Slavic R5A, Section 1: Narratives of Adultery and their “Afterlives”

MWF 8-9, 228 Dwinelle. Instructor: Katie DeWaele.

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 Oxford English Dictionary defines adultery as “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and another who is not his or her spouse, regarded as a violation of the marriage vows and hence a sin or crime. In early use sometimes taken to include the desire or intention to have such intercourse, whether or not it occurs.” In this course, we will both examine and challenge this definition as we read some of the most celebrated novel(la)s of adultery of the second-half of the nineteenth-century (and early twentieth-century), and consider the socio-historical context in which they were written and first read. In addition to the shared theme of the adulterous liaison, many of the texts we will read this semester sparked significant public reactions – these narratives’ “afterlives” take a myriad of different forms, including obscenity trials (Madame Bovary (1856) & Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928)), counter-texts written by members of the author’s own immediate family (Kreutzer Sonata (1889)), and expressions of condemnation from religious institutions (The Scarlet Letter (1850)). Our course will be framed by the following kinds of questions: what is an adulterous relationship? How does gender figure into these adultery narratives? How are adulterous liaisons represented in literature of the period, and why do we see many of the most celebrated adultery novels published in the nineteenth-century, specifically? Is there a special link between adulterous activity and artistic activity / creation?

Required Texts:

The King James Bible (Selections) (Selections to be made available on bCourses)
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, (Penguin Classics, 2015) ISBN: 978-0143107668)
Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, Norton Critical Edition (2nd ed.) ISBN: 978-0393979176)
Émile Zola, Thérèse Raquin, Translated by Andrew Rothwell (Oxford World’s Classics, 2008) ISBN: 978-0199536856)
Émile Zola, The Experimental Novel (1893) (Selections)
(Selections to be made available on bCourses site)
Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy, “The Devil” (1911) (Text to be made available on bCourses site)
Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy, “The Kreutzer Sonata” (1889)
(The Kreutzer Sonata Variations: Lev Tolstoy’s Novella and Counterstories by Sofiya Tolstaya and Lev Lvovich Tolstoy, Translated by Michael R. Katz, (Yale UP, 2014) ISBN: 978-0300189940)
Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy, “What is Art?” (1890) (Selections) (Selections to be made available on bCourses site)
D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928) (Selections) (Selections to be made available on bCourses site)

Prerequisite:  Successful completion of the UC Entry Level Writing Requirement.  Students may not enroll in nor attend R1A/R5A courses without completing this prerequisite.