Reed College Catalog


Evgenii V. Bershtein

Russian symbolism, the semiotics of Soviet culture, gender and sexuality in Russian culture, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century poetry. On sabbatical 2013–14.

Marat Grinberg

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

Lena (Helen) M. Lencek

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

Alyson Tapp

Russian prose fiction, narrative and novel theory, the European novel, Soviet literature and culture of the 1920s–30s, translation.

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 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; 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.

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 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; at the European University in St. Petersburg through Vassar College; or at 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 Russian

Full 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 Fiction

Full course for one semester. Intended for lower-division students, this course is devoted to close readings of short stories and novellas by such nineteenth- and twentieth-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 Beyond

Full course for one semester. This course examines artistic, historical, and ideological links between European literary modernisms and the formation of secular Jewish literature in Russian, Hebrew, Yiddish, German, and other languages. What is the nature of this connection which Benjamin Harshav, Dan Miron, and other seminal scholars described as central to Jewish cultural modernity? To answer this question, we shall begin by analyzing verse and narratives produced by Jewish writers in Eastern and Central Europe and later in the Land of Israel and the United States in their relevant historical and literary contexts. We shall ponder 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 spun off from various non-Jewish traditions. Readings from Bialik, Alterman, Jabotinsky, 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.

Russian 355 - Twentieth-Century Russian Poetry

Full 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 twentieth-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 Traditions

Full 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 that 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 2013-14.

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 eighteenth 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 nineteenth-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.

Russian 372 - Nineteenth-Century Russian Fiction

Full course for one semester. This survey of Russian fiction, including works by Lermontov, Gogol, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Leskov, and Chekhov, studies the development of thematic and generic conventions and the emergence of Realism in its multiple forms. Readings in English. Prerequisite: students who wish to take the course for Russian credit must have completed Russian 220 or obtain the consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 372.

Russian 373 - Modern Russian Literature from Chekhov to the Present

Full course for one semester. Survey of the modern Russian and Soviet short story and novel, exploring the evolution of these genres in relation to historical and cultural developments and considering a variety of critical approaches. Readings include the prose of Chekhov, Gorkij, Belyj, Babel, Olesha, Pasternak, Bulgakov, Nabokov, Solzhenitsyn, and Trifonov. 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 373.

Not offered 2013-14.

Russian 385 - Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin

Full course for one semester. This course will give the students firsthand knowledge of the book that is deemed the supreme and untranslatable masterpiece of Russian literature: Pushkin’s novel in verse Evgenii Onegin. We will undertake a close analytical reading of Pushkin’s novel in the original Russian. We will also explore the artistic structure of Onegin; its Russian and European literary, cultural and historical contexts; the tradition generated by the book; and the attempts to render it in the nonliterary medium (viz. musical theater). Class structure will reflect the double task of the course: each class will include a minilecture in Russian and the translation and detailed analysis of a portion of Pushkin’s text, as well as the discussion of a literary and/or scholarly text that elucidates the meaning of Onegin and the relevant literary traditions. Discussions and analyses in both Russian and English. Prerequisite: Russian 220 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2013-14.

Russian 388 - The Soviet Experience

Full course for one semester. This course proposes a study of the history, society, arts, and culture of the Soviet Union from the perspective of efforts to organize the lives and experience of ordinary people. Topics include conceptions of time and space (calendar reform, industrial time, residential/urban planning, social engineering); Homo Sovieticus (the Soviet body, sex, family); recreating nature; defining the “other”; technologies of control and strategies of resistance during the Stalinist Terror; and the crisis of dissolution. One of the course objectives is to engage the participants in generating the critical apparatus to accompany an exhibit of documentary photographs (1941–1991) in the Cooley Gallery. Students taking the course for Russian literature credit will meet in extra sessions. Prerequisite: students who wish to take the course for Russian credit must have completed Russian 220 or obtain the consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 388.

Russian 406 - Russian Literature: Leo Tolstoy

Full course for one semester. A century after his death, Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) remains one of the world’s most read and admired fiction writers as well as an important voice in moral, political, and aesthetic philosophy. Scheduled to coincide with a series of Tolstoy events at Reed, this course surveys Tolstoy’s lifework, including a major novel (War and Peace), shorter fiction (Childhood, The Sebastapol Stories, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Khadzhi Murat) as well as his moral, religious, aesthetic, and autobiographical writings (I Cannot Be Silent, A Letter to a Hindu, A Confession, and others). From the perspective of intellectual history, we will explore such central themes in Tolstoy’s thought as selfhood, death, war, logic of history, politics of nonviolence, and ethics of nonparticipation in evil. As we consider Tolstoy’s evolution that eventually led him to become a social activist and religious reformer, we will also analyze his poetics in the context of Russian and European realism and modernism. 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 406.

Not offered 2013-14.

Russian 407 - The Russian Novel in Theory and Practice: Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and English Fiction

Full course for one semester. In this course, we will read major novels by Dostoevsky (The Idiot) and Tolstoy (Anna Karenina) alongside English novels by Austen, Eliot, and Woolf. Our aims are both to investigate both the specificity of the Russian novel and to place it within the broader context of the European novel. Therefore, our comparative approach will, on the one hand, be typological: we will consider transformations and transpositions of form and theme in the works we read. And, on the other hand, our approach will be genetic: we will consider the Russian works in the context of their own authors’ oeuvres by looking at examples of early shorter, experimental fictions by Dostoevsky (“Netochka Nezvanova”) and Tolstoy (“Childhood,” “Boyhood”). Topics will include: the transformation of narrative and generic templates in the novel (confession, Bildungsroman, autobiography, marriage plot, novel of manners); the treatment of family, love, consciousness and narrative; the representation of literary character; forms of community and communion supported by the novel. We will trace the varieties of knowledge and experience—science, art, religion, emotion, social discourse—that hold open the epistemological possibilities in these prominent examples of realism. Critical and theoretical readings will emphasize the case of the Russian novel in the broader dicourse of the theory of the novel. Prerequisite: students who wish to take the course for Russian credit must have completed Russian 220 or obtain the consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 407.

Not offered 2013-14.

Russian 408 - Russian Decadent and Symbolist Culture in a European Context

Full course for one semester. The course investigates Russian decadent and symbolist literature in a broad European context. We study the philosophical foundations of decadent culture (Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Solov’ev); the preoccupation with “degeneration,” common in the European science of the fin-de-siècle (Krafft-Ebing, Weininger); “aestheticism” (J.K. Huysmans, Oscar Wilde); and interpretations of sexuality (André Gide, Thomas Mann). The Russian component of the reading includes the works of Zinaida Gippius, Viacheslav Ivanov, Fedor Sologub, Mikhail Kuzmin, Evdokiia Nagrodskaia, Aleksandr Blok, and Andrei Bely. Prerequisite: students who wish to take the course for Russian credit must have completed Russian 220 or obtain the consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 408.

Not offered 2013-14.

Russian 413 - Russian Formalism, Structuralism, and Semiotics

Full course for one semester. This course is an examination of the critical trends of twentieth-century Russian literary criticism and theory, including works produced by the Russian formalist school, by linguistic and structural criticism, and by semiotic approaches to literature and culture. The course will consider the origin and development of different methodologies and will look at their application to specific works of Russian and Western literature. Readings include works by Shklovsky, Eikhenbaum, Tynjanov, Propp, Jakobson, Bakhtin, Lotman, and Ginzburg, among others. Prerequisite: students who wish to take the course for Russian credit must have completed Russian 220 or obtain the consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 413.

Not offered 2013-14.

Russian 415 - Vladimir Nabokov

Full course for one semester. This course is a study of the novels of Vladimir Nabokov (written on two continents, over a period of 60 years, and in multiple languages). We will spend equal time on the Russian and American periods, with all Russian texts read in English translation. Our emphasis will be on close reading, with particular attention paid to Nabokov’s cultivation of his reader and the theme of metafiction, as well as the role of cross-cultural experience in literary creativity. Primary texts will be supplemented with literary and visual intertexts to which Nabokov was responding. Students should be prepared to finish reading each novel before discussions begin: Nabokov’s “good readers” will read everything twice. Prerequisite: students who wish to take the course for Russian credit must have completed Russian 220 or obtain the consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 415.

Not offered 2013-14.

Russian 420 - Culture Studies: Russian Images of Italy

Full course for one semester. Russia’s equivocal relationship with Italy runs the gamut from medieval ecclesiastical distrust to modernist archaizing nostalgia. Renaissance and baroque Italy’s architecture, painting, music, and literature—and its ancient classical heritage—presented Russian artists, thinkers, urban planners, and travelers with aesthetic and conceptual models for fashioning everything from urban and domestic spaces to conceiving forms of erotic desire and ideal citizenship. This course focuses on key moments in Russian Italophilia of the post-Petrine period. Readings include selections from Virgil, Ovid, and Livy; Dante, Petrarch, Tasso; Russian travelogues (Norov, Herzen, Volkonsky, Muratov); Russian poets and prosaists (Pushkin, Baratynsky, Yazykov, Venevitinov, Rostopchina, Vyazemsky, Maykov, Gogol, Turgenev, Merezhkovsky, Gippius, Rozanov, Blok, Balmont, Vyacheslav Ivanov, Babel); and selections from Goethe, Baedeker, J.A. Symonds, and Pater. While the emphasis is on verbal culture, architecture and painting will be included. Readings are available in English translation. Prerequisite: students who wish to take the course for Russian credit must have completed Russian 220 or obtain the consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 420.

Not offered 2013-14.

Russian 426 - East European Jewish Literature and Culture: The Shtetl, the City, and Beyond

Full course for one semester. This course examines prose and poetry produced in Russian, Yiddish, and Hebrew by European Jewish authors in the period 1870–1939, which witnessed the birth, formation and full development of secular Jewish culture and literature. In placing these works in their literary, cultural, ideological, and political contexts, we shall pay special attention to the centrality of space in fashioning Jewish literary discourses and mythologies. The course’s geography traverses the traditional shtetl, metropolitan cultural centers and Soviet locales. The authors include Sholem Aleichem, Itzik Manger, Vladimir Jabotinsky, Der Nister, S.Y. Agnon, Peretz Markish, and I.B. Singer, among others. Lecture/conference. 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 426.

Not offered 2013-14.

Russian 435 - Introduction to Russian Film

Full course for one semester. The course provides an introduction to the history and poetics of Russian film from the double perspective of Russian cultural contexts and the development of cinema as artistic medium. While studying the masterpieces of Russian film, we will pay special attention to silent cinema, from Bauer and Protazanov to Kuleshov, Vertov, and Dovzhenko. Sergei Eisenstein’s films will be considered in detail, as well those by Andrei Tarkovsky and Alexander Sokurov. The readings will focus on the works of film theory and film history. The course will include film screenings and extensive reading and writing, as well as class presentations. Prerequisite: students who wish to take the course for Russian credit must have completed Russian 220 or obtain the consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 435.

Not offered 2013-14.

Russian 470 - Thesis

One-half or full course for one year.

Russian 481 - Independent Study

One-half or full course for one semester. Prerequisite: approval of instructor and division.