Tolstoy and the Russian Experience

Historical approach to Tolstoy's depictions of major societal and ethical issues (e.g., war, peace, marriage, death, religion, relationships). Culture of salons, print culture, censorship, and changing political climate. Central questions on the relationship of fiction and history: uses of fiction for understanding history and dangers of such an approach. Readings include selected fiction of Tolstoy, excerpts from journals and letters, and critical and historical accounts of nineteenth-century Russia. One course.

Chekhov for Writers

Anton Chekhov as teacher and guide for students of the English and North American short story. Critical analysis combined with writing practicum in a workshop-format seminar. Topics addressed include the role of imitation and parody in the writing process; problems of translation; plagiarism and its limits; critical and scholarly approaches to the short story in the English and Russian traditions; literature across cultural and linguistic boundaries; dramatic versus narrative modes.


Introduction to life, works, and criticism. Readings include: Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov. Taught in English. One course.

Women in Contemporary Russian Society

Explores the political, social, economic, and domestic challenges facing women in post-soviet Russia and analyzes Russian women's collective and individual responses through activism, organization, journalism, and the arts. Specific topics include women in official/oppositional politics, women and the market, women's health and physical welfare. One course.

The New Russia: Reflections of Post-Soviet Reality in Literature and Film

Examination of fiction and film in the post-Soviet period. Topics include: crime and social breakdown in the 1990s and 2000s; transformations of classic character types (anti-hero, virgin-whore, swindler-rogue); religious and ethical quests; taboo-breaking themes. Works by authors Sorokin, Grishkovets, Pelevin, Petrushevskaya, Sadur, Shishkin, Minaev, Tolstaya, Akunin, Ulitskaya and filmmakers Bodrov, Rogozhkin, Bekmambetov, Khlebnikov/Popogrebsky, Balabanov, and Sokurov. Readings and class discussions in English. One course.

End of Life in Russia and U.S.

Brief history of hospice movement in U.S. and Russia. Examine key moments in end of life issues in each country; focus on social attitudes to death and dying and their effects on end of life care. Sources include memoirs, fiction, theoretical works, and policy documents. Service learning course; includes work at sites such as the Unicorn Bereavement Center, a skilled nursing facility, or the state’s attorney’s office. One course.

Russian Short Fiction

The history, development, and shifts of Russian short fiction in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Authors include Dostoevsky, Vovchok, Leskov, Chekhov, Gippius, and Zoshchenko. Topics include gender, genre, and national identity in historical/cultural context. Taught in English. One course.

Women and Russian Literature

Issues of gender and society in women's writing in Russian from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. Both autobiographical writings and prose fiction. Discussions of whether Russian women's writings constitute a tradition and what role these works have played in Russian literature and culture. Taught in English. One course.

The Russian Novel

Close reading of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Dostoevsky's Possessed, Andrey Bely's Petersburg, Bulgakov's Master and Margarita, Nabokov's The Gift, and Makine's Memoirs of my Russian Summers. Discussions will focus on these representative writers' changing perceptions of, and responses to social and ethical issues and of creativity, itself, as the genre evolved in the modern times between the 1870s and now. Final research paper required and can include in-depth discussion of one of the works or the comparison of one or more aspects of several texts. Taught in English. One course.