Skip to content

19th Century Russian Short Fiction – Two Semesters in 2015 – 2016

Fall 2015 – Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, Turgenev, and Leskov
Winter/Spring 2016 – Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov

Gogol’s “The Nose” by V. Goryaev

Gogol’s “The Nose” by V. Goryaev


Pushkin “The Queen of Spades” by Ulyanov, 1908

Designed for teens who love literature and writing, this online course will introduce students to the amazing world of Russian fiction of the 19th century. We will read and discuss some of the most celebrated and overlooked short masterpieces by major Russian writers, including Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, and Leskov in the fall, and Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov in the winter and spring.

Our class will focus on close textual analysis of the material read at home, supplemented by biographical, historical, and critical information introduced at each session. I will draw upon my Russian background to provide the students with a unique opportunity to appreciate some of the pleasures of the original Russian versions that are inevitably lost in any translation.

Class Format: The class will meet once a week for one and a half hours on Thursdays from 9:30 am to 11 am CT. Classes will consist of a 20 to 30 minute lecture by the teacher, students’ presentation, and group discussion. The combination of lecture, presentations, and discussion is a format that should prepare teens for the college environment.

Age/Maturity Level: 13+ (mainly because of the content). We are going to read adult, college-level fiction. Russian fiction may contain sexual themes and episodes of extreme violence not appropriate for younger readers. I feel strongly against having very young children present and want the teens to feel that our discussions are a place where they can express the most difficult and controversial ideas openly.

Course Requirements/Amount of Outside Work: The reading load will be considerable – up to 150 pages per week. Students are expected to read the assigned stories/novellas/novels in advance of each session and be prepared to discuss what they have read. In addition, the workload will include the reading of supplemental texts from various fields (essays, criticism, history, poetry, and philosophy); watching suggested films; writing short assignments for each class; and making one or two presentations. One analytical paper (4 to 7 pages long in the MLA format) is expected for each semester. As the class is discussion-based, students are expected to take an active part in all discussions. The teacher will be available for individual consultations through e-mail and phone calls.

Prerequisites: Students are expected to have experience writing essays. While I will encourage students to develop their ideas and style, the course is not an intended to be an introduction to English composition.

Pushkin “The Shot” by Chistyakov

Pushkin “The Shot” by Chistyakov

Evaluations: Written evaluations will be provided via email for all writing assignments and presentations. I will be evaluating papers, participation, and presentations with in-depth comments. I plan on giving grades on each paper and an end-of-the-course grade.

Paper 1: 25%
Paper 2: 30%
Class Discussion: 30%
Presentations: 15%

Estimated Cost: $289 per semester. You can sign up to take both semesters or take either the fall or winter semester separately. There will be 15% discount for the siblings taking the class. Payment is due before the first session. Payment will be accepted through PayPal. Both credit card payments and cash transfers are accepted at It is not necessary to have a Paypal account to pay with a credit card via 90% of class fees are refundable if a student withdraws before the official start of the semester. 50% of class fees are refundable during the first two sessions of the semester. After the second session, no refunds are given for any reason.

You may decide to buy the books we are going to read. Most of the books can be easily found in the public libraries or in used bookstores.

Number of Students: Minimum 8 students, maximum 16 students.

Technical requirements: All students must have a PC or Macintosh with internet access and a supported browser to participate in courses. High-speed internet is strongly recommended. A microphone or headset is required for live webinars. Headsets are strongly encouraged to reduce echo.

Tolstoy The Death of Ivan Ilych by Ilya Repin, 1896

Tolstoy The Death of Ivan Ilych by Ilya Repin, 1896

Syllabus – Fall 2015
Class 1 Sept 17 – Alexander Pushkin Tales of Belkin (“The Shot” and “The Blizzard”)
Class 2 Sept 24 – Alexander Pushkin Tales of Belkin (“The Undertaker,” “The Postmaster,” and “The Squire’s Daughter”
Class 3 Oct 1 – Alexander Pushkin The Queen of Spades and Henry James Aspern Papers
Class 4 Oct 8 – Mikhail Lermontov A Hero of Our Time (Part I)
Class 5 Oct 15 – Mikhail Lermontov A Hero of Our Time (Part II)
Class 6 Oct 22 – Nikolai Gogol Ukrainian Tales: “The Night Before Christmas,” “Old World Landowners,” and “The Story of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich”
Class 7 Oct 29 – Nikolai Gogol Petersburg Tales: “Nevsky Prospect,” “The Portrait,” and “The Diary of a Madman”
Class 8 Nov 5 – Nikolai Gogol Petersburg Tales: “The Nose” and “The Overcoat”
Class 9 Nov 12 – Ivan Turgenev A Nest of Gentry
Class 10 Nov 19 – Ivan Turgenev Fathers and Sons (Chapters 1 through17); Isaiah Berlin’s essay “Fathers and Children”
No Class Nov 26 – Thanksgiving Holiday
Class 11 Dec 3 – Ivan Turgenev Fathers and Sons (Chapters 18 through 28); the first draft of paper is due
Class 12 Dec 10 – Nikolai Leskov Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

Syllabus – Winter/Spring 2016
Class 1 Jan 14 – Fyodor Dostoevsky The Double
Class 2 Jan 21 – Fyodor Dostoevsky The Gambler
Class 3 Jan 28 – Fyodor Dostoevsky A Disgraceful Affair and “A Crocodile”
Class 4 Feb 4 – Fyodor Dostoevsky The Eternal Husband
Class 5 Feb 11 – Leo Tolstoy The Cossacks
Class 6 Feb 18 – Leo Tolstoy Strider: The Story of a Horse and “After the Ball”
Class 7 Feb 25 – Leo Tolstoy Master and Man
Class 8 Mar 3 – Leo Tolstoy Death of Ivan Ilych and “The Three Deaths”
Class 9 Mar 10 – Leo Tolstoy Hadji Murad
Class 10 Mar 17 – Chekhov Stories: “Anna on the Neck,” “The Rothschild’s Fiddle,” and “Sleepy”
Class 11 Mar 24 – Chekhov Stories: “The Man in a Case,” “Gooseberries,” “About Love,” and Tolstoy’s story “How Much Land Does a Man Need”
Class 12 Mar 31 Chekhov Stories: “Ward No. 6”, “In the Ravine,” and “The Black Monk”
No Class Apr 7 Spring Break
Class 13 Apr 14 Chekhov Stories: “The Darling” and “The Lady with a Little Dog”; the first draft of paper is due

Texts (required):
The Complete Prose Tales by Alexander Pushkin translated by Gillion R. Aitken, W. W. Norton & Company, New York and London, 1996, ISBN 978-0-393-00465-6
Alexander Pushkin: Complete Prose Fiction translated by Paul Debreczeny, Stanford University Press, 1983, ISBN 0-8047-1800-8

The Aspern Papers by Henry James (any edition)

A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontovtranslated by Martin Parker, Everyman Paperback, 1995, ISBN 0-460-87566-3 (This is the best translation, but it could be hard to find. The hardcover version has a different translation, so please check the ISBN. Here is the link:
A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov translated by Paul Foote, Penguin Classics, 2001, ISBN-13: 978-0140447958

The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol by Nikolai Gogol translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, Vintage Classics, New York, 1999, ISBN 0-375-70615-1.

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk by Nikolai Leskov translated by Robert Chandler, Hesperus Classics, 2003, ISBN-13: 978-1843910688
The Enchanted Wanderer and Other Stories by Nikolai Leskov translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, Knopf, 2013, ISBN-13: 978-0307268822

The Essential Turgenev edited by Elizabeth Cherish Allen, Northwestern University Press, 1994 ISBN 9780810110854 (it has both Turgenev’s novels)
Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev translated by Rosamond Edmonds with Isaiah Berlin’s essay “Fathers and Children,” Penguin Classics, 1965, ISBN-13: 978-0140441475

The Russian Thinkers by Isaiah Berlin (see below) also contains the essay.

Great Short Works by Leo Tolstoy translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude, Perennial Classics, 2004, ISBN-13: 978-0060586973

Great Short Works by Fyodor Dostoevsky with an introduction by Ronald Hingley, Perennial Classics, 2004, ISBN-13: 978-0060726461

All Chekhov’s stories are available free online

Chekhov’s “Anna on the Neck” by Sergei Tyunin

Chekhov’s “Anna on the Neck” by Sergei Tyunin

Texts (recommended):
Lectures on Russian Literature by Vladimir Nabokov
Russian Thinkers by Isaiah Berlin (We will read Berlin’s famous essay “Fathers and Children”)

Recommended Films:
The Overcoat (1960); stars Rolan Bykov. This Russian film is very hard to find; parts are available free online.

Nest of Gentry (1969); directed by Andron Konchalovsky; stars Irina Kupchenko. Highly recommended and available through Netflix.

The Gambler (1997); stars Michael Gambon; R-rated. The film combines Dostoevsky’s novella with the description of Dostoevsky’s life at the time.

Anyuta: A Ballet (1982); stars Ekaterina Maximova and Vladimir Vasiliev. Based on Chekhov’s story “Anna on the Neck.” It is a short masterpiece.

The Lady with the Little Dog (1960); directed by Iosef Heifits; stars Alexei Batalov and Iya Savina; received a prize at the Cannes Film Festival; the best film adaptation of Chekhov’s story.

Books on Russia, Its Culture, History, and Literature (not required):
The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture by James H. Billington, Vintage Books, 1970

Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia by Orlando Figes, Metropolitan Books, 2002

The Magical Chorus: A History of Russian Culture from Tolstoy to Solzhenitsyn by Solomon Volkov, Knopf, 2008

Land of the Firebird by Suzanne Massie, Heart Tree Press, 1980

The Penguin Historical Atlas of Russia by John Channon and Rob Hudson, Viking, 1995

Life on the Russian Country Estate: A Social and Cultural History by Priscilla Roosevelt, Yale University Press, 1995

A History of Russian Literature: From Its Beginning to 1900 by D. S. Mirsky, Northwestern University Press, 1999

A History of Russian Thought from the Enlightenment to Marxism by Andrzei Walicki, Stanford University Press, 1979


Dostoevsky’s The Double by Brusovani, 1981