Reed College Catalog

Evgenii V. Bershtein

Russian symbolism, the semiotics of Soviet culture, gender and sexuality in Russian culture, Pushkin, Tolstoy, Eisenstein.

Naomi Caffee

Minority and transnational writing in Russian, postcolonial studies, Russian literature and environment, indigenous literatures, Central Asian studies, literary translation.

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. On sabbatical 2018–19.

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 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 211–212 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. Conducted in English. An additional weekly session will be scheduled for students taking the course for Russian credit. 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 325 - Multicultural Russia

Full course for one semester. “Multicultural Russia” introduces students to the diverse ethnic, linguistic, religious, and cultural identities of Russia’s minority groups, including the history of how such identities were formed. Students will analyze works of literature, historical documents, films, works of art, and musical recordings by representatives of minority and subcultural groups from Central Asia, the Near East, Siberia, and the Russian Far North. Additional theoretical readings introduce students to Russia’s non-Western intellectual traditions and modes of sociocultural organization. By the end of the course, students will become familiar with debates surrounding identity politics, religious and ideological diversity, and contemporary struggles for minority rights, territorial sovereignty, and self-determination. The course is conducted in English, but an additional weekly session will be scheduled for students taking the course for Russian credit. Prerequisite for Russian credit: Russian 220 or consent of the instructor. Lecture-conference. Cross-listed as Literature 325.

Russian 351 - Introduction to Russian Poetry

Full course for one semester. The course covers the history of lyric poetry in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russian literature and its main representatives, trends, genres, and movements. Special attention will be paid to the construction of the prophetic image of the poet and poetry’s role in shaping the overall Russian and Soviet culture. Among poets to be studied are Derzhavin, Pushkin, Baratynsky, Tiutchev, Nekrasov, Blok, Akhmatova, Pasternak, Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva, Zabolotsky, Slutsky, Evtushenko, Brodsky. The course also serves as an introduction to poetics and poetic analysis. Prerequisite: Russian 220 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Russian 362 - Red Sci-Fi: Science Fiction in Soviet Literature and Film

Full course for one semester. Though working behind the Cold War “iron curtain,” post-World War II Soviet writers and filmmakers were preoccupied with the same ideas and questions as their Western and American counterparts, often working in parallel genres. One such genre was science fiction, which became enormously popular in the Soviet Union starting in the mid-1950s. Relying on the rich tradition of the 1920s, the postwar writers and filmmakers used science fiction to reflect on urgent societal and philosophical issues. In the presence of state censorship and official ideology, science fiction became the venue for veiled and subversive critique of the regime. In this course, through reading and watching major works of Russian sci-fi fiction and cinema, we will explore how they imagined artificial intelligence and time travel; space exploration and alien species and robots; the quest for immortality; and the nuclear apocalypse. We will situate these works in their immediate artistic and cultural contexts and the wider, primarily American, comparative context of postwar science fiction. Readings and screenings from the Strugatskii brothers, Alexander Beliaev, Alexei Tolstoi, Andrei Tarkovskii, Kir Bulychev, Sever Gansovskii, Klushantsev, and others. Conducted in English. An additional weekly session will be scheduled for students taking the course for Russian credit. 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 362.

Not offered 2018–19.

Russian 366 - Literature of Destruction

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 and cinematic responses to the Holocaust and the Gulag are studied in the context of seminal theories on totalitarianism as well as 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 explores 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. Conducted in English. An additional weekly session will be scheduled for students taking the course for Russian credit. Prerequisite for Russian credit: Russian 220 or equivalent, or consent of the instructor. Lecture-conference. Cross-listed as Literature 366.

Not offered 2018–19.

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. Conducted in English. An additional weekly session will be scheduled for students taking the course for Russian credit. 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 2018–19.

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. Conducted in English. An additional weekly session will be scheduled for students taking the course for Russian credit. 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.

Not offered 2018–19.

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. Conducted in English. An additional weekly session will be scheduled for students taking the course for Russian credit. 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.

Russian 383 - Special Topics in Russian Literature: Russian Romanticism in the Western European Context

Full course for one semester. This study of the concept and period of romanticism in Russia considers the ideological, thematic, and typological characteristics of the movement through a representative body of works by writers including Vyazemsky, Bestuzhev-Marlinsky, Odoevsky, Delvig, Bulgarin, Ryleev, Pushkin and the “Pushkin pleiad,” Lermontov, Gogol, and members of the “natural school.” Primary texts are organized around key concepts of autochthony (“narodnost”), historicism, originality, and the cultivation of the personality. The Russian texts are studied in tension with their Western European models, which include selected readings of Schiller, Goethe, E.T.A. Hoffman, Tieck, Herder, Rousseau, Benjamin, Blake, Byron, MacPherson, Novalis, and Gray. Conducted in English. An additional weekly session will be scheduled for students taking the course for Russian credit. 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 383.

Not offered 2018–19.

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 2018–19.

Russian 390 - Russian Culture under Putin: Submission and Resistance

Full course for one semester. This course examines main cultural developments in Russia over the last two decades—the developments that took place in a conservative social climate and under the pressure of increasingly repressive government policies. We will discuss heterogeneous materials: works of literature (both fiction and nonfiction), film, poetry, performance art, journalist and scholarly writings, TV, and Internet texts. As we explore both Russian “high culture” and “mass culture,” we will pay special attention to both the techniques of submission and the strategies of resistance, as adopted by the Russian creative class. Among the topics which we will address are historical memory and its manipulations, new nationalism, corruption and its impact on society, economic inequality and cultural divisions, and Russian versions of artistic and political postmodernism. Conducted in English. An additional weekly session will be scheduled for students taking the course for Russian credit. Prerequisite for Russian credit: Russian 220 or equivalent, or consent of the instructor. Lecture-conference. Cross-listed as Literature 390.

Not offered 2018–19.

Russian 404 - Tolstoy’s Great Novels

Full course for one semester. 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. This course explores Tolstoy’s greatest novels: War and Peace (1863–69) and Anna Karenina (1873–77). We will approach Tolstoy’s masterpieces from a number of perspectives, including genre and narrative theories; Tolstoy’s historical, cultural, and philosophical contexts; and Russian and European intellectual and literary history. We will also examine how Tolstoy’s novels were interpreted in such media as opera, dance, film, and television. The workload includes extensive reading as well as screenings, oral presentations, and writing assignments. Conducted in English. An additional weekly session will be scheduled for students taking the course for Russian credit. 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 404.

Not offered 2018–19.

Russian 408 - Decadence and Symbolism in Russia and Europe

Full course for one semester. The course explores Russian Decadent and Symbolist literature and culture in a broad European context. We will study the philosophical foundations of Decadent culture (Nietzsche, Solovyov); the preoccupation with “degeneration,” common in the European science of the fin de siècle (Nordau, Krafft-Ebing, Weininger); the “aestheticism” (J.-K. Huysmans, Oscar Wilde); the interpretations of sexuality (André Gide, Thomas Mann), Decadent mysticism, and other topics. The Russian component of the reading includes the works of Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, Vladimir Solovyov, Fedor Sologub, Mikhail Kuzmin, Mikhail Artsybashev, Aleksandr Blok, and Andrei Bely. This course will emphasize a research component: a 20-page research paper will be due at the end of the semester. An additional weekly session will be scheduled for students taking the course for Russian credit. In these sessions, we will focus on the poetry of the Russian Silver Age (Solovyov, Valerii Briusov, Konstantin Bal'mont, Sologub, Zinaida Gippius, Bely, Viacheslav Ivanov, Kuzmin, Blok, et al.). Conducted in English. Prerequisite for Russian credit: Russian 220 or equivalent, or consent of the instructor. Lecture-conference. Cross-listed as Literature 408.

Not offered 2018–19.

Russian 409 - Late Tolstoy: From Anna Karenina to a Religious Teaching

Full course for one semester.  The course explores the second period of Leo Tolstoy’s career, from Anna Karenina (1870s) to his late fiction, such as Resurrection (1899) and Hadzhi Murat (1904), as well as his aesthetic, ethical, theological, and political writings. We will pay special attention to Tolstoy’s transformation from a fiction writer to a moral theorist and religious activist. Apart from a study of Tolstoy’s poetics and ideology, we will engage a number of cultural contexts for his works: Russian political and intellectual history, aesthetic and artistic developments in late nineteenth-century Russia, Tolstoy’s role and reputation in Russian society. The workload includes extensive reading, oral presentations, and several writing assignments. 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 409.

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. Conducted in English. An additional weekly session will be scheduled for students taking the course for Russian credit. 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 2018–19.

Russian 436 - Sergei Eisenstein’s Film Art: Decadence, Revolution, and the Mechanics of Ecstasy

Full course for one semester. This course explores the works of Sergei Eisenstein (1898–1948), a Soviet film director and theorist, widely considered one of the most influential creative artists of the twentieth century. Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925) revolutionized film as an art form, and his other cinematic works, such as Strike (1925), October (1927), The General Line (1929), ¡Que viva México! (1932), Alexander Nevsky (1938), and Ivan the Terrible (1944–45), made a great and deeply original contribution to the development of filmmaking and film aesthetics. As a theorist, Eisenstein formulated the principles of film editing (known as montage) and studied viewers’ and readers’ response to art. He authored provocative autobiographical writings as well as works of sexual theory, psychology, literary scholarship, and philosophy. Thousands of his drawings comment, ironically and often obscenely, on the mechanics of artistic, sexual, and religious ecstasy—which Eisenstein saw as a unity. We will study Eisenstein in a number of contexts: aesthetic (in connection to Decadence and avant-garde), political (Stalinism), and filmic (D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Walt Disney, Dziga Vertov, Alexander Dovzhenko, et al.). The workload includes weekly film screenings and extensive reading and writing, as well as class presentations. Conducted in English. An additional weekly session will be scheduled for students taking the course for Russian credit. 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 436.

Not offered 2018–19.

Russian 445 - The Films of S. Kubrick and A. Tarkovsky

Full course for one semester. The figures of Stanley Kubrick (1928–1999) and Andrei Tarkovsky (1932–1986) loom large in the history of twentieth-century cinema and continue to exert a profound influence on contemporary filmmakers in their respective countries and worldwide. Ostensibly different in technique, style, and biography, they both developed distinct philosophies of cinema and share a number of remarkable similarities which invite a comparative examination of the two. Both Kubrick and Tarkovsky employed the same genres—noir, historical drama, science fiction, war—and turned to the same themes of the nature of art and the role of the artist, nuclear disaster, memory, and the legacy of World War II. In this course, we will watch all of Kubrick’s and Tarkovsky’s completed films and study them in the context of their respective cultural, cinematic, and literary contexts, Russian/Soviet, American, and European. We will also read the directors’ theoretical writings and reflections on cinema and from the extensive scholarship on them. The goal of the course is not only to provide an in-depth introduction to the two directors, but to train students in the fundamentals of cinematic analysis. Conducted 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. Lecture-conference. Cross-listed as Literature 445.

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.