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SYLLABUS

Click on links to get to information and questions about the authors and works

illustration from Zamiatin's WE

 

WEEK 1

January 17: Background, reading list, syllabus; discuss final reading

January 19: Konstantin Tsiolkovskii, "On the Moon: A Fantastic Tale," in Red Star Tales, pp. 38-77; Nikolai Fyodorov, "Karazin: Meteorologist or Meteorurge?", Red Star Tales, pp. 31-37; Nikolai Fyodorov, "The Question of Brotherhood..." - on Moodle.

Information on Tsiolkovsky and Fyodorov and questions for reading

 


WEEK 2

January 24: Nikolai Chernyshevsky, "Vera Pavlovna's Dream," Worlds Apart, pp. 248-58, and on Moodle; Fyodor Dostoevsky, "The Grand Inquisitor," on Moodle, and "Dream of a Ridiculous Man," Worlds Apart, pp. 276-90, on Moodle

Information and Questions on Dostoevsky and Chernyshevsky

January 26: Aleksandr Bogdanov, Red Star, introduction, pp. 1-16, and 17-140

Information and Questions on Bogdanov


Possible topics for the first paper, due February 9

 

WEEK 3

January 31: Valery Briusov, "The Republic of the Southern Cross," WA, 303-17; Bryusov, "Rebellion of the Machines," Red Star Tales, pp. 78-85.

Information and Questions on Briusov

February 2: Karel Čapek, R.U.R. and Andrei Platonov, "The Lunar Bomb," Red Star Tales, pp. 158-80.

Information and Questions on Čapek and R.U.R. 

Information and Questions on Platonov

 

WEEK 4

February 7: Evgenii Zamiatin, We

Information and Questions on We

February 9: Alexei N. Tolstoy, slim excerpt from "Aèlita, Queen of Mars," Worlds Apart, pp. 555-83, and on Moodle; clip from Yakov Protazanov's Aèlita; Aleksndr Belyaev, "Professor Dowell's Head," in Red Star Tales, pp. 113-157 .

Information and Questions on Aèlita

​Information and Questions on Belyaev and Professor Dowell

 


WEEK 5

February 14: Vladimir Nabokov, Invitation to a Beheading, Foreword and Chapters 1-20

Information and Questions on Nabokov and Invitation to a Beheading

February 16: Mikhail Bulgakov, "The Fatal Eggs," Worlds Apart, pp. 471-529 (also on Moodle)

Information and Questions on Bulgakov's "Fatal Eggs"

 

 

WEEK 6

February 21: Karel Čapek, War with the Newts, Book One, pp. 9-114

Information and Questions on Čapek's War with the Newts

FIRST PAPER DUE  Feb 24!

February 23: War with the Newts, Books Two and Three, pp. 117-241

Big Issues in the course to date

 

 

WEEK 7

February 28: Josef Nesvadba, "Expedition in the Opposite Direction," pp. 50-84, and "Inventor of His Own Undoing," pp. 142-164; Zamiatin, "On Literature, Revolution, Entropy, and Other Matters" (on Moodle)

Information and Questions on Nesvadba

March 2: Alerksandr Kazantsev, “Explosion,” in Red Star Tales, pp. 224-49; Ivan Efremov, excerpt from The Andromeda Nebula, in Worlds Apart, pp. 616-46 (on Moodle)

Information and Questions on Kazantsev and Efremov

Midterm exam (due to me by March 16!) is on the course Moodle page.

 

SPRING BREAK

 

WEEK 8

March 14: Stanisław Lem, Solaris

Information and Questions on Lem and Solaris

Big Issues in Solaris

March 16: Soviet SF stories: Vladlen Bakhnov, "The Fifth on the Left," pp. 142-55; Sever Gansovsky, "Vincent Van Gogh," pp. 52-118; Ilya Varshavsky, "No Alarming Symptoms," pp. 1-14 (on Moodle)

Information and Questions on these writers and stories

Midterm exam is due today!

 

 

WEEK 9

March 21:  Arkadii and Boris Strugatsky, Escape Attempt pp. 3-100 (on Moodle)

Information and questions about the Strugatskys and Escape Attempt

Midterm exam due!

March 23: Kirill Bulychëv, "I Was the First to Find You," pp. 50-63, "May I Please Speak to Nina?" pp. 78-90, "Snowmaiden," pp. 103-13 (on Moodle)

Information and Questions on Bulychëv

 

 

WEEK 10

March 28: Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Hard to Be a God

Information and questions about Hard to Be a God

March 30: Arkadii and Boris Strugatsky, Roadside Picnic

Information and questions about Roadside Picnic  

 

 

WEEK 11

April 4: Stanisław Lem, The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age

Information and questions about Cyberiad

April 6: More Soviet SF stories: Olga Larionova, "Temira," pp. 1-30; Larionova, "The Useless Planet," pp. 80-121; Valentina Zhuravleva, "The Brat," pp. 31-40 (also available as "Hussy" in another translation, if you're interested in comparing them, pp. 143-151); Gennady Gor, "The Garden," pp. 107-25 (all on Moodle)

Information and questions about Larionova, Zhuravleva, and Gor

 


WEEK 12

April 11: Lem, Futurological Congress, pp. 1-149

Information and questions on Lem's Futurological Congress

LONG PAPER OR WEB PRESENTATION DUE!

April 13: Vladimir Savchenko, "Mixed Up," Red Star Tales, p. 352-98; Olga Larionova, "A Double Last Name," on Moodle

Information and questions on Savchenko and "Mixed Up"

 

 

WEEK 13

April 18: Viktor Pelevin, Omon Ra

Information about Pelevin and questions on Omon Ra

 

April 20: Daliya Truskinovskaya, excerpt from Doorinda, Red Star Tales, pp. 424-440; Sergei Lukyanenko, “My Dad’s an Antibiotic,” Red Star Tales, pp. 441-63

Information and Questions on Truskinovskaya and Lukyanenko

 

 

WEEK 14

April 25: Reading TBA: You'll choose

 

April 27: Final discussion.

SPECIAL PROJECT DUE!

Let me know if you have questions about the Special Project.

 


Final Examination will be a three-hour self-scheduled written exam, posted on Moodle, due to me no later than May 11. (Or May 6, if you are a graduating senior at Bryn Mawr or Haverford.)

Viktor Pelevin, Omon Ra

Omon Ra

 

Viktor Pelevin, Omon Ra

Viktor Pelevin (or Victor, in his English translations) was born in 1962, so grew up during the period of Stagnation. He attended aviation college in Moscow but has been a full-time writer since 1991. He is the first post-modern writer on our syllabus, and you'll see difference, though Omon Ra presents its questions about reality in a pretty realistic style. In her article about Pelevin in Neil Cornwell, ed., Reference Guide to Russian Literature (1998), Sally Dalton-Brown notes that his work is "characterized by fragmentation, conscious artificiality (i.e. the construction of 'hyperrealities'), and game-playing." Interesting to note that one of his stories is entitled "The Ninth Dream of Vera Pavlovna" - referring back to Chernyshevsky. Omon Ra was written in 1992, making it one of his earlier works; before 1991 he was better known as a writer of short stories. He often chooses to write science fiction, and you'll see the references to earlier (Soviet) SF in this book; he also moves into adjacent genres (fantasy, etc). He has written 14 novels or novellas, plus lots of essays. One short novel has the title "Prince StatePlan" (Принц Госплан), so this is not the only place where a character is named for a piece of Soviet realia - a name that no one would ever give a child.

more...

Stanisław Lem, The Cyberiad

Stanisław Lem, The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age

Lem's Cyberiada (1967) was beautifully, amusingly, brilliantly translated by Michael Kandel (whose PhD in Slavics is put to the best possible use in his inventive and impressive work on Lem, and I hope he can wallow in the royalties - though I don't mean to dis the other translators), and it has been in print ever since it appeared in 1974. Note also the wonderful original illustrations by Daniel Mróz (some still labeled in Polish).

more...

Zoran Živković, Time Gifts

Time Gifts

Zoran Živković, Time Gifts

Zoran Živković (born 1948) is one of the best-known SF authors in the West from former Yugoslavia, thanks largely to very good translations of his work into English. (Alica Copple-Tošić, who translated Time Gifts, is not just a native speaker of English with a good style, but a sensitive reader of the original. I have the book in Serbian - with some melting Dalí clocks on the cover! - so let me know if you have questions about the original of any passages.) Some of Ž's works refer to well-known figures from Western culture (such as a plot line about Sherlock Holmes in his The Fourth Circle). His other books are listed on the back of our edition, so check there first if you would like to know and read more. He has a career as a publisher as well. Note: the first syllable of his last name suggests the adjective živ ('live' or 'lively') or the noun život ('life').

more...

Karel Čapek, War with the Newts

War with the Newts

Karel Čapek (1890-1938) - Information and questions for reading War with the Newts

An introduction by Ivan Klíma mentions Faust, I quote (p. xii): "A man who feels equal to the creator labors under the delusion that he can and should make the world confirm to his own idea." 

more...

Vladimir Nabokov, Invitation to a Beheading

Invitation to a Beheading

Vladimir Nabokov, Invitation to a Beheading

Invitation to a Beheading (Приглашение на казнь) was drafted in 1934 and completed in 1935-6, after Nabokov had already written several novels in Russian. It is more political than his earlier work had been, and its speculative elements remained a departure for him. Scholars consider it a response at once to the Stalinization of the Soviet Union and the rise of the Nazis in Germany (you can imagine how Nabokov scorned them!). He was researching the life of our friend Nikolai Chernyshevsky for what became his finest novel in Russian, The Gift (Дар), and you should recognize traces of Vera Pavlovna's fourth dream in many of its angles. 

more...

Mikhail Bulgakov, "The Fatal Eggs"

 

 

Mikhail Bulgakov, "The Fatal Eggs"

Mikhail Afanas'evich Bulgakov (1891-1940) was born in Kiev. He trained and practiced as a doctor, but in 1920 he decided to quit and become a writer. He is best known for his plays ("Days of the Turbins," "Zoyka's Apartment," "The Crimson Island," "Molière," and others) and his novel The Master and Margarita (left not quite finished when he died), but he wrote some shorter fiction as well. "The Fatal Eggs," written in 1924, was published in the collection Diavoliada ('The Diaboliad') in Moscow in 1925 and fairly enthusiastically received. Bulgakov was skeptical of the Bolshevik revolution, and as a result he experienced all kinds of unpleasant censorship - indeed, by 1927 (a year before most of the action in "Fatal Eggs" takes place!) Bulgakov's prose was banned, and he never published any more prose in his lifetime. His success as a dramatic author lasted a bit longer, but Stalin did not let him emigrate when he asked to in 1930. Bulgakov's third wife preserved his archive after his death from nephrosclerosis, and when The Master and Margarita was finally published in the 1960s - in a censored edition! - it was a big surprise for readers everywhere.

more...

Mikhail Bulgakov, "The Fatal Eggs"

 

 

Mikhail Bulgakov, "The Fatal Eggs"

Mikhail Afanas'evich Bulgakov (1891-1940) was born in Kiev. He trained and practiced as a doctor, but in 1920 he decided to quit and become a writer. He is best known for his plays ("Days of the Turbins," "Zoyka's Apartment," "The Crimson Island," "Molière," and others) and his novel The Master and Margarita (left not quite finished when he died), but he wrote some shorter fiction as well. "The Fatal Eggs," written in 1924, was published in the collection Diavoliada ('The Diaboliad') in Moscow in 1925 and fairly enthusiastically received. Bulgakov was skeptical of the Bolshevik revolution, and as a result he experienced all kinds of unpleasant censorship - indeed, by 1927 (a year before most of the action in "Fatal Eggs" takes place!) Bulgakov's prose was banned, and he never published any more prose in his lifetime. His success as a dramatic author lasted a bit longer, but Stalin did not let him emigrate when he asked to in 1930. Bulgakov's third wife preserved his archive after his death from nephrosclerosis, and when The Master and Margarita was finally published in the 1960s - in a censored edition! - it was a big surprise for readers everywhere.

more...

Contact

Sibelan Forrester

Office: Kohlberg 340
Phone: 610.328.8162
Email: sforres1@swarthmore.edu

Office Hours:

Tuesday: 11:10-12:10
Wednesday: 11-12
Thursday: 1:00-2:00
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