Literature of Dissent

RUSS 080/LITR 080R

Spring 2003

Sibelan Forrester
Kohlberg 340
(610-328-) 8162

Office Hours:

In this course we will read a lot ­ proving in the first place that reading like a maniac can itself be a dissident act, where esthetics or the tools of fantasy serve to (re)claim historical reality rather than merely fueling escapism. Most of the authors on the list are Russian, but we will relate their works and themes to other linguistic and geographical contexts you are familiar with.


Besides reading the texts and having intelligent things to say about them, please write about two pages of notes on each class period’s readings. They will be collected at the end of each class and graded as Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory. If possible, write on loose-leaf paper rather than tearing pages from a notebook (messy!), or else work on a computer. I prefer not to receive assignments (notes or otherwise) by e-mail, since I risk getting lectured if I print student work on our office printer. Use these notes as a basis for comments and discussion in class, and also to ask me questions you aren’t sure you want to bring up in class, if any.

1. A five-page analytical pape is, due on Friday, February 28. You are welcome to write on Russian or E European works we have not read in class as long as you relate them to works we have read. See a list of sample topics; I'm glad to read and comment on a rough draft, if you make arrangements to get it to me by February 19.

2. A “creative project,” due Wednesday, April 2. We'll talk about the parameters in class.

3. A ten-page analytical paper due Friday, April 25. Bring the rough draft to class on April 18 for peer editing (you'll receive a sliver of your grade for the quality of comments you give your Peer).

The final examination will be a three-hour take-home combining short answer and essay questions, open book and open notes, due at the end of finals.


Mariia Arbatova and others, A Will and a Way
Avvakum, Life, by Himself -- read on this site!
Natalya Baranskaya, A Week Like Any Other -- on Reserve
Mikhaill Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground
Aleksandr Genis, Red Bread
Nikolai Gogol', The Government Inspector
Danilo Kis^, A Tomb for Boris Davidovich
Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago
Aleksandr Pushkin, "Liberty. An Ode," handout
Varlam Shalamov, Kolyma Tales
Abram Tertz/Andrei Sinyavsky, The Trial Begins
Lev Tolstoy, A Confession
Marina Tsvetaeva, The Ratcatcher
Yurii Tynyanov, Lieutenant Kije --
Dubravka Ugres^ic', The Culture of Lies
Evgenii Zamyatin, We

Stuff on reserve in the library:

Anna Akhmatova, "Requiem" in Poem without a Hero and Selected Poems (trans. by Lenore Mayhew and William McNaughton), pp. 75-92
Avvakum, Life
Joseph Brodsky, "On Tyranny," "The Child of Civilization," and "Nadezhda Mandel'shtam (1899-1980): An Obituary," in Less than One: Selected Essays, pp. 113-156
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The GULag Archipelago (vols. 1, 2, 3)


Monday, January 20 -- Pushkin, "Liberty. An Ode" (handout)

Wednesday, January 22 -- Archpriest Avvakum, Life, pp. 46-63 (I am not sure that the division into two parts of the text as scanned matches the break-up in what I'm asking you to read -- be sure not to stop too soon or read too far)

Friday, January 24 -- Archpriest Avvakum, Life, pp. 63-77

Monday, January 27 -- Tynyanov, Lieutenant Kijé, introduction (pp. ix-xxv), and pp. 3-22

Wednesday, January 29 -- Tynyakov, Lieutenant Kijé, pp. 23-51

Friday, January 31 -- Tolstoy, "A Confession"

Monday, February 3 -- Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground, part I

Wednesday, February 5 -- Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground, part II

Friday, February 7 -- Zamyatin, We, through entry #17

Monday, February 10 -- Zamyatin, We, to the end

Wednesday, February 12 -- Gogol', The Government Inspector, "Introduction" (pp. 9-39), "Note on Russian Names" (pp. 41-45); The Government Inspector, pp. 215-237.

Friday, February 14 -- Gogol', The Government Inspector, pp. 238-318.

Monday, February 17 -- Tsvetaeva, The Ratcatcher, pp. 8-47

Wednesday, February 19 -- Tsvetaeva, The Ratcatcher, pp. 48-79

Friday, February 21 -- Tsvetaeva, The Ratcatcher, to the end

Monday, February 24 -- Akhmatova, "Requiem" (real it all for today)

Wednesday, February 26 -- Akhmatova, "Requiem" (read other stuff in the book too, if you'd like)

Friday, February 28 -- Brodsky, essays from Less than One, pp. 113-156

Monday, March 3 -- Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita, to p. 109

Wednesday, March 5 -- Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita, pp. 110-222

Friday, March 7 -- Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita, to the end

Spring Break

Monday, March 17 -- Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago, to end of ch. 6 (in part 2)

Wednesday, March 19 -- Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago, chapters 7-11

Friday, March 21 -- Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago, chapter 12 to the end

Monday, March 24 -- Solzhenitsyn, excerpts from The GULag Archipelago (on reserve)

Wednesday, March 26 -- Shalamov, Kolyma Tales, "Foreword" and pp. 3-169

Friday, March 28 -- Shalamov, Kolyma Tales, pp. 173-291

Monday, March 31 -- Kis^, A Tomb for Boris Davidovich, "Introduction" and pp. 3-51

Wednesday, April 2 -- Kis^, A Tomb for Boris Davidovich, pp. 53-135

Friday, April 4 -- Tertz/Sinyavsky, The Trial Begins, pp. 3-57

Monday, April 7 -- Tertz/Sinyavsky, The Trial Begins, pp. 58-126

Wednesday, April 9 -- Genis, Red Bread, pp. 7-93

Friday, April 11 -- Genis, Red Bread, pp. 94-192

Monday, April 14 -- Baranskaya, A Week Like Any Other, pp. 1-62 (on reserve)

Wednesday, April 16 -- Baranskaya, other stories in A Week Like Any Other, pp. 63-122

Friday, April 18 -- peer editing of final paper

Monday, April 21 -- Ugres^ic', The Culture of Lies, pp. 47-93

Wednesday, April 23 -- Ugres^ic', The Culture of Lies, pp. 111-188

Friday, April 25 -- Arbatova, in A Will and a Way, pp. 6-75

Monday, April 28 -- Gabrielyan, Rubina and Muravyova, in A Will and a Way, pp. 79-165

Wednesday, April 30 -- Polianskaya and Petrushevskaya, in A Will and a Way, pp. 167-212

Friday, May 2 -- final discussion

Final Examination: Take-home exam, open-book and open-note, due to me on paper (not as an e-mail or an attached file!) no later than May 17 (the end of exam period).

Return to Sibelan Forrester's Home Page.