Slavic R5A, Section 1: Awkward: Social Indeterminacy in Russian Literature

MWF 9-10, Dwinelle 83. Instructor: Jennifer Flaherty.

Units: 4

In an anecdote widely disseminated among the Russian intelligentsia in the middle of the 19th century, one critic named Vissarion Belinsky stumbles at a party and knocks over a table, shattering glasses all across the floor. Belinsky, so the story goes, runs from the room. The son of a low-level government clerk from the provinces, “furious Vissarion” (as he was called) never knew quite how to behave.

Like so many of us today, Belinsky found himself in changing social situations and deprived of a common social code. A pantheon of characters in Russian literature are terribly awkward and insecure. This course explores the many meanings of awkwardness across Russian literature from Belinsky’s time (1840s) to the Soviet period. The funny thing about insecurity and awkwardness in Russian literature is that it incorporates a whole universe of social, political, ethical, and religious meaning. Why is a person awkward? Is it good to be awkward? We will trace the profound valences of these questions. We will lean into those moments of painful embarrassment and profound social uncertainty and dig into what they really mean – and why they happen.

Texts for Purchase:

Fedor Dostoevsky, The Idiot, trans. Pevear and Volokhonsky

Yuri Olesha, Envy, trans. Marian Schwartz

 *Other texts will be available in course pack or put on reserve

Due to the high demand for R&C courses we monitor attendance very carefully. Attendance is mandatory the first two weeks of classes, this includes all enrolled and wait listed students. If you do not attend all classes the first two weeks you may be dropped. If you are attempting to add into this class during weeks 1 and 2 and did not attend the first day, you will be expected to attend all class meetings thereafter and, if space permits, you may be enrolled from the wait list.