Slavic R5A, Section 3: Writing in Emigration: Russian and American Literary and Cultural Life in Interwar Paris

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.

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, Vladimir Khodasevich, 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) that 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.

Students will be asked to purchase the following texts:

Nina Berberova, The Billancourt Tales, Trans. Marian Schwartz (New Directions, 2009) (ISBN:   0811218333)

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)

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 in a course-reader or on the bCourses website.