Russian

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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. 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.

2017-2018 Courses

Russian

Beginning Russian

Open , Seminar—Year

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.

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Intermediate Russian

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

Prerequisite: one year 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. 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.

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The Russian Revolution

Open , Seminar—Fall

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the two Russian revolutions of 1917: the February Revolution that overthrew the tsar and the October Revolution, nine months later, that put the Communist Party of Vladimir Lenin in control of the world’s largest country. Arguably, the seizure of power by Lenin’s party was the decisive political event of the 20th century. If that hadn’t occurred, there would probably have been no turn toward fascism in Europe, no Hitler, and no World War II. A large part of the world’s population would not have found itself, after 1945, under the rule of Marxist dictatorships. Students in the course will read and discuss a variety of texts that discuss the causes of the 1917 revolutions, the nature of the regime that Lenin and his followers instituted following their conquest of power, and the global repercussions of their success in establishing what they claimed to be the world’s first “Workers’ State.” The course will therefore serve not only as an introduction to the history of modern Russia but also to the history of world communism and anti-communism in the four decades after 1917. Students may choose to pursue conference research devoted to events in Russia but also will be encouraged to develop projects dealing with the reverberations of the Russian Revolution in other parts of the globe.

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