The goal of the Russian language classes at Sarah Lawrence College is to teach students to speak, comprehend, read, and write a fascinating language with a logic very different from that of English. Oral proficiency is the focus of the first-year class, culminating in end-of-semester projects where students, in small groups, write and film skits. In the second-year course, reading is also emphasized—and we include short stories and poetry, as well as texts paired with films. Topics, texts, and authors covered in the advanced class vary widely, and student input is strongly encouraged; past syllabi have included works by authors such as Pushkin, Gogol, Tolstoy, Tsvetaeva, Bulgakov, and Pelevin, as well as films. Student work in class and conference is also supplemented by weekly meetings with the language assistant and by a variety of extracurricular activities, including a weekly Russian Table, Russian opera at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, and excursions to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn’s “Little Odessa.”
Students of Russian are strongly encouraged to spend a semester or, ideally, a year abroad. Sarah Lawrence students regularly attend a variety of programs, including: Middlebury College’s School in Russia, with sites in Moscow, Irkutsk, and Yaroslavl; Bard College’s program at the Smolny Institute in St. Petersburg; the Moscow Art Theatre School Semester through Connecticut College; ACTR in Moscow, St. Petersburg, or Vladimir; and CIEE.
The Russian program also offers courses taught in translation as part of the literature curriculum. Recent literature courses include: The Literatures of Russian and African American Soul: Pushkin and Blackness, Serfs and Slaves, Black Americans and Red Russia; Dostoevsky and the West; The 19th-Century Russian Novel; and Intertextuality in the 20th-Century Russian Novel. More generally, students of Russian also pursue their interest in Russia and Eastern Europe in many other areas of the College. Conference work always may be directed toward the student’s field of interest; courses focusing either entirely or in part on Russia and/or Eastern Europe are regularly offered in a number of disciplines, including history, film history, dance history, and philosophy.