ENGL 691 Seminar in World Literature. Murder, Madness, and Mayhem: Seminar in Russian Literature (Oldfield)
19th century Russian authors are famous for exploring the philosophical and moral dilemmas of the individual. In their own context, however, these authors were part of an intense social polemic on the future of Russia, the role of the educated class, and the status of colonized minorities – a polemic that would culminate in revolution and civil war. While exploring these topical issues, these writers also engaged in an ever deepening intertextual discussion on the question of personal identity, exploring issues of the fragmenting self in an increasingly unstable society. In this course we will read representative works of 19th and 20th century Russian literature while exploring the evolution of the “superfluous man” and the “strong woman” who loves him. How does the alienated intellectual evolve from nihilist to murderer to revolutionary? How do issues of class, gender, and ethnicity shape these writings? How were Russian authors both reacting to and shaping the social and political changes in their country? Were the same intellectuals betrayed by the revolution they helped bring about?
This seminar will seek to engage these questions and others through a combination of primary readings and discussions, directed research, writing, and presentation. You will be encouraged to develop your own interests and directions and to make strong connections between this body of literature and your own goals in research and writing.