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19th Century Russian Short Fiction – Two Semesters in 2020 -2021

Fall 2020 – Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, and Turgenev
Winter/Spring 2021 – 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.

Blended Class Format (Synchronous and Asynchronous Classroom): This is a blended course. This means that we will meet synchronously through a live webinar using Electa or Zoom software once a week for 23 weeks (10 weeks for fall semester and 13 weeks for winter/spring semester) for an hour and a half. We will also meet online using Canvas learning management system, and participation in all online activities is required. Students will find that the synchronous and asynchronous components of the class are interdependent and integrated.

Synchronous Component: The first synchronous session will start on Wednesday, September 23 (the time TBD). The last synchronous meeting will be on December 2 for the fall semester and on April 14 for the winter/spring semester (no synchronous class on Thanksgiving week, Christmas break, and Spring break). Synchronous classes will consist of a short 15 to 20-minute lecture by the teacher, students’ presentations, and group discussions. The combination of lecture, presentations, and discussions is a format that should prepare teens for the college environment.

Asynchronous Component: Online participation is required every week. A brief video orientation overview of the online classroom will be available at least a week before the class starts. The classroom will include an Announcements area used for weekly updates, the Discussions area, the Modules area, the Syllabus area, and the Assignment area. Students will post their weekly short reflection paragraphs on the Weekly Reflections Discussion forum, which will be opened on Wednesday evening before a new week begins, and ask questions or comment on the responses of their classmates. The paragraphs will be due by 10 pm on Tuesdays before our synchronous class, and all comments are due not later than 2 hours before each synchronous class. A good question is as valued as a comment. Students need to finish reading the assigned chapters or watch a film, write a paragraph, and comment on other students’ paragraphs before the synchronous session. No paragraph is required for the first class. There will be a general Q&A forum where questions about class requirements and assignments may be asked. Students are encouraged to participate actively on all forums and extra points will be awarded for helping others and building an online community. Students will be working on their final papers in December and April, and all the revisions should be finished not later than December 19 and May 1.

Tolstoy The Death of Ivan Ilych by Ilya Repin, 1896

Tolstoy The Death of Ivan Ilych by Ilya Repin, 1896

Course Requirements/Amount of Outside Work: This is a college-level class, and as such it has a corresponding workload and expectations. The reading will be considerable – up to 150 pages per week. Students are expected to read the assigned selections in advance of each online discussion and be prepared to actively discuss the assigned reading during the synchronous session. The workload will include weekly supplemental reading (essays, criticism, history, and poetry); watching films; weekly short written assignments and comments; and up to four PowerPoint presentations (1 or 2 presentations each semester) on relevant, individually-researched topics. After a few introductory sessions, each student will “adopt” one particular writer, poet, artist, film director, or scientist, and will follow his or her life through the first part of the 20th century. Each student will make a presentation to demonstrate the results of the research and write a research paper on their adopted person which is due at the end of the year. In addition, students will also be expected to write and revise one analytical paper (6 to 10 pages long in the MLA format) per semester. The teacher provides general guidelines on the issue of Academic Integrity and Plagiarism. The teacher will log on to the online classroom nearly every day. The Q&A discussion forum is generally the best place to ask most questions. The teacher will also be available for individual consultations through e-mail and Skype calls. Communication with students is important to me!

Evaluations and Transcripts: Written or voice evaluations will be provided for all writing assignments and presentations. A detailed Participation Rubric will be posted online under the Course Materials area and under the Syllabus for grading criteria and expectations. At the end of each semester, students will receive grades on the final paper and an end-of-the-course grade. Detailed course descriptions and student evaluations will be sent to the students; these can also be sent to colleges/universities upon request.

Grades: Grades are based on a scale of 100 points and are distributed among major assignments as follows (I won’t rely on Canvas for awarding grades but will use a holistic approach):
Active participation in online weekly discussion forums: 30 points
Active participation in the synchronous session discussion: 25 points
Presentations during the synchronous session: 15 points
Final analytical papers: 30 points
Helping others on the forums will give students extra points!
Grading scale: A: 90-100; B: 80-89; C: 70-79; D: 60-69, F: 59 or below

Tuition: $299.00 per semester. 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.

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 participation in live webinars. Headsets are strongly encouraged to reduce echo.

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

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

Syllabus – Fall 2020 (Synchronous Meetings on Wednesdays at 12:15 p.m. CT for 90 minutes)
Class 1 Sept 23 – Alexander Pushkin Tales of Belkin (“The Shot” and “The Blizzard”)
Class 2 Sept 30 – Alexander Pushkin Tales of Belkin (“The Undertaker,” “The Postmaster,” and “The Squire’s Daughter”
Class 3 Oct 7 – Alexander Pushkin The Queen of Spades
Class 4 Oct 14 – Mikhail Lermontov A Hero of Our Time (Part I)
Class 5 Oct 21 – Mikhail Lermontov A Hero of Our Time (Part II)
Class 6 Oct 28 – Nikolai Gogol Ukrainian Tales: “The Night Before Christmas” and “Old World Landowners”
Class 7 Nov 4 – Nikolai Gogol Petersburg Tales: “The Portrait,” and “The Diary of a Madman”
Class 8 Nov 11 – Nikolai Gogol Petersburg Tales: “The Nose” and “The Overcoat”
Class 9 Nov 18 – Ivan Turgenev Fathers and Sons (Chapters 1 through17); Isaiah Berlin’s essay “Fathers and Children”
No Class Nov 25 – Thanksgiving Holiday
Class 10 Dec 2 – Ivan Turgenev Fathers and Sons (Chapters 18 through 28);
Dec 9 – the first draft of paper is due

Syllabus – Winter/Spring 2021 (Synchronous Meetings on Wednesdays at 12:15 p.m. CT for 90 minutes)
Class 1 Jan 13 – Fyodor Dostoevsky The Double
Class 2 Jan 20 – Fyodor Dostoevsky The Gambler
Class 3 Jan 27 – Fyodor Dostoevsky A Disgraceful Affair and “A Crocodile”
Class 4 Feb 3 – Fyodor Dostoevsky The Eternal Husband
Class 5 Feb 10 – Leo Tolstoy The Cossacks
Class 6 Feb 17 – Leo Tolstoy Strider: The Story of a Horse and “After the Ball”
Class 7 Feb 24 – 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”
No Class Mar 24
Class 11 Mar 31 – Chekhov Stories: “The Man in a Case,” “Gooseberries,” “About Love,” and Tolstoy’s story “How Much Land Does a Man Need”
Class 12 Apr 7 Chekhov Stories: “Ward No. 6”, “In the Ravine,” and “The Black Monk”
Class 13 Apr 14 Chekhov Stories: “The Darling” and “The Lady with a Little Dog”
April 21 – 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

A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov translated 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.

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

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

Recommended Films:
The Overcoat (1960); stars Rolan Bykov.

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.


Dostoevsky’s The Double by Brusovani, 1981

Learning Outcomes
1) Read literary, historical, and cultural texts with discernment and comprehension and with an understanding of their conventions and the dominant intellectual, political, and cultural trends of the period.
2) Draw on relevant cultural and/or historical information to situate texts within their cultural, political, and historical contexts.
3) Perform critical, formal analyses of literary texts and discover the role of literature in society, specific literary movements, genres, techniques, and devices.
4) Conduct research, organize collected material, and write a research paper.
5) Write focused, analytical essays in clear, grammatical prose.
6) Employ logic, creativity, and interpretive skills to produce original, persuasive arguments. Improve the ability to articulate ideas; ask relevant questions; formulate and support points; respond productively to others’ ideas.
7) Employ primary and/or secondary sources, with proper acknowledgment and citation, as they contribute to a critical essay’s thesis.