Advanced Russian: St. Petersburg


This course is intended for students who are beyond the second-year level. Our aim will be to move away from grammar and into active reading, writing, watching, and speaking in Russian. In the fall semester, the course will center on the very rich artistic and cultural heritage of the city of St. Petersburg. We will start with Pushkin’s poem, The Bronze Horseman, and short story, The Queen of Spades, and then also consider Tchaikovsky’s rendering of the latter. We will also enjoy at least pieces of Gogol’s Petersburg Tales and Bely’s Petersburg. As we turn to the topic of the 1917 revolution, we will consider literary texts such as Shklovsky’s Sentimental Journey, as well as films such as Eisenstein’s October and Esfir Shub’s The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty. We will then devote some time to the avant-garde writer Daniil Kharms. Kharms’ arrest and death in the early days of the siege of Leningrad brings us to another central moment in the city’s history, one that we will consider also in terms of documentary film, Tatiana Tolstaia’s short story, Sonia, and the life and music of Shostakovich. We will end the semester with Joseph Brodsky, both in his own writing and in the recent film, A Room and A Half. As the fall semester draws to a close, we will discuss possibilities for the spring; we might move to Moscow, for example, or focus on a particular text or writer. In both semesters, we will emphasize vocabulary acquisition along with the basics of Russian word morphology. Weekly conversation classes with the Russian assistant will be required, and attendance at Russian Table is strongly encouraged. The fall semester, at least, will also include biweekly film screenings. Prerequisite: Two years of college Russian or the equivalent.