Slavic 246B: Contemporary Russian Literature: 1953-Present

Th 2-5, Dwinelle 6115. Instructor: Edward Tyerman.

Units: 4

This course surveys developments in the Russian literary field from the death of Stalin to the present. We will explore and interrogate approaches to periodizing this long stretch of literary history: as a series of literary trends and schools (village prose, urban prose, samizdat, conceptualism, postmodernism, postconceptualism, new realism, etc.); or as a series of historical periods: Thaw, Stagnation, Perestroika, the “post-Soviet,” the “contemporary.”

Central to our investigations will be questions of continuity and rupture. How does literature after Stalin relate to the historical and literary legacies of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, including the doctrine of Socialist Realism? How should we understand the relationship between “official” and “unofficial” literature (including the culture of samizdat) in the late Soviet period? What were the effects on the relaxation of censorship under glasnost’? The collapse of the Soviet system in 1991 brought a commercialization of cultural production that racially impacted the nature and status of literature as a social institution. At the same time, literature entered into increased competition with other media within the dynamics of a global cultural marketplace. We will ask what changes and continuities can be traced between late-Soviet and post-Soviet literature, and between the literature of the 1990s, the 2000s, and the 2010s.

We will also consider a range of critical and theoretical responses to contemporary literature, its characterization, and its social role. How can we connect form and style to changes within and beyond the literary field? Can we speak of “Russian postmodernism”? What might be its distinguishing characteristics? What role does literature play in memorializing the traumatic historical experiences of the Soviet past? What is “new” about contemporary realism, drama, and poetry?

Writers for consideration may include: Solzhenitsyn, Siniavskii, Aksenov, Bitov, Sokolov, Rasputin, Trifonov, Brodskii, Shvartz, Prigov, Rubinshtein, Petrushevskaia, Tolstaia, Sorokin, Pelevin, Ulitskaia, Fanailova, Prilepin, Sadulaev, Medvedev.

Requirements: weekly readings, discussion postings, and participation in class discussions (including student presentations); final research paper.

Prerequisites: Graduate standing and consent of instructor; adequate knowledge of Russian.