Slavic R5B, Section 2: Black Magic Revealed: Devils, Witches, and Monsters in Russian Literature and Culture

TuTh 8-9:30, Dwinelle 106. Instructor: Karina McCorkle.

Units: 4

Ever wondered what kinds of monsters are lurking in Russian forests? Want to know what happens when the Devil makes a visit to Soviet Moscow? In this course we will learn all of those things and more, tracing the history of devils, witches, and other “unclean forces” in the Russian cultural imagination. We will begin by reading Russian fairy tales and folk texts, analyzing figures like Baba Yaga, Koshchei the Deathless, and Satan himself, as well as studying the many superstitions which were part of rural life for centuries. We will examine how these creatures and folk beliefs were incorporated into Russian literature, reading works by classic writers like Aleksandr Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, and Fyodor Dostoevsky, as well as how these literary demons move from rural to urban settings. In the second half of the course we will think about what happens to this tradition in the Soviet Union, focusing on Mikhail Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita, which arguably the most important work of Russian literature in the twentieth century. Our readings of texts will be supplemented with clips from the numerous film and cartoon adaptations of these works, and we will conclude the course with screenings and discussions of the recent Gogol films. This series adapts Gogol’s life and early works into a fantasy thriller, and have simultaneously been incredibly popular with Russian audiences and maligned by intellectuals. We will come to our own conclusions about this debate and others, all while developing skills for critical analysis and college-level writing.

This course satisfies the second half or the “B” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.

Prerequisite: Successful completion of the “A” portion of the Reading & Composition requirement or its equivalent. Students may not enroll in nor attend R1B/R5B courses without completing this prerequisite.

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.