pulp" fictions, and Russian "rap" lyrics. Course assignments include grammar review, structured composition exercises, and oral presentations. Reading, writing, and discussion are conducted in Russian, though theoretical materials will include English-language sources. Prerequisite: Russian 220, or equivalent proficiency (placement based on the Russian language examination). This advanced language course is applicable to the Group D requirement. Conference.
Russian 340 - Jewish Modernisms: Eastern Europe and BeyondFull course for one semester. This course examines artistic and ideological links between European literary modernism and the formation of the modern Jewish literary tradition in Russian, German, Hebrew, Yiddish, and other languages. We investigate the connection that has been described as central to the question of Jewish self-fashioning in the 20th century by Benjamin Harshav and other important scholars. We begin by analyzing manifestoes of various modernist movements, particularly in the Russian tradition, and proceed with analyzing verse and narratives produced by Jewish writers in Eastern and Central Europe and later in the Land of Israel and the United States. We ask whether these writings amount to a single corpus of Jewish modernism, or whether it is more productive to speak of Jewish “modernisms” as disparate movements that reflected, to a large extent, various respective European traditions. Readings from Jabotinsky, Ehrenburg, Grossman, Babel, Mandelshtam, I.B. Singer, J. Glatstein, U.Z. Greenberg, I. Manger, and others. Prerequisite: students who wish to take the course for Russian credit must have completed Russian 220 or obtain the consent of the instructor. Lecture-conference. Cross-listed as Literature 340. Not offered 2010–11.
Russian 354 - Seminar in 19th Century Russian PoetryFull course for one semester. Drawing largely on works from the Golden Age of Russian poetry, this course investigates a variable set of topics, which may range from the elegiac tradition to narrative poetic genres, from the philosophical ode to the romance; it includes study of the distinctive features of neoclassical, baroque, preromantic, and romantic poetics. In any given year, students may expect to encounter the works of Derzhavin, Karamzin, Zhukovsky, Pushkin, Baratynskii, Batiushkov, Lermontov, Tiutchev, Nekrasov, and Fet. Collateral readings include works on versification, genre, and literary history. Prerequisite: two years of Russian or consent of the instructor. Conference. Not offered 2010–11.
Russian 355 - 20th-Century Russian PoetryFull course for one semester. An introduction to modern Russian poetry and poetics, this course traces the main developments in Russian poetry over the last 100 years, devoting detailed study and analysis to varying key figures. In any given year the object of study may be a single poet’s work, a genre, a cycle, or a poetic movement. The aim of the course is to acquaint students with the range of achievement in that area of 20th-century literature that Russians consider to be the most important part of their literary culture. Conducted in Russian. Prerequisite: at least two years of Russian or consent of the instructor. Conference.
Russian 366 - "The Literature of Destruction”: Narratives of Apocalypse in Modern Jewish and Russian Literary TraditionsFull course for one semester. The Holocaust of European Jewry in World War II and the construction of the totalitarian Gulag system in the Soviet Union invite a comparative investigation. In this course, literary responses to the Holocaust and the Gulag are studied in the context of Russian and Jewish apocalyptic and messianic literary traditions, which linked national catastrophes with the end of time. Considering the sacred significance that both Russian and Jewish civilizations ascribe to the literary word, as well as the place which the written responses to catastrophe hold in the two traditions, the seminar analyzes the central features of Russian and Jewish texts of destruction by reading biblical texts, excerpts from old Russian epics, and major works of modern/Modernist Russian and Jewish prose, poetry, and drama. Lecture and conference. Cross-listed as Literature 366. Not offered 2010–11.
Russian 371 - Russian Literature from its Beginnings through Gogol
Full course for one semester. Intended to introduce the Russian modes of prose writing in relation to their Western European models, this course seeks to map the specificities of Russian premodern literary culture. The nature of narrative is studied with respect to medieval literary conventions versus modern literary conventions. The 18th century is examined in terms of the imitative nature of the narrative that perpetually looks back to the Western European world through the epistolary novel, travelers’ tales, adventure tales, and the sentimental novel. The 19th-century readings of novellas by Pushkin, Lermontov, and Gogol emphasize narrative techniques as they are rooted in the conventions of “someone else’s voice” and in the narrator’s worldview conveyed from an estranged position. Prerequisite: students who wish to take the course for Russian credit must have completed Russian 220 or obtain the consent of the instructor. Lecture-discussion. Cross-listed as Literature 371. Not offered 2010–11.