“Bless you, prison, for having been in my life!” — Alexander Solzhenitsyn
While the Gulag remains the most infamous aspect of the Soviet justice system, Russia has a long history of inhumane punishment on a terrifying scale. This course explores narratives of incarceration, captivity, and punishment from the 17th century to the present day. In discussing (non-)fiction, history, and theory, we'll consider such topics as justice, violence and its artistic representations, totalitarianism, witness-bearing, and the possibility of transcendence in suffering. We will also take time to compare the Russian and American prison systems.
Authors include Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Kropotkin, Akhmatova, Solzhenitsyn, Pussy Riot, Navalny, Michel Foucault, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, among others.
We'll also have the opportunity to speak with two of our writers, Ali Feruz (jailed Uzbek journalist + LGBTQ+ rights activist) and Oleg Navalny (served 3.5 years on false charges + brother of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny).
Taught in translation; no knowledge of Russian language or culture required. All are welcome.
Eligible for Peace/Conflict, Global Studies, Interpretation Theory, and Engaged Scholarship.
For more information or the syllabus, please contact the instructor, José Vergara (jvergar1).