Literature and Empire

The goal of the course is to analyze the answers given by outstanding Russian writers of the Imperial period to questions that remain important today: “What is the Russian Empire? What did it bring to Russia and to other nations? What can we expect from it in the future? Will it end, and if so, for what reasons?” These questions provoked different answers from Gavriil Derzhavin, Aleksandr Pushkin, Aleksei Tolstoi; historians and political commentators Nikolai Karamzin and Aleksander Gertsen (Herzen); and prose writers Ivan Goncharov, Nikolai Leskov, and Lev Tolstoi. Their answers range from ecstatic apologies for the Empire, to attempts to find a basis for Russia’s ‘special mission’ as intermediary between West and East, to harsh and devastating criticism. The course will focus on well-known ‘classic’ texts (long poems of Pushkin, Lev Tolstoi’s story “Hadji Murat”) as well as lesser known and even forgotten texts without which, however, it is impossible to understand the problem of ‘Empireness’ in all its complexity (Nikolai Leskov’s “Na kraiu sveta”, Lev Tolstoi’s “Za chto?”, and others). Along with poetry and prose, we will be reading examples of ‘travel literature’ and political writings (which nevertheless also remain brilliant literary texts): Nikolai Karamzin’s ‘Zapiska o drevnei i novoi Rossii’ (excerpts), Gertsen articles on the ‘Polish question’, Pushkin’s ‘Puteshestvie v Arzrum’ and Ivan Goncharov’s ‘Fregat Pallada’ (excerpts). Students will be required to give a class presentation and to write three short papers and a final paper.
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RUSS 6629

All Sections in Summer 2009, LS 6 Week Session

Summer 2009, LS 6 Week Session

RUSS6629A-L09 Lecture (Proskurin)