Cold War Women’s (Reproductive) Rights

My reasoning is by analogy and somewhat backwards. If Mary Dudziak is right about Cold War civil rights (and I believe she is), then what one would expect to happen after the end of the Cold War would be a lessening of the federal government’s pressure on states to behave well. The Voting Rights Act… Continue reading Cold War Women’s (Reproductive) Rights

Sergei Loznitsa’s Donbass and the Senses of Provocation

When news broke that Russian forces had launched, on April 8, 2022, a missile attack on the Kramatorsk train station, which was filled with thousands of fleeing women and children at the time, the Russian Ministry of Defense issued a statement calling it a “provocation.” The Russian Foreign Ministry took the same line earlier with… Continue reading Sergei Loznitsa’s Donbass and the Senses of Provocation

Teaching Russian Culture: weeks 1-3

In an earlier post I explained a revised approach to a course I’ve taught for many years, Introduction to Russian Culture, a general survey for undergraduate students, many of whom have little background with the topic and most of whom are fulfilling a world civilizations requirement. This is a course I’ve taught at two institutions… Continue reading Teaching Russian Culture: weeks 1-3

Tolstoy versus God on Humor

I’ve been thinking lately that Tolstoy’s relative lack of a sense of humor might have something to do with his habitually assuming the perspective of God. This is unlike Dostoevsky, whose humanism includes at least some of the absurdity of our place on earth in it. This can be funny (“funny Dostoevsky” — kha, kha,… Continue reading Tolstoy versus God on Humor

Translating Identifying As

(Available as a podcast here.) This is a very strong essay by my friend Alta Ifland at East West Literary Forum. It becomes especially powerful when one reads the Russian translation by Tatiana Bonch Osmolovskaya, where the key phrase “identify as” feels as strange and culturally specific as Ifland claims. The meta-phenomenon she identifies (not… Continue reading Translating Identifying As

Teaching Russian Culture through Artifacts

A couple of months ago, I decided to make my Russian culture survey into an artifact driven class. Rather than lead with the history and then place the culture on top of it, as I used to do it, using the cultural component almost like examples, I would lead with the cultural artifacts, and then… Continue reading Teaching Russian Culture through Artifacts

Post-Short Russian Fiction 2021

I finished grading the short Russian fiction class last week, and, having used a little new material and more new methods, wanted to write a few things down before I forget them. First, one surprise was the Lyudmila Ulitskaya story “Happy” (Nadya L. Peterson, tr.), which was surprisingly easy to teach, probably because it is… Continue reading Post-Short Russian Fiction 2021

Teaching Russian Short Fiction in Practice

My eight-week online course is now underway, with two meetings and several short assignments under our belts. As the class satisfies a number of requirements in the Arts and Humanities and World Cultures categories, the students come from all over the university and have lots of different backgrounds, career trajectories, skill sets, levels of preparation,… Continue reading Teaching Russian Short Fiction in Practice

Workshop Meets Gogol

The fifth of the seven chapters in George Saunders’ A Swim in a Pond in the Rain (which, I will repeat here for those who have not been following, I am enjoying immensely and learning a lot from) features Nikolai Gogol’s “The Nose.” This was a risky move on Saunders’ part because the basically rational… Continue reading Workshop Meets Gogol