RUSSIAN 357 - Russian Drama in Context: From the Enlightenment to Post-Modernism
Section: 001
Term: WN 2010
Subject: Russian (RUSSIAN)
Department: LSA Slavic Languages & Literatures
Requirements & Distribution:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

This course explores the nature and function of Russian drama in its theatrical, political, and social contexts from the 18th through the 20th centuries. It highlights how drama helped to define Russian national identity and to address the challenging reality of the empire-building process. It also examines how Western European literary traditions influenced Russian drama and how Russian playwrights contributed to world literature. Emphasis will be placed on political, esthetic, gender and religious issues. No prior knowledge of Russian literature, language, or history is required.

This course discusses literary masterpieces that have won international recognition (plays by Pushkin, Chekhov, and Bulgakov) and contextualizes them historically and ideologically. It addresses a broad range of issues dealing with interactions of fictional genres, evolution of esthetic norms, intellectual developments, political stereotypes, and national identities. We will approach 19th-20th century Russian drama as a powerful vehicle that expressed and conveyed to the public various interpretations of crucial political, social, and cultural issues. We will also focus on the evolution of Russian play-making in order to reveal its role in a changing intellectual environment. The course examines how various dramatic forms are structured, how style creates meaning, and how art, as an ideological tool, can ultimately transcend the limits of ideology. It familiarizes students with the best achievements of Russian drama in a broader European context, while seeking to show what was universal and what was distinctive in the Russian case. The course requires extensive reading (around 100-150 pages for each session) and extensive analytical writing (24-28 pages per term), peer-editing exercises, and substantial revisions of two papers. Topics include love and modernity, utopia, metropolis-colony relations, ethnic intolerance, gender and religious issues.

Acclaimed for its fictional prose, Russian literature has also produced a wide array of dramatic forms (comedies, tragedies, vaudevilles) that have profoundly enriched the Russian intellectual landscape. This course reviews and analyzes the nature and function of Russian drama in its theatrical, political, and social contexts. We will discuss the major playwrights who worked from the birth of modern Russian literature in the eighteenth century through the Soviet times in order to address a set of diverse issues: How did play-making and theatrical production help the dramatists to define Russianness? Why did almost all famous poets and prose-writers – from Pushkin and Gogol to Chekhov and Bulgakov – also find it necessary, at some point in their lives, to express themselves in dramatic forms? How did play-making help them – and society as a whole – respond to political pressures? In what ways did drama portray the challenging reality of the Russian empire – questions of metropolis-colony relations, ethnic diversity, gender and religious identities? We will address these fundamental issues by exploring key plays in the context of political and literary debates. Each play included in the course will be coupled with short texts of other genres to make it possible for us to integrate drama and theater into a larger picture of Russian history, society, and thought. We will discuss how and why the rich Western European literary tradition influenced Russian drama and to what extent Russian playwrights, Chekhov in particular, contributed to world literature. Throughout the course, we will also highlight how Russian play-making evolved in a world of shifting esthetic expectations and explosive poetic innovations.

Crs Requirements: Attendance at lectures, participation in class discussions, two short papers (6-7 pages each), a longer paper (12-14 pages), a midterm and a final examination. The two short papers will be peer-reviewed and re-submitted after substantial revisions. The longer paper, basically, a less formal essay, will involve discussion of a screen adaptation or a theatrical production of any play included in the course and a comparison between it and the original text (with an emphasis on the differences of messages and esthetic appeal).

Intended Audience: Slavic concentrators/minors and other students interested in Slavic cultural studies

Class Format: 3 hours of lecture with 15-20 minutes discussion to wrap up each class

RUSSIAN 357 - Russian Drama in Context: From the Enlightenment to Post-Modernism
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
MW 4:00PM - 5:30PM
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