19th Century Russian Literature


What have YOU learned from this literature course?

In the beginning we wondered: “Students and professors may and likely do have differing opinions on the content and form of a course on literature.  What are your expectations? What are you hoping to learn?” Re-read your original posts and those of your classmates, then briefly describe what you have learned this semester. We will spend part of our last class considering what can or what ought a class in literature TEACH.


Project Summary

One member of each group should describe in 25 words or less the project, provide a link or access to the project, identify all contributors and if possible indicate the major contributions of each to the final project.


Anna Karenina

Tolstoi builds his novel on contrasts and comparisons, Anna and Kitty, Vronsky and Levin, Petersburg and Moscow and many more. By bringing his main characters into contact with one another he highlights them for us the reader. Choose one of the comparisons-contrasts and comment on who emerges in a more favorable light.


Agonizing over translations

“35 To reproduce this story with a raciness worthy of the Russian original is practically impossible. The translator has not attempted the task.” C. J. Hogarth admits his helplessness before the task, but goes on to give not even a translation, but a paraphrase of the tale of Captain Kopeikin. This calls into question the very essence of the text and of our task as readers. I have once again begun to compare the original with a number of translations. No wonder poor Gogol falls short in some versions-he is mercilessly cut like an order of salami in which the unskilled apprentice decides to cut out the chunks of fat because they are fat, thereby depriving the salami of its taste. Should we visit a different butcher? No comments required, but anyone with recommendations for a new shop is welcome.


Looking beyond the text.

The Russian writer and editor, Mikhail Morgulis, has posed a number of questions concerning the essence of Russian literature. I am eager to hear your opinions?

1. Russian literature has much that is pure, but life has so much that is putrid. Why? Is the same for other nations?

2. The Nobel Prize winner, Iosif Brodsky once said that all “exalted” poetery, “high” literature is spiritual. But it seems to me , that it is not always the case. There are great works, imbued with teh spirit of the Anti-Christ.
What do you think?

3. Some literature is not bad.  But it is a fake. Just as some people are not genuine, they are frauds. For we live in a world of imitations, frauds. Just as there are genuine people and fakes. How does one in this life attempt to separate the genuine from the fraudulent? Even when there are real and capable people, and their literature is a fraud. People have learned to imitate almost everything: love, friendship, and yes, literature, too. And the majority of those in the world make use on a daily basis not of the real thing, but of fake imitations, yet don’t know it. Have you had any personal experience with how to distinguish the real from the imitation? Depending on our ability to distinguish between them we will either remain human beings or turn into robots.

What would you tell Mikhail?


The Queen of Spades

This is a complex tale that has spawned a Chaikovsky opera (sometimes know even in English under the French title Pique Dame] and several films. The inclusion of the card game (faro) opens a whole new world of associations. You will find several useful and entertaining  links below, but at the end of the day you must read the story and comment on it. Watch carefully the role of numbers, the city, time, the physical framing of characters (windows, chairs, coffins), coincidence. Is this romanticism or realism (but be sure to define those terms for yourself and your fellow readers)?

Stranger than Fiction? Man accused in North Carolina ‘scaring’ death pleads not guilty.

Saint Germain

Deck of Cards Song (Text)

The Game of Faro (History)

The Opera (Listen)

The Film

The Russian  Пиковая дама.


Musings on How We Best Learn Literature.

A recent student survey indicates that Midd students have lots of practice in reading and writing. But far less in presenting and defending their ideas orally. How can we/should we move to integrate more of you to encourage and enhance learning in our course on Russian literature?


Making this Monologue a Dialogue

If you look above you will see a title on The Course and its Content. if you click on it you will see the schedule, the list of readings, and a set of my expectations. I am looking at this point for your comments about my first posting, below this one. In order to comment you must log in using your Middlebury user name and password. I’ll be looking forward to hearing from you.


Why Blog?

I’m wondering if students have enough time to read the assignments, post their responses, work on their projects, and then have time left over for blogging. And if so, why and how and what?

In order to comment you must log in using your Middlebury user name and password. I’ll be looking forward to hearing from you. Any and all comments are welcome.

Sites DOT MiddleburyThe Middlebury site network.