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COURSE NAME: "Special Topics in English Literature: The Russian Novel - HONORS (This course carries 4 semester hours of credits. A minimum CUM GPA of 3.5 is required)"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2018

INSTRUCTOR: Stephanie Richards
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 4:30-5:45 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: EN 110 with a grade of C or above
OFFICE HOURS: one hour before class

This is a reading and writing intensive course. Students in 300-level literature classes are required to produce 5-6,000 words of critical writing.An in-depth treatment of a current area of special concern within the field of English Literature. Courses offered previously include: Dickens and Englishness; Race, Class, Gender, Culture: The American Dream in Literature; The Innocents Abroad: Perceptions of Italy in American, European and British Writing; Topics in World Literature: Masterpieces in Western Fiction.
May be taken more than once for credit with different topics.

In this course, students will be introduced to Russian literature's distinct and profound contributions to global literature and culture. We will discuss the rise and development of the Russian novel, providing historical background for this development and analyzing several foundational examples.

Nineteenth century Russia was remarkable for its sheer concentration of literary genius. It is often noted that within one man's lifetime (Lev Tolstoy's), Russia produced more world-famous literature than any century before or after. While in Western Europe, philosophy, morality, and religious questions were separated into distinct disciplines, writers and critics fulfilled all these functions in Russia, thus making one of its greatest achievements (and according to some, the justification for the Russian people's existence), the philosophical novels of Dostoevsky. Russian novels of the twentieth century maintained close ties to their predecessors, while taking on a particular political bent and challenging religious boundaries.

Through a close analysis of the context and content of selected Russian novels, students will understand the distinct features of the Russian novel tradition in relation to its contemporary European counterpart. This course will provide valuable historical and cultural context for a wide range of students, from those studying political science and history to international affairs and business. We will read three novels from the nineteenth century (Gogol’s Dead Souls, Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina), and two from the twentieth century (Bely’s Petersburg and Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita). 



By the end of the course, students will 1) be able to analyze and discuss major themes and ideas that appear throughout the novels we have studied; 2) better understand the literary genre of the novel; 3) have an enriched understanding of the major historical and cultural global player, Russia; 4) be better equipped to perform comparative analyses of texts and intercultural thinking in general; 5) be able to communicate complex ideas in an organized and efficient written format.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Dead SoulsNikolai GogolKnopf1857152808 There may be various editions, all of which are acceptable as long as the translation is by Pevear and Volokhonsky
Anna KareninaLeo TolstoyPenguin9780141391892 Various editions may be available, all of which are acceptable as long as the translation is by Pevear and Volokhonsky
Brothers KaramazovFyodor DostoevskyEveryman's1857150708 There may be various editions, all of which are acceptable as long as the translation is by Pevear and Volokhonsky
PetersburgAndrei BelyIndiana9780253035523 If this translation is not easily available, McDuff's translation is acceptable, published by Penguin
Master and MargaritaMikhail BulgakovPenguin9780141180144 There may be various editions available, all of which are acceptable as long as the translation is by Pevear and Volokhonsky

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
A History of Russian LiteratureVictor TerrasYale9780756761486 Chapter 6: The Romantic Period pp.174-176 and pp.233-273; Chapter 7: The Age of the Novel pp. 285-369; Chapter 8: The Silver Age pp. 379-484; Chapter 9: The Soviet Period pp. 503-518 and pp.562-565
midterm paper2000 word analytical paper — topics will be provided by the professor. If you wish to write on another topic, it must be approved by the professor. Students will submit a draft, which can then be revised for a second and final submission. Students are encouraged to meet with the professor before revising. Essays should include research and conform to MLA standards. 25
quizzesEach novel will be followed by a quiz on general information taken from your reading and our class discussions of the texts, e.g., character names, plot details, major ideas, publication information20
presentationStudents will do one 5-7 minute presentation on an article that is is assigned to them 5
participationStudents are required to attend and participate in class. Participation requires having read the assigned materials and being prepared to speak about them. Your grade will be lowered if you miss more than three classes.10
final paper4000 word analytical paper — topics will be provided by the professor. If you wish to write on another topic, it must be approved by the professor. Students will submit a draft, which can then be revised for a second and final submission. Students are encouraged to meet with the professor before revising. Essays should include research and conform to MLA standards. 40
Honors requirementTo fulfill the honors requirement, you must receive a B+ or higher in this class. You are also required to do additional work, for example, read two important critical texts on one of the novels and compare and contrast them in a short paper; do an extra class presentation; create a multimedia project on a topic related to our studies, or any number of things. The nature of the additional work will be finalized by the second week of class after discussions between the student and instructor. 

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.




Week 1:         Introduction to the course; general historical background on Russian literature and major writers in comparison with the Western
European literary tradition; selected readings from Pushkin and Lermontov. Begin reading Gogol’s Dead Souls.

Introduction to relevant databases for performing academic research on Russian literature


Week 2:         Background on Dead Souls; Katherine Lahti. “Artificiality and Nature in Gogol’s Dead Souls” (1994) handout provided.


Week 3:         Gogol Dead Souls; short in-class writing comparing two passages dealing with artificiality and nature in the novel. How does Gogol
reconcile the opposition?

Quiz on Dead Souls

Optional out-of-class information workshop at the Frohring Library, arranged with a librarian, on how to conduct


Week 4:         Introduction to Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov; historical background and philosophical context; David S. Cunningham.
“Dostoevsky and Nietzsche: The Hazards of Writing Oneself into (or out of) Belief” (2016) handout provided; selected readings from Nietzsche’s The Gay Science, The Antichrist, and Zarathustra, handouts provided.


Week 5:         Dostoevsky Brothers Karamazov; discussion of Cunningham and Nietzsche


Week 6:         Dostoevsky Brothers Karamazov; How can we summarize Dostoevsky’s moral philosophy in BK? Focus on “The Grand Inquisitor”;

Quiz on Brother Karamazov
; 1st draft of short paper due.


Week 7:         Background for Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina; Tolstoy’s “What is Art?”; Amy Mandelker “Beyond the Motivations of Realism: Tolstoy, the Victorian Novel, and Iconic Aesthetics” (1993) handout provided;

Final draft of short paper due.


Week 8:         Tolstoy Anna Karenina; How is AK working within and deviating from the Victorian novel tradition? What moral paradigm is presented in the novel?


Week 9:         Tolstoy Anna Karenina; we will view parts of the recent film production of AK and compare and contrast it with the novel.

on Anna Karenina


Week 10:       Background for Bely’s Petersburg; What is Symbolism? What is a Symbolist novel? Students will be assigned an article to read from Andrey Bely’s Petersburg: A Centennial Celebration edited by Olga M. Cooke, on which they will do a 5-7 minute
presentation in class.


Week 11:       Bely Petersburg; Student presentations on Petersburg article


Week 12:       Bely Petersburg; Student presentations on Petersburg article; Quiz on Petersburg; Background for Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita; The Soviet Period: how did literature change? what was Stalinist Terror? Students will be assigned an article to read from The Master and Margarita: A Critical Companion edited by Laura D. Weeks, on which they will do a 5-7 minute presentation in class.


Week 13:       Bulgakov Master and Margarita; explore Kevin Moss’s companion website


Student presentations on Master and Margarita articles; 1st draft of long paper due.


Week 14:       Bulgakov Master and Margarita; We will conclude the course with selected readings from recent Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, who affirms her work — although very different in form — is in close dialogue with the polyphonic novels of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. Final draft of long paper due.