Slavic R5B, Section 1: Peace to the Huts, War on the Palaces: Housing Crises in Literature and Art

MWF 9-10, Remote. Instructor: Dominick Lawton.

Units: 4

Anyone who lives in the Bay Area has witnessed, or directly experienced, the current housing crisis. Its familiar signs include widespread homelessness, overcrowded apartments, a shortage of space, communal living experiments. But what effects do these phenomena have on literature, or other forms of art? How can houses, apartments, and other forms of living space be used to understand novels, stories, or films? For example, does bringing unrelated characters together in the same story resemble sharing a room with a strange roommate? The Hungarian critic Georg Lukács claimed in 1914 that the main character of any novel is “transcendentally homeless”: what might he have meant? The house someone lives in—or doesn’t—reflects much about their social position; in a time of crisis, what other meanings can residential space convey?

In this course, we will reflect on the ways in which works of narrative fiction and memoir respond to shortages of, and competition over, living space. We will read several works written by authors from the Soviet Union, including Yuri Olesha, Mikhail Bulgakov, and Yuri Trifonov, and learn about the housing crises, experiments in collective living, egalitarian dreams, and new social and residential hierarchies that characterized Soviet socialism. Other texts will be drawn from British and American authors of the 20th (George Orwell, Virginia Woolf) and 21st (Ocean Vuong) centuries. We will also consider responses to the current global situation of social inequality and residential crisis, including Bong Joon-ho’s film Parasite.

Students should expect to read 60-90 pages per week, and to focus on sharpening their critical reading and argumentative writing skills throughout the course. We will engage in regular writing workshops and go through the process of crafting a research paper in detail.

Texts will include:

Yuri Olesha, Envy, trans. Marian Schwartz

Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

Yuri Trifonov, Another Life and The House on the Embankment, trans. Michael Glenny

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.