Slavic R5B, Section 2: The City and the Country in Russian and American Culture

MWF 9-10, Remote. Instructor: Maria Whittle.

Units: 4

Are cities utopian centers of modern progress, or dark places of corruption and greed? Is the countryside an ecological and spiritual paradise, or a stagnant backwater where boredom and inefficiency quash creativity and self-expression? As literary critic Raymond Williams wrote, “A contrast between country and city, as fundamental ways of life, reaches back into classical times. Yet the real history, throughout, has been astonishingly varied.” Why are our assumptions about the city and countryside so varied, and why does the contrast between them remain so strong? This class will explore literary depictions of the city, the countryside, and the strange spaces that exist in between. In doing so, we will explore questions such as: Why do some people seek self-definition in the wilderness while others flock to metropolitan centers? How does literature map physical spaces and shape our assumptions about them? What makes a text or artwork “urban” or “rural”? And how do the spaces we consider familiar influence our understanding of the unfamiliar? At the same time, we will develop research skills that will help us analyze the contexts and ideologies that shape textual depictions of space and our interpretations of them.

Readings will include works by Russian writers Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekhov, and Valentin Rasputin, as well as American writers Truman Capote, Carson McCullers, and Tommy Orange.

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

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.

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.