Revisiting the 20th Century through Russian Eyes


My goal for this course is for you to read several major works of Russian literature of the 20th century, to familiarize yourself sufficiently with Russian history and literature so as to complete a significant research project to be shared with and communicated to an audience beyond our classroom.  But what is your goal, and how will you integrate that with mine?


This course will explore an open architecture, one familiar to scholars and professionals but often not entrusted to students. It recognizes your capabilities and talents, holds you to high expectations, and offers you the time, support and freedom to make a significant contribution to the digital age.


I had originally placed an order for the following books with Middlebury's College Store, but

they may also be purchased through (and there are good prices on used copies). The library may have copies of some of these works. I have not placed them on reserve because it is unrealistic to believe you can read a novel on short term reserve. We may not read   Generations of Winter, (although it is an excellent fictional/historical novel). We will read  Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov and The Foundation Pit by Andrei Platonov (get them new or used at

A. Bely, Peterburg
E. Zamyatin, We

B. Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago
M. Bulgakov, Master and Margarita (Vintage)
V. Nabokov, Despair
A. Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
V. Aksyonov, Generations of Winter
C. Brown, A Portable Twentieth Century Russian Reader


The course has several elements that when taken together should produce a comprehensive experience.   After our first week dramatic reading of Chekhov's Three Sisters, we will move to a combination of tutorials/lectures on each Tuesday, but with consultations, group work, individual activities on Thursdays. All of this should become clearer by the second week of class, and will evolve according to the needs of each student.


A key element of the course remains the careful informed reading of several major works of the 20th century. You must read the assigned sections of novel in full before the class. Absence is not an option.  (If you must miss one of the Tuesday classes by prior arrangement you can make up for it by a 1000 word essay on the novel, its historical context, and its significance or its RELEVANCE for you today). On December 2nd you will sign and attest to having read in full each text by that date.  This portion of the course  (reading and participation in discussions) counts for 40% of your grade. Each incomplete reading or written assignment will result in a 5% decrease in your final grade.


The second major element is your own research agenda.  Here you will be required to select a decade or period of the twentieth century, do independent research, prepare a project that provides a brief overview and introduction to Russian 20th century literature, then provides a serious discussion of one of the decades or periods, and concludes with a note on the historical, literary, content driven relevance of your choice. In traditional terms this might be twenty five page paper, requiring from fifty to one hundred hours of work.  BUT THIS MAY NOT BE A TRADITIONAL PAPER or a BLOG.  The project should be state of the art, utilizing text, graphics, audio, video, wikis, virtual reality, and/or anything else. It must be OPEN SOURCE, free of copyright, to be shared digitally with the world. The work may be collaborative. It may employ experts and new technologies. You are better versed in these areas, than I am. Take a risk, be creative, create something that will literally amaze me and your potential audience. In the final week of classes you will be asked to provide an overview for the class of your project- this overview is not a review of the content, but rather the granting of access and knowledge to use the site/project.  The project itself is worth 40% of your grade.  The presentation of the project is worth 10% of your grade. (Examples of successful projects can be found at


Billable hours:  Attorneys keep a DAILY log of the time devoted to a task.  You must begin Sunday, September 14, to keep a daily log in electronic form of the time and efforts you are expending on this class. This includes everything, reading, note taking, research, consultation, technical preparation, every fifteen minutes of time devoted to this activity should be documented. Be specific, what did you do, what resources did you use, what did you learn?  This electronic document to be submitted on October 9th and on the last day of class is worth 10% of your grade.




Reading Assignments

Sept. 9             A. Chekhov Three Sisters
Sept. 11           A. Chekhov Three Sisters

Sept. 16           A. Bely, Petersburg   Intro- IV

Sept. 18          

Sept. 23           A. Bely, Petersburg, V- VII
Sept. 25           -

Sept. 30           L. Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago, I

Oct. 2             

Oct. 7             L. Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago, II to end

Oct. 9               I. Bunin, E. Zamyatin 58-65, 90-103; I. Babel, M. Zoshchenko, 203-245** ?????

Oct. 16            E. Zamyatin, We


Oct. 21            M. Sholokhov, And Quiet Flows the Don
Oct. 23            M. Sholokhov, And Quiet Flows the Don (to end)

Oct. 28            A. Platonov, The Foundation Pit.
Oct. 30                       

Nov. 4             M. Bulgakov, Master and Margarita, I
Nov. 6           

Nov. 11           M. Bulgakov, Master and Margarita, II-end
Nov. 13          

Nov. 18           V. Nabokov, Despair

Nov. 20          

Nov 25            A. Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Dec. 2 Student presentations
Dec. 4             Student presentations

*These works can be found in the Portable Twentieth Century Russian Reader.


Weekly Topics

Sept. 9             The Theater, A. Chekhov
Sept. 16           An Overview, history and resources

Sept. 23           The Silver Age, Andrei Bely

Sept. 30           The Age of Revolution, Leonid Pasternak

Oct. 7              The Teens and the Twenties

Oct.  21           Soviet Realism, Sholokhov


Oct. 28            Stalin and Bulgakov
Nov. 4            Literary Revivals from the 1960s to 1990s

Nov. 11           Russian literature Abroad, Nabokov, 1980s, History revisited.

Nov.18            The Camps, Solzhenitsyn


Nov. 25           TBA

Dec. 2 Your turn
Dec. 4             Your turn