Slavic R5A, Section 1: Feeling Form: Writing Across Styles and Genres

MWF 8-9, Evans 5. Instructor: Dominick Lawton.

Units: 4

All Reading & Composition courses must be taken for a letter grade in order to fulfill this requirement for the Bachelor’s Degree. This course satisfies the first half or the “A” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.

The Russian satirist Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin once explained his decision not to write poetry: “Why walk on a tightrope? And, as if that were not enough, why squat every four steps?” Shchedrin’s complaint points to the fact that different types of writing impose constraints upon their practitioners: to name a few, rhyme and meter in poetry, narrative psychology in novels, staging and demonstrative dialogue in plays. Like squatting on a tightrope, these elements of literary texts often come across as ostentatious or unnecessary departures from everyday norms, but their difficulty is also what makes them fascinating and attractive.

In this class, we will focus on authors whose work spans several different forms and genres — Alexander Pushkin, Anton Chekhov, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Langston Hughes — and consider what makes each of them unique, while investigating how the choice of any one of these forms shapes what literature can say, and how it can say it. While developing students’ writing skills in one particular non-fictional genre, namely the argumentative critical essay (though we will also engage in occasional creative experiments of our own), the class will consider the complex relationship between literary “form” and “content”. How do different modes of literature portray war, politics, love, sex, death, laughter, personal identity, growing up?

Texts for Purchase:

*Course Reader

*Harvey, Michael. The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing, 2nd ed. Hackett, 2013. ISBN: 978-1603848985.

*Lomasko, Victoria. Other Russias. n+1, 2017. ISBN: 978-0-9970318-4-3.

*Mayakovsky, Vladimir. Volodya: Selected Works, ed. Rosy Carrick. Enitharmon Press, 2016. ISBN: 978-1910392164.

*Pushkin, Alexander. Eugene Onegin: A Novel in Verse, trans. James Falen. Oxford, 1998. ISBN: 978-0199538645.

*Pushkin, Alexander. Novels, Tales, Journeys: The Complete Prose of Alexander Pushkin, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Vintage, 2016. ISBN: 978-0307949882.


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.