Russian 420

Women in Russian Literature

Instructor: Ms. Thompson (

Time: TBA

Reading List

Aleksandr Pushkin, The Queen of Spades (Signet)

Nadezhda Durova, The Cavalry Maiden (Indiana U Press)

Nikolai Leskov, "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk" (Viking)

Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons (Airmont or Bantam)

Anton Chekhov, Three Sisters (Grove or Dover or any edition)

Sofya Tolstaya, Countess Tolstaya ‘s Later Diary (Ayer), excerpts

Anna Akhmatova, Poems, tr. Coffin (Norton)

Liudmila Petrushevskaya, Time: Night (Random)

Tatiana Tolstaya, Sleepwalker in a Fog (Knopf)

Valeriia Novodvorskaia, "Throw Overboard All that Smells of Blood" (English tr.,<

Class Format

Active class participation will be required. Students will be assigned several works from the reading list and will be asked to deliver oral reports on them.


four oral reports -- 50% of the grade

two papers (ca. 1,500 words each) -- up to 50% of the grade

final examination (optional)

(there will be no final examination for A students)

Description of course

This course has several objectives.

First, it seeks to acquaint students with the portrayals of women in the classical works of Russian literature (Pushkin, Leskov, Turgenev, Chekhov, Akhmatova, Durova).

Second, it introduces students to contemporary postcommunist women writers (Petrushevskaia, Tolstaia, Novodvorskaia). Their portrayals of women and women's issues differ sharply from those conveyed by the classical works.

Third, it foregrounds culture-specific problems of Russian women, past and present.

Fourth, it seeks to develop a student’s ability to approach literary texts independently of the professor. This involves a series of projects run by students. Oral reports are followed by student-led discussions with no prior lecturing by the professor. After each monitored discussion, the professor picks up at the point where the students left off.


Updated 05/12/10