Slavic 46: Twentieth-Century Russian Literature: Sex, Love, and Revolution

MWF 10-11, 234 Dwinelle. Instructor: Eric Naiman.

Units: 3 Satisfies L&S Arts & Literature breadth requirement.

This course focuses on the ways in which fiction written in the shadow of the Russian Revolution represented the transformation of the human character and of intimate relations. What was supposed to happen to gender, sexuality and love under communism? Was there room for individual attachments, or was the goal a tenderer form of communal relations? How would the male and female body change? Would there be any place for pleasure in the communist utopia? What were the greatest challenges to eliminating the vestiges of the past found in every member of the citizenry? What was the rapport of sexual relations to revolutionary violence?

Beginning with several texts that anticipate the coming political and cultural apocalypse, we will read a variety of works that deal with the reshaping of the human body and of familial relations under Soviet rule. The majority of works read in this course will have been written in the inter-war period, but we shall also read novels that look back retrospectively at the Soviet experience, as well as writing that attempts to make sense of the demise of the USSR and of the post-Soviet era.

Students will write two 5-8 page papers and take midterm and final examinations. Texts will probably include The Kreutzer Sonata (Tolstoy), The Petty Demon (Sologub), Petersburg (Bely), We (Zamyatin), Vasilisa Malygina (Kollontai), Heart of a Dog (Bulgakov). The Foundation Pit (Platonov) The Master and Margarita (Bulgakov); The House on the Embankment (Trifonov); Day of the Oprichnik (Sorokin) and stories by Pilnyak, Platonov and Babel’.

Prerequisites: None. Course and readings are in English.