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

Teaching Tolstoy’s Master and Man

In the three decades or so that I have been teaching works by Tolstoy, I don’t remember ever teaching the one known in English as “Master and Man.” This could be because it didn’t speak to me when I first read it or because I have consistently felt there were other, more effective works that… Continue reading Teaching Tolstoy’s Master and Man

On Fairytales, Folktales, Wondertales, and… Tales

Vladimir Propp makes clear in his Исторические корни волшебной сказки (Istoricheskie korni volshebnoi skazki) that the subject of his study is indeed the волшебная сказка [volshebnaia skazka] announced in its title. However, in his exposition, he often uses the term сказка [skazka] without any attribute. This term happens to be the word used for “folktale,” “fairy tale,” and simply “tale” in English, which… Continue reading On Fairytales, Folktales, Wondertales, and… Tales