Russian/ Literature 371
Russian Literature from Its Beginnings to Gogol

Fall 2007
Tu Th 1:10 – 2:30

Weekly one-hour Russian section t.b.a.

Prof. Lena M. Lencek • • Office: Vollum 130 Ext. 7309

( Download a PDF of this syllabus )

An introduction to the Russian modes of prose writing from the Middle Ages through the beginnings of Romanticism, this survey course offers an overview of the representative genres, thematics, and conceptions of the nature of the text with an eye to determining the continuities and ruptures in the Russian narrative tradition. Texts from the earliest period are studied by reference to medieval literary conventions in contrast to their modern counterparts. The eighteenth century canon is considered in terms of its orientation toward Western European paradigms, from Neo-Classical to Sentimental. Finally, the nineteenth century materials are examined in the light of the conventions of the “alien” word and the narrative rooted in the narrator’s “estranged” position. Throughout, the course will focus on the problem of narrative as mode of organizing, conceptualizing, and cognizing experience, with particular reference to historical modes, themes, and claims of writing.

Students wishing to receive Russian (as opposed to Literature) credit must sign up for a weekly, one-hour conference with readings and discussions in Russian. To do this, a student must have completed a minimum of two years of Russian language study or demonstrate adequate linguistic competence in Russian.

All assignments are to be read by the assigned date. Students should come to conference ready to launch a discussion; in other words, they should have formulated a position with respect to the readings; have done any supplementary reading (assigned or undertaken on own initiative); and have prepared three questions for discussion.

Two ten-page papers are assigned, one for the pre-Petrine, and one for the post-Petrine segments of the syllabus. Paper format is to follow MLA guidelines. Footnotes and bibliographies are required. Drafts may be submitted two weeks before deadline. Late papers will receive no comments.

Due dates:
Paper 1: October 4
Paper 2: December 22

Position Papers:
All students are required to write one one-page position paper per class. In your position paper, formulate a question or a problem directly bearing on the assigned reading and propose a response in a coherent, cogent essay. The position paper is intended to facilitate your productive participation in conference discussion; improve your conceptualizing skills; provide training in writing; and supply an on going "log" of issues that engage your interest in your readings. This "log" will be of use to you in formulating at least one of your three conference papers. Eleven position papers are required. These are to be turned in EACH WEEK. Do NOT fall behind. You will be penalized for late submissions.

Each student will have one opportunity in the course of the semester to open and lead discussion on a given reading assignment.



Aleksei Ivanovich Musin-Pushkin (1744 — 1817)

Over-procurator of the Synod, President of the Academy of Arts, member of the Russian Academy and Society of History and Antiquities, count since 1797, statesman, historian and art collector.

Late in the eighteenth century Count Musin-Pushkin, a distinguished archaeologist, was looking through a bundle of dusty, mildewed books and parchments in the Spasso-Preobrazhensky monastery in Yaroslavl.

While deciphering a sixteenth-century manuscript, he realized that it was a copy of an earlier tale, which the transcriber had not fully understood and had interpreted in his own way.

"Yet Boyan, my brothers, did not let loose ten falcons on a flock of swans, but laid his own wizard fingers on the living strings, which then themselves throbbed out praise for the princes..." The manuscript proved to be the famous Lay of Igor's Host.

His vast collection of antiquities also included the Laurentian Codex of the Russian Primary Chronicle and the earliest manuscripts of Zadonshchina.



On reserve in the Library and in the bookstore.

Russian/Literature 371: Russian Literature from Its Beginnings to Gogol. READER (pamphlet $ 30.00)

Orlando Figes, Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia. Picador (October 17, 2003)

Nikolai Vasilevich Gogol, The Complete Tales of Nikolai Gogol (Volume 1) (Paperback) tr. Leonard J. Kent. University Of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (April 15, 1985)

Ronald Hingley, Russia: A Concise History (Paperback) Thames & Hudson; Reissue edition (August 1, 1991)

Nikolai Karamzin, Karamzin's Memoir on Ancient and Modern Russia: ATranslation and Analysis (Ann Arbor Paperbacks for the Study of Russian and Soviet History and Politics), trans. Richard Pipes. University of Michigan Press (April 30, 2005)

Lermontov, M.Yu. A Hero of Our Time, trans. Vladimir Nabokov, Penguin Classics [this is the preferred edition, but it is likely out of print.
Lermontov, M. Yu. A Hero of Our Time, trans. J.H. Wisdom and Marr Murray, BiblioBazaar, 2007

Pushkin, A.S., The Complete Prose Tales of AlexandrSergeyevitch Pushkin (Paperback), tr. Gillon R. Aitken. W. W. Norton & Company; Norton Pbk edition (September 1, 1968)

Pushkin, A.S., Eugene Onegin: A Novel in Verse, trans. James E. Falen. Oxford University Press, USA

Serge A Zenkovsky, Medieval Russia's Epics, Chronicles, and Tales (Paperback) Plume Books; Rei edition (February 1, 1992)


Aristotle, Poetics (Penguin Classics) (Paperback) trans. Malcolm Heath.Penguin Books; New Ed edition (March 1, 1997)

Geoffrey Roberts, the History and Narrative Reader Routledge (July 1, 2001)

Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, Volume 1, Kathleen McLaughlin (Translator), David Pellauer (Translator) University Of Chicago Press;
Reprint edition (September 15, 1990)

James BillingtonThe Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History ofRussian Culture Vintage (December 12, 1970)


Unit One: Medieval East Slavic Literature & Culture

Week 1

Tue. Aug. 28
Introduction to the Course: Rus' vs Russia; OCS - OR; Byzantium; Word Culture vs. Literature

Th. Aug. 30
Primary Chronicles: Legendary vs. historical time
Reading: Zenkovsky, "Epics and Stories from the Chronicles," Medieval Russia's Epics, Chronicles, and Tales, pp. 43-85
W.B. Gallie, "Narrative and Historical Understanding", History and Narrative Reader, pp. 40-51
M.C. Lemon, "The Structure of Narrative," History and Narrative Reader, pp.107-129.

Week 2

Tue. Sept. 4:
Homiletic and Didactic Works: Theology and Aesthetics
Reading: Zenkovsky, "Homiletic and Didactic Works," pp. 85-92
Billington, “Background” the Icon and the Axe, pp. 1-37.
Hingley, Intro and Chapter 2: Pre-Imperial Russia, Russia: A Concise History. pp. 7-68
Fedotov, “The Russian Religious Mind,”and “Pre-Christian Paganism” in Course Reader

Th. Sept.: 6
Hagiography: Principles of Biographical Construction
Reading: Zenkovsky, "The Lives of Saints and Monks," pp. 101 - 153
Fedotov, “Russian Kenoticism” and “Ascetic Ideals” in Course Reader

Week 3

Tue. Sept.11
Apocrypha: Mapping Sacred and Secular Space
Reading Zenkovsky, "Apocrypha: The Descent of the Virgin into Hell" and "Adam's Address to Lazarus in Hell,"
Ju. Lotman, “Semiotic Space,” “The notion of boundary,” and “Symbolic spaces” in Course Reader
Ju. M. Lotman, "O ponjatii geograficeskogo prostranstva v russkix srednevekovyx tekstax", TPZS, 210-257 (translation “Geographical Space in Russian Medieval Texts,” in Universe of the Mind)

Th. Sept. 13
Epic: The Song of Igor's Campaign: History and Thematics
Reading: The Song of Igor's Campaign, translated by Vladimir Nabokov; back up version in Zenkovsky, pp. 167-193]
Background: G.P. Fedotov, “The Tale of Igor’s Campaign” in Course Reader
See commentary on:
Roman Jakobson, “The Puzzles of the Igor’ Tale”, Selected Writings. IV.,pp.380-410

Week 4

Tue. Sept 18
Epic: Nature and Cosmology in The Song of Igor's Campaign
Lotman, “O ponyatii chest’ I slava” (translation will be available)

Wed. Sept. 19
FILM SCREENING: Andrey Rublev 6:00 – 9:00 pm
Refreshments served – Psych Auditorium

Th. Sept. 20
Icons and Iconography “Russian Medieval Icons and Famous Icon Painters.”
Reading: B. Uspensky, “The Semiotics of the Russian Icon” (reserve and handout)
A.Dean McKenzie, “Political Aspects in Russian Icons” in Course Reader
Figes, “In Search of the Russian Soul,” Natasha’s Dance, pp. 289-355.

Week 5

Tue.Sept. 25
Ornamental Prose - "Word Weaving" and Hesychasm
Reading: Epiphanius the Wise, "The Life, Acts, and Miracles of Our Blessed and Holy Father Sergius of Radonezh," in Zenkovsky, pp. 262 – 290 and “The Life of St. Stephan of Perm” (trans. Lena Lencek; handout)
Fedotov, “Russian Byzantinism” in The Course Reader

Wed. Sept. 26
SCREENING: Eisenstein: Aleksander Nevsky 6:00 – 8:00 PM
Refreshments served – Psych Auditorium

Th. Sept. 27
Secular Biography
Reading: “Aleksander Nevsky”
Background: Billington, “The Confrontation” Icon and Axe, pp. 45-115.
D. Likhachev, Celovek v drevne-russkoj literature (selection, translation available) or D. Likhachev, The Great Heritage: The Classical Literature of Old Rus’ (Library reserve)

Week 6

Tue. October 2:
Toward Autobiography
Reading: Avvakum, "The Life of Archpriest Avvakum by Himself," in Zenkovsky, pp. 399- 449
Background: Billington, “The Century of Schism” Icon and Axe, pp. 115-162.
D.S.Likhachev and A.M. Panchenko, "Yumor protopota Avvakuma,""'Smekhovoy mir" drevney rusi,""Smekhovoy mir" drevney rusi, 75-90

Th. Oct. 4:
Domestic Order
Reading: The Domostroi (Selections in course reader)


Unit Two: The Baroque & Neo-Classicism

Week 7

Tue. Oct. 9:
“Reconstructing Culture: Appropriating the Foundations of European Humanism”
Lecture: Prof. Lencek
Readings: Billington, “The Century of Schism: The Westward Turn,” Icon and Axe, pp. 163-206.
Figes, “European Russia,” Natasha’s Dance, pp. 1-68.
On St. Petersburg as Baroque City in Hamilton, George Heard. The Art and Architecture of Russia.

Th. Oct. 11:
The Picaresque:
Chulkov, "The Comely Cook", in Course Reader
Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders
Robert Alter, Rogue’s progress; studies in the picaresque novel (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1964) (selections)


In which nothing at all gets broken… except the routine

Week 9

Tue. Oct. 23:
Reading: Bogdanovich, "Dushenk'ka: An Ancient Tale in Free Verse", (handout)
Apuleius, “Amor and Psyche” in The Golden Ass

Th. Oct. 24:
Reading: Aleksandr. Sumarokov, “Dimitrii the Imposter: A Tragedy in Five Acts” in Course Reader
Background: Aristotle, Poetics

Week 10

Tue. Oct. 30:
The Sentimental Traveler
Reading: Karamzin, Letters of a Russian Traveler
Billington, “The Century of Aristocratic Culture: The Troubled Enlightenment”, Icon and Axe, pp. 207-268.
L. Sterne, A Sentimental Journey (selections)

Th. Nov.1:
The Sentimental Tale
Reading: Karamzin, "Poor Liza" in Segel, pp. 76-105
Lotman, “The Poetics of Everyday Behavior in 18th century Russia” in Course Reader

Hammarberg, G. From the Idyll to the Novel: Karamzin’s Sentimental Prose¸(selection)


Unit Three: Toward Romanticism

Week 11

Tu. Nov.6:
Toward An Autonomous Literary Culture
Reading: Pushkin, "Queen of Spades"
Figes, “Children of 1812,” Natasha’s Dance, 69-150.
Lilian Furst, Romanticism (all)

Th. Nov. 8:
Pushkin and Romanticism
Reading: Pushkin, Eugene Onegin I
Figes, “Moscow! Moscow!,” Natasha’s Dance, pp. 151 – 171 ONLY!.
William M. Todd III, Fiction and Society in the age of Pushkin: Ideology, Institutions, and Narrative (selection)
L. Ginzburg, “Rousseau’s Confessions and the Modifications of Personality,” On Psychological Prose, pp. 153-194.

Week 12

Tue. Nov. 13:
Pushkin and Romantic Irony
Reading: Pushkin, Eugene Onegin II
Monika Greenleaf, Pushkin and Romantic Fashion: Fragment, Elegy, Orient, Irony (selection)

Wed. Nov. 14:
FILM SCREENING: Nevsky Prospect 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Psych Auditorium Refreshments

Th. Nov. 15:
Gogol and the Natural School
Reading: Gogol, "Nevsky Prospect"
Selection from: Solomon Volkov, St. Petersburg: A Cultural History

Week 13

Tue. Nov. 20:
Gogol and the Natural School, II
Reading: Gogol, "The Nose"
Slonimsky, “The Technique of the Comic in Gogol” in Course Reader

Th. Nov. 22:
Thanksgiving Break: Gogolian Gastronomy

Week 14

Tue. Nov. 27:
Gogol and the Natural School, III
Reading: “The Overcoat”
Billington, “The Anti-Enlightenment. The ‘Cursed’ Questions,” Icon and Axe, pp. 269-358.ß

Th. Nov. 29:
Psychological Prose
Reading: Lermontov, The Hero of Our Time
Guest Discussant: Amanda Waldroupe ’07, Lankford Summer Fellow
William M. Todd III, Fiction and Society in the age of Pushkin: Ideology, Institutions, and Narrative (selection)

Week 15

Tu. Dec. 4:
Lermontov, II
Reading: Lermontov, The Hero of Our Time
L. Ginzburg, “Introduction,” On Psychological Prose , p. 3-24;(selection)
Barratt, Andrew, and A.D.P. Briggs, Wicked Irony: The Rhetoric of Lermontov's a Hero of Our Time

Th. Dec. 6:
Reading, Writing, and Re-writing Period

DUE ON Thursday, DECEMBER 22 AT 5:00 P.M. IN

Position Paper Log:

11 position papers are required. Please keep track of them as you hand them in and as they are returned to you.


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Alter, Robert. Rogue's Progress; Studies in the Picaresque Novel (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1964) (selections)

Anderson, N.M. Karamzin's Prose: the Teller in the Tale, PG3314.Z8A5

Apuleius, "Amor and Psyche" in The Golden Ass

Barratt, Andrew, and A.D.P. Briggs, Wicked Irony: The Rhetoric of Lermontov's a Hero of Our Time, Duckworth, 2004.


Billington, James H., the Icon and the Axe, Peter Smith Pub 1994, ISBN: 0844667544

Cizevsky, Dmitrij, History of Russian Literature from the Eleventh Century to the End of the Baroque (Westport, CN: Hyperion Press, 1981)

Defoe, Daniel. Moll Flanders

Fedotov, G. P. (Georgii Petrovich), The Russian Religious Mind I and The Russian Religious Mind II (Belmont, MA; Norland, 1975 [

Furst, Lilian R., Romanticism. (London: Methuen, 1976).

Ginzburg, Lidia. On Psychological Prose. (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1991).

Greenleaf, Monika. Pushkin and Romantic Fashion: Fragment, Elegy, Orient, Irony

Gudzij, N.K., History of Early Russian Literature, tr. Susan Wilbur Jones (New York: Octagon Books, 1970).

Hammarberg, G. From the Idyll to the Novel: Karamzin’s Sentimental Prose

Hamilton, George Heard. The Art and Architecture of Russia. 3rd ed. New Haven: Yale UP, 1983.

Hosking, Geoffrey. Russia and the Russians: A History. (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003, ISBN 0674011147

Likhachov, Dmitry. The Great Heritage. The Classical Literature of Old Rus. (Moscow: Progress, 1981)

Lincoln, W. Bruce, Between Heaven and Hell: The Story of a Thousand Years of Artistic Life in Russia, Viking Press; 1998, ASIN: 0670875686

Maguire, Gogol From the Twentieth Century, PG3335.Z*M18

Mirsky, D.S. A History of Russian Literature from Its Beginnings to 1900[on reserve]

Riasanovsky, Nicholas V. A History of Russia. (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1963)

Sterne, L. A Sentimental Journey (selections)

Todd III, William M. Literature and Society in Imperial Russia 1800-1914

Todd III, William M., The Familiar Letter as a Literary Genre in the Age of Pushkin

Todd III, William M., Fiction and Society in the Age of Pushkin: Ideology, Institutions, and Narrative

Volkov, Solomon., St. Petersburg: A Cultural History (New York: Free Press, 1995)

Weiskel, T.,”Approaching the Romantic Sublime” in The Romantic Sublime


Russian 371: Supplementary Materials and Websites
A website on medieval Russia
Information on the Agrarian calendar
The Medieval Sourcebook
A biography of SS. Sergius and Bacchus
In depth information on medieval Russian history and culture
History and Art of medieval Russia
An introduction to icons and medieval Russian art
A Biography of Alexander Pushkin
The genealogy of Pushkin, as featured on the PBS program Frontline

. For those students interested in Medieval Russian Art, the Reed College Slide Library has a vast and impressive slide collection of Russian Icons from the 11-19 century. Some 600 slides were donated by A. Dean McKenzie professor emeritus at University of Oregon. To learn more about the slide (and the on-going project of cataloging them), contact Karin Whalen at the slide library.
Excellent site for additional primary sources, in English and Russian, in Medieval East Slavic Literature: