Russian Language & Literature

Русский язык и русская литература в Рид–колледже

The Major and Minor

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Requirements for the Major
A Minor in Russian

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.

Requirements for the Major

See the college catalog for Russian major requirements.

Russian Junior Qual and Assessment

For their Russian junior quals, the students are asked to write a couple of analytical essays pertaining to the topics and materials they have explored in their course work in the Russian department (i. e. Russian literary and cultural history, Russian fiction and film, East European Jewish studies, Russophone literature). The Students are also asked to translate a literary text from Russian (this is a timed assignment) and write a stylistic commentary on it. The answers should take the form of thoughtful coherent essays and have a clear thesis, argument, and supportive evidence. The students are evaluated on their command of the material, their ability to construct a persuasive argument, the accuracy of their supportive evidence and their ability to engage with the material at hand. The students are usually given three days (Friday through Sunday) to work on their quals and are allowed to use primary texts, dictionaries as well as their course notes, but not scholarly and critical works.

The Russian junior qual is a diagnostic tool for testing the students’ linguistic and intellectual preparedness to undertake their yearlong senior thesis project. Each exam is read by all three Russian faculty members. Grades are determined by consensus. We award the following grades: pass, conditional pass, and fail. A student, who is awarded “conditional pass,” is required to do specific remedial course work. The department chair writes a letter to every student who has taken a qual, informing them of an outcome.

Thesis Assessment

The thesis grade is determined by the thesis advisor in consultation with the orals board. The grade takes into account the following three components: 1) the quality of the student's work in the yearlong course Russ 470; 2) the quality of the document presented to the board; and 3) the quality of the student’s oral defense of their work. The Russian department applies the following standard for awarding A+ for senior thesis: the final product should be of the “publishable quality,” that is, it should include parts that can be reworked into a submission to a peer-review scholarly journal.

A Minor in Russian

The goal of the Russian minor is to ensure a high intermediate level of Russian language proficiency together with substantial study of Russian literature and culture. All students must complete four units of Russian courses above the introductory level, and at least one of these must be a literature/culture course requiring the original language.

Requirements for the Minor

See the college catalog for Russian minor requirements.