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CLS 113 — From Lenin to Putin: Russian Society through Literature, 1920-2020

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Thursdays
Course Format: On-campus (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Jan 18—Mar 21
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jan 20
Units: 2
Tuition: $550
Instructor(s): Kristen Edwards
Class Recording Available: No
Status: Open
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Jan 18—Mar 21
10 weeks
Refund Date
Jan 20
2 Units
Kristen Edwards
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Russian literature reflects the nation's shifting values, aspirations, and challenges and offers fascinating insights into its complex contemporary culture. In this course, we will walk in the footsteps of Russian novelists, poets, and short-story authors to unravel the intricate relationship between literature and real-life events, exploring how writers grapple with the pressing issues of their times. Together, we will read and discuss literary works that explore Russia’s brutal transition to communism after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, the dreary decades of Soviet rule after Stalin and Khrushchev, the retreat from communism that started with Gorbachev’s perestroika in the 1980s, and more. We will also study the fates of the authors, many of whom were silenced, while examining the role they played as societal architects, influencing and reflecting their nation’s path. From Akhmatova's introspective poetry to Bulgakov’s biting satire to Solzhenitsyn's courageous dissent, we'll uncover how Russian authors left an indelible mark on Russia's collective consciousness. Our review will culminate in a literary examination of Putin's Russia, and we’ll analyze the ways in which literature continues to play a pivotal role in shaping public discourse despite increasing state censorship. Students in this immersive course will enjoy a fascinating cultural journey guided by narratives that reflect the evolution of Russian society and will emerge with informed insights into the enigmas of contemporary Russia.

Throughout the course, the instructor will suggest relevant film adaptations of modern Russian literary classics. More details will be provided in class.

Independent Scholar

Kristen Edwards received a PhD in history from Stanford. Since then, she has taught Russian, European, and world history at Menlo College, Notre Dame de Namur University, Stanford, and the Osher Institute at Santa Clara University. She has contributed to Seventeen Moments in Soviet History (an online media archive) and led Stanford Travel/Study trips to Russia. Using her experience in faculty union work, Edwards is researching the labor movement in Russian higher education.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Yevgeny Zamyatin, We (ISBN 978-0812974621)
(Required) Mikhail Bulgakov, Mirra Ginsburg(transl)., Heart of a Dog (ISBN 978-0802150592)
(Required) Valtnine Kataev, Charles Malamuth(transl), Time, Forward! (ISBN 978-0810112476)
(Required) Alexander Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (ISBN 978-0451228147)
(Required) Sergei Dovlatov, Pushkin Hills (ISBN 978-1619024779)
(Recommended) Natalya Baranskaya, A Week Like Any Other: Novellas and Stories (ISBN 978-0931188800)
(Recommended) Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales (ISBN 978-0143114666)
(Recommended) Tatyana Tolstaya, Aetherial Worlds (ISBN 978-0525434184)
(Recommended) Lydia Chukovskaya, Sofia Petrovna (ISBN 978-0810111509)