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Mr.

Finn
Finn.patrick.thomas@gmail.com
Office Hourse: TBA
Spring Senior Elective
Russian Literature
Course Description
This is a one semester (10 week) elective focusing on Russian Literature in translation. Thematic focus
will center on several essential questions. Most of them are specific to Russian literature, but there is also
a strong focus in this course on issues of authorial intention, especially in regard to Gogol and
Dostoevsky. These authors saw themselves as conservative moralists scolds, basically --but their works
are appreciated today for their originality, boldness, humor, and psychological insight.

In what ways does 19th century Russian Literature attempt to build a cohesive sense of national
identity?
In what ways does this literature interrogate or challenge assumptions about Russian national
identity? How does it respond to the dramatic transformations the nation was undergoing?
In what different ways do authors deal with the perceived divide between Russia and
Europe? How is the influence of Europe regarded by different authors and why did they think
this was an urgent issue to interrogate?
Is it possible to establish authorial intention?
Even if you are able to establish authorial intention, should it affect your reading?

This course will focus on four authors: Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov. We will spend two
weeks with each of these authors, and only focus on short texts. Our literature readings will be heavily
supplemented with critical and historical readings.
In addition to the whole class units on these four heavy hitters, each student will be assigned to do an
independent project. They will choose a Russian author from the 19th, 20th, or 21st centuries and research
both his or her life, and one novel-length text (it may also be a collection of shorter works.) By the end of
the marking period, students will produce an essay about their author. Essay must touch on one or more of
the five essential questions for the unit. In addition, the last week of classes will be devoted to student
presentations on their authors.
Course Texts and Materials
All assignments will be posted on Canvas, Google Classroom, or some similar platform. Students will
receive syllabus but due dates are subject to change. They are encouraged to use a planner to record
changes to due dates I share in class, but should also keep an eye on the online class page.

At the beginning of the semester, students will be given all print out readings. They will be three-hole
punched in advance. Students must bring in a binder before they receive the readings I want to be sure
that they have them all in a safe place! Literary works in the binder include:
Pushkin, Alexander. The Bronze Horseman. Trans. D.M Thomas (1982)
Pushkin, Alexander. The Queen of Spades. Trans. H. Twitchell (1901)
Pushkin, Alexander. The Coffin-Maker. Trans. H. Twitchell (1901)
Chekhov, Anton. Uncle Vanya. Trans. Marian Fell (1916)
Chekhov, Anton. Ward No. 6. Trans. Constance Garnett (1921)
Critical and Historical texts in student binder include but are not limited to:
Selections from Nabokovs biographical monograph Nikolai Gogol. New Directions (1961)
Selections from Edmund Wilsons A Window Onto Russia (1974)
Peter the Great and the Westernization of Russia. From The Makers of the Western Tradition.
Ed. J. Kelly. Bedford St. Martins (1991)
Bayley, John. The Strange Death of Pushkin. New York Review of Books. (1999)
In addition to printed out readings, students will be given the following texts.
Gogol, Nikolai. Collected Tales. Trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volohonsky. New York:
Vintage (1999)
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Notes from Underground. Trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volohonsky.
New York: Vintage (1994)
Assessments
Participation
Warm-Ups Short Writing Activities
Longer In-class Writing Assignments
Short Responses (Homework)
Discussion Questions
Final Project (Presentation)
Final Project (Paper)

10%
10%
10%
10%
5%
25%
30%

Expectations for Final Project


Students will choose one name from a list of suggested Russian authors. They are also welcome to pitch
alternate suggestions. Students will research the authors life, background, and critical perspectives on
their work. They will also read one novel-length text by this author. In the case of poets, they will study a
collection of poems rather than a single poem. The presentation should place roughly equal emphasis on
the authors biography and the chosen literary text, while in the paper students will be expected to
examine the text in further depth.
Presentations will be graded on the following criteria:
Clarity and organization of the presentation. It should be engaging and easy to follow. Students in
the class should walk away with some understanding of the author.
Relevance of included information, either to course themes or to issues of personal interest to the
student.

The final paper should be at least five pages long and include proper MLA formatting. Students must
choose at least two outside sources in addition to the literary text they examine. The understanding is that
students will design their own essay prompt or central question that relates their chosen text with one
or more of essential questions we have discussed throughout the course. In the process of designing their
inquiry, students will receive support from the instructor. Essay prompts, outlines, and rough drafts will
all be submitted before the final due date.
The paper will be assessed according to this rubric:

CATEGORY

Introduction/
Thesis
____

*exceptional
introduction that
grabs interest of
reader and states
topic.
**thesis is
exceptionally clear,
arguable, welldeveloped, and a
definitive statement.

*proficient
introduction that
is interesting and
states topic.
**thesis is clear
and arguable
statement of
position.

*basic
introduction that
states topic but
lacks interest.
**thesis is
somewhat clear
and arguable.

*weak or no
introduction of
topic.
**papers
purpose is
unclear/thesis is
weak or missing.

Quality of
Information/
Evidence.

*paper is
exceptionally
researched,
extremely detailed,
and historically
accurate. Contains
two or more
excellent outside
sources, and
integrates them
effectively.

*information
relates to the
main topic.
**paper is wellresearched in
detail and draws
on two or more
excellent
sources.
**Solid attempt is
made to follow
MLA formatting.

*information
relates to the
main topic, few
details and/or
examples are
given.
**shows a limited
variety of
sources.
**Few citations,
or citations are
inappropriat-ely
formatted

*information has
little or nothing to
do with the
thesis.
**information has
weak or no
connection to the
thesis.
*** Nothing is
cited.

Support of
Thesis/Analysis
____

*exceptionally
critical, relevant and
consistent
connections made
between evidence
and thesis.
**excellent analysis.

*consistent
connections
made between
evidence and
thesis
**good analysis.

*some
connections
made between
evidence and
thesis.
**some analysis.

*limited or no
connections
made between
evidence and
thesis.
**lack of analysis.

Organization/
Development of
Thesis
____

*exceptionally clear,
logical, mature, and
thorough
development of
thesis with excellent
transitions between
and within
paragraphs.

*clear and logical


order that
supports thesis
with good
transitions
between and
within
paragraphs.

*somewhat clear
and logical
development
with basic
transitions
between and
within
paragraphs.

*lacks
development of
ideas with weak
or no transitions
between and
within
paragraphs.

Conclusion
____

*excellent summary
of topic with
concluding ideas that
impact reader.
**introduces no new
information.

*good summary
of topic with
clear concluding
ideas.
**introduces no
new information.

*basic summary
of topic with
some final
concluding ideas.
**introduces no
new information.

*lack of summary
of topic.

Proper MLA Citation


Formatting. (See
packet and
slideshow on
Google Classroom
for more details)

Style/Voice
____

*style and voice are


not only appropriate
to the given
audience and
purpose, but also
show originality and
creativity.
**word choice is
specific, purposeful,
dynamic and varied.
***sentences are
clear, active (subjectverb-object), and to
the point.

*style and voice


appropriate to
the given
audience and
purpose.
**word choice is
specific and
purposeful, and
somewhat varied
throughout.
***sentences are
mostly clear,
active (SVO),
and to the point.

*style and voice


somewhat
appropriate to
given audience
and purpose.
**word choice is
often unspecific,
generic,
redundant, and
clichd.
***sentences are
somewhat
unclear;
excessive use of
passive voice.

*style and voice


inappropriate or
do not address
given audience,
purpose, etc.
**word choice is
excessively
redundant,
clichd, and
unspecific.
***sentences are
very unclear.

Grammar/Usage/
Mechanics
____

*control of grammar,
usage, and
mechanics.
**almost entirely free
of spelling,
punctuation, and
grammatical errors.

*may contain few


spelling,
punctuation, and
grammar errors.

*contains several
spelling,
punctuation, and
grammar errors
which detract
from the papers
readability.

*so many
spelling,
punctuation, and
grammar errors
that the paper
cannot be
understood.