Slavic R5B, Section 2: “For Paris is a feast”: Russian & American Literary and Cultural Life in Interwar Paris

TuTh 9:30-11, Kroeber 238. Instructor: Kathryn DeWaele.

Units: 4

In the two decades between the first and second world wars, the literary and art scene flourished in Paris due in large part to the influx of émigré artists and littérateurs; some fled revolution and fluctuating political systems, while others sought a new creative milieu abroad in which to develop their craft. In this course, we will examine selected texts from the oeuvres of several of the most celebrated writers of the Russian and American émigré literary scene in Paris: Vladimir Nabokov, Nina Berberova, Irène Némirovsky, Marina Tsvetaeva, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein, among others. We will also consider the autobiographical writings of renowned émigré visual artists and dancers (such as Léon Bakst, Sergei Diaghilev, Marc Chagall, and Mathilde Kschessinkska, to name a few) who also called the City of Light their creative playground during the interwar period. Our course will be structured by the following kinds of questions: how is emigration represented / examined / framed in the literary and visual arts of this period? What does it mean to commit one’s emigrant experience to paper / canvas / the stage? In what instances do we see a rapprochement or, conversely, a clash of an artist’s “birth” culture with that of their adopted city, Paris? What roles do foreign language acquisition and issues of translation play in the literary and artistic works (and their publication and distribution) of these émigré writers and visual artists?

While the emigration narrative is the thematic centerpiece of this course, we will also acquire and hone our critical reading and writing skills throughout the semester. The objective of this R&C course is to learn how to write a sophisticated and well-argued college paper – a crucial skill for the successful completion of this course, specifically, and the bachelor’s degree, generally.

REQUIRED TEXTS (to be purchased at one of the University’s bookstores or online from sellers such as

  • Nina Berberova,The Billancourt Tales, Marian Schwartz (New Directions, 2009) (ISBN: 0811218333)
  • Irène Némirovsky, The Ball, Sandra Smith (Knopf, 2008) (ISBN:0307267083) (Will be made available in photocopy-format)
  • Irène Némirovsky, Dimanche and Other Stories Bridget Patterson (Vintage, 2010) (ISBN:0307476367)
  • Ernest Hemingway,A Moveable Feast (Scribner, 2010) (ISBN: 14391827X)
  • Ernest Hemingway,The Sun Also Rises (Scribner, 2006) (ISBN: 0743297334)
  • Vladimir Nabokov,The Enchanter, Trans. D. Nabokov (Vintage, 1991) (ISBN: 0679728864)
  • Gertrude Stein,The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (Vintage, 1990) (ISBN: 067972463X)


  • Michael Harvey. The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing (2nd Edition). Hackett Publishing Co. (2013). (ISBN-10: 1603848983; ISBN-13: 978-1603848985)

(Note: this is not a complete list of the texts that we will be reading this semester. The rest of the required readings will be provided on the bCourses website.)


  • Midnight in Paris (2011) by Woody Allen
  • Paris Was a Woman (1996) by Greta Schiller

Course Requirements: Students should be prepared to read between 60-90 pages per week and to productively contribute to class discussion. The student’s final grade in the course will be determined by his or her class participation, reading quizzes, four writing assignments of various lengths in response to the texts we read and one peer review response paper.

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

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.