Slavic R5B Section 1: Moscow, Real and Imagined

MWF 8-9, 103 Wheeler. Instructor: Christina Schwartz.

Units: 4

Instructor’s email:

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

“Moscow…what depths of fascination

live in that name, what echoes start,

and sound in every Russian heart!”

(A.S. Pushkin, Evgenii Onegin, 7.36)

This course will explore the theme of Moscow throughout 20th-century Russian literature. We will read a variety of literary works, which interrogate the role of the capital city both as a physical and an imagined space. From the distant dream of Chekhov’s Three Sisters to the center of political power in Trifonov’s House on the Embankment our reading will investigate how the city is represented in and in turn shapes memories, narrative form, and individual identities. Topics for reading and discussion will include: mapping representations of Moscow; questioning the forms of the real versus imagined city; exploring what conceptions of the city tell us about the structure of the text. Concurrently, we will also explore how our understanding of the city space shapes our modes of thinking and argumentation, consciously or unconsciously.

To goal of this course is to develop skills in critical reading and writing clear, persuasive, and well-structured papers. Reading will be approximately 60-70 pages per week. Students will be expected to compete all assigned reading, and come to class prepared to participate actively in discussions. Writing assignments will include close readings of specific texts (1-2 pages), and four papers (paper 1 (4-5pages), paper 2 (5-7pages), paper 3 (revision of paper 2); paper 4 (8-10 pages)). We will work on all stages of the writing process: selecting a topic, developing arguments, structure and organization, word choice, sentence flow, and grammar.


Anton Chekhov: Three Sisters [Trans. Sharon Marie Carnicke; Publisher: Hackett Publishing Co.; ISBN: 978-1624661204]

Andrey Platonov: Happy Moscow [Trans. Robert Chandler; Publisher: NYRB; ISBN: 978-159017585]

Yuri Trifonov: House on the Embankment [Trans. Michael Glenny; Publisher: European Classics; ISBN: 978-0810115705]

Victor Pelevin: Omon Ra [Trans. Andrew Bromfield; Publisher: New Directions; ISBN: 978-0811213646]

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.