Twentieth Century Russian Literature

Home/ Twentieth Century Russian Literature
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Discipline CoreSOL2EN3324

Semester and Year Offered: Semesters II and IV, Winter Semester 2020

Course Coordinator: Dr. Bhoomika Meiling

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: None

Course Objectives/Description:

This course focuses on literature which represents the myriad political and socio-cultural shifts in Russia across first half of the eventful twentieth century. Beginning with the aftermath of the Russian Revolution of 1905, the course would meander through a study of poetry, drama, art and fiction around Bolshevik Revolution, the World Wars, the rise and fall of Stalinism and the chaotic period of Thaw to forge an understanding of the complex realities that define issues related to identity, creativity and selfhood in twentieth century Russia.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Module 1: The Revolution and the Socialist Order: This module will begin with a study of the literary scenario in Russia in 1905. After introducing the students with the literary and political background of the revolution, a detailed study of Modernism and avant garde movements in Russia will be undertaken. Blok’s poetry will be studied as an example of the merging of certain modernist themes with the ideals of the revolution.

Primary Readings:

V. I. ‘Constructing the Socialist Order’. Speeches that Changed the World. Ed. Alan J. Whiticker. New Delhi: Jaico, 2010.

Blok, Alexander. ‘The Twelve’. Selected Poems. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1981.

Background Readings:

Gasparov, Boris. ‘Poetry of the Silver Age’. The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth Century Literature. Eds. Evgeny Dobrenko and Marina Balina. Cambridge: CUP, 2011. pp 1-21.

Pyman, Avril. ‘Introduction’. Selected Poems: Alexander Blok. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1972. pp. 1-53.

Suggested Readings:

Brown, Edward J. Russian Literature since the Revolution. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1982.

Presto, Jenifer. Beyond the Flesh: Alexander Gippius, Zinaida Gippius and the Symbolist Sublimation of Sex. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 2008.

Module 2: The Dissident Modernist Poet: Taking the discussion on the fate of Modernism further, in this module, a study of the poetry of Mandelstaum, Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva will ensue. The role of state repression in the lives and art of these poets will be discussed. Their refusal to accept the new order uncritically serves as a juxtaposition for the next module which details the writing of those authors who accepted the socialist regime with enthusiasm initially (and in some cases, under duress later). Students will be required to make short presentations after the completion of this module on Russian modernist art and music of Repin, Kandinsky, Chagall, Goncharova, Grigoriev, Reorich, Stravinsky and Shostakovich as an attempt to understand views on art and culture that informed the social life in avante garde circles.

Primary Readings:

Osip Mandelstaum: ‘The Morning of Acmeism’, ‘We Live without Feeling’, ‘Accept to Your Joy’, ‘I See Nothing at all’, ‘I, Equally with Others’ in Soviet Poetry: Russian Poets 1917-1967. N.p., 1967.

Anna. ‘Requiem’. Anna Akhmatova: Selected Poems. Trans. D. M. Thomas. London: Penguin Books, 1988.

Tsvetaeva: ‘Hello from A Train’, ‘Another Prayer’, ‘To Literary Prosecutors’, To Vladimir Mayakovsky’, ‘An attempt at Jealousy’ in Tsvetaeva: Selected Poems. Ed. Elaine Feinstein. New York: Penguin Books, 1993.

Background Reading: Selections from

Cohen, Aaron J. World War, Modern Art, and the Politics of Public Culture in Russia: 1914-17. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2008.

Suggested Readings:

Anderson, Nancy K. Anna Akhmatova: The Word that Causes Death’s Defeat. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004.

Simon. Marina Tsvetaeva: The Woman, Her World and Her Poetry. Cambridge: C.U.P., 1985.

Cavanagh, Clare. Osip Mandelstaum and the Modernist Creation of Tradition. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1995.

Module 3: Changes in the Socialist Order and The Soviet Artist: Poetry, drama and prose written in support of socialist realism will be studied in this module. Speeches by Stalin and Krushchev will be used as background readings to understand the social and political environment of the 1930s and 40s in Russia. The relevance of samizdat in connection with the kind of writing that was promoted openly will be discussed.

Primary Readings:

Gorky, Maxim. Lower Depths (1902). London: Dover Publications, 2003.*

Vladimir. ‘The Bedbug’. Plays, Articles, Essays: Vladimir Mayakovsky. Vol.3. Moscow: Raduga, 1987.

Prologue to A Poem of the Five Year Plan’. V. Mayakovsky: Longer Poems. Vol.2. Moscow: Raduga, 1986.

Olesha, Yuri. ‘From the Secret Notebook of Fellow-Traveller Sand’. Envy and Other Works. Trans. Andrew R. MacAndrew. New York: Doubleday, 1967.

Kataev, Valentin. ‘Squaring the Circle: A Vaudeville in Three Acts’. Eight Twentieth Century Russian Plays. Ed. Timothy Langen and Justin Weir. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 2000.

Isaac. ‘The End of the Almshouse’ and ‘Diary entry: June 3, 1920. Zhitomir’. Complete Works of Isaac Babel. Eds. Nathalie Babel and Cynthia Ozick. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2001.

Sholokhov, Mikhail. The Fate of A Man. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1958.

Background Reading:

Gorky, Maxim. ‘Soviet Literature’. Maxim Gorky: Collected Works. Vol.X: On Literature. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1982.

Zamyatin, Yevgeny. We. Tr. Clarence Brown. London: Penguin, 1993.

Suggested Readings:

Ushakov, Alexander. ‘Vladimir Mayakovsky: Poet of A New World’. Selected Verse: Volume I. Vladimir Mayakovsky. Trans. Victor Christyakov. Moscow: Raduga, 1985. pp. 7-28

Freidin, Gregory. The Enigma of Isaac Babel: Biography, History, Context. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009.

Module 4: Dissent in Prose: An understanding of dissent in Socialist Russia will be forged through the readings in this module. Through an exploration of the publication histories of some of these texts, the international perception about USSR and the politics involved therein will also be studies.

Primary Readings:

Bulgakov, Mikhail. The Master and Margarita. London: Penguin Classics, 2007.#

Selections from: Bunin, Ivan. Cursed Days: A Diary of Revolution. Tr. Thomas Gaiton Marullo. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1998.*

Selections from: Solzhenitsyn, Alexander. Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956. New York: Perennial Classics, 1985

Pasternak, Boris. Dr. Zhivago. New York: Pantheon Books, 1958.

Suggetsed Readings:

Solzhenitsyn, Alexander. Cancer Ward. London: Vintage, 2003.

Carter, Stephen. The Politics of Solzhenitsyn. London: Macmillan, 1977.

Finn, Peter and Petra Couvee. The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin,The CIA and The Battle over a Forbidden Book. London: Random House, 2007.

Curtis, J.A.E. Ed. Manuscripts Don’t Burn: Mikhail Bulgakov: A Life in Letters. New York: Penguin, 2012.

Perova, Natasha. Ed. More About Bulgakov and Mandelstam. Moscow: Glas- New Russian Writing, 1993.

Other Suggested Readings:

Stalin, J.V. ‘Speech Delivered at a Meeting of Voters of the Stalin Electoral District, Moscow’. Speeches that Changed the World. Ed. Alan J. Whiticker. New Delhi: Jaico, 2010.

Nikita. ‘The Cult of the Individual’. Speeches that Changed the World. Ed. Alan J. Whiticker. New Delhi: Jaico, 2010.

Reed, John. 10 Days that Shook the World. London: Penguin Classics, 2007.

Gorky, Maxim. Mother. New Delhi: Jaico Publications, 2003.

Vladimir. Lectures on Russian Literature. New York: Harcourt. Inc., 1981.pp. 12-19, 183-198.

Bakhtin, M.M. Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Trans. Verne W. McGee.

Eds. Caryl Emerson, Michael Holquist. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1986.

Bethea, David M. The Shape of Apocalypse in Modern Russian Fiction. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1989.

Terras, Victor. Handbook of Russian Literature. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990.

Wachtel, Andrew Baruch, Ilya Vinitsky. Russian Literature. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2009.

*These texts are not included in the reader. They will be made available separately.

# Please buy your own copy of this novel.

Tentative Assessment schedule with details of weightage:

S.NoAssessmentDate/period in which Assessment will take placeWeightage
1Class testEnd of January/Early February10%
2Mid Semester ExamMid- March20%
3Presentation First week of April30%
4Class testMid- April10%
5Term PaperEnd of April30%