2014-2015 Russian Courses
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.
At the end of this course, students should feel that they have a fairly sophisticated grasp of Russian and the ability to communicate in Russian in any situation. After the first year of studying the language, students will have learned the bulk of Russian grammar; this course will emphasize grammar review, vocabulary accumulation, and regular oral practice. Class time will center on the spoken language, and students will be expected to participate actively in discussions based on new vocabulary. Regular written homework will be required, along with weekly conversation classes with the Russian assistant; attendance at Russian Table is strongly encouraged. Conference work will focus on the written language, and students will be asked to read short texts by the author(s) of their choice with the aim of appreciating a very different culture and/or literature while learning to read independently, accurately, and with as little recourse to the dictionary as possible. Prerequisite: one year of college Russian or the equivalent.
At the end of this course, students will know the fundamentals of Russian grammar and will be able to use them to read, write, and, most especially, speak Russian on an elementary level. Successful language learning involves both creativity and a certain amount of rote learning; memorization gives the student the basis to then extrapolate, improvise, and have fun with the language. This course will lay equal emphasis on both. Our four hours of class each week will be spent actively using what we know in pair and group activities, dialogues, discussions, etc. Twice-weekly, written homework—serving both to reinforce old and to introduce new material—will be required. At the end of each semester, we will formalize—through small-group video projects—the principle of rigorous but creative communication that underlies all of our work. Students are required to attend weekly conversation classes with the Russian assistant; attendance at Russian Table is strongly encouraged.