Skip to content

First Love and Spring Torrents


Summer Online Workshop for Mature Teens

It was Ivan Turgenev – not Fyodor Dostoevsky or Leo Tolstoy – who stood at the pinnacle of Russian literature in the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The most civilized and cosmopolitan of the Russian writers of his time, he was a superb stylist with a command of the Russian language that was the envy of his contemporaries. Henry James and Flaubert greatly admired his work.

In reading Turgenev, we will try to understand his insights into the psychological nature of his poetics and his consistent use of artistic devices to construct narratives deeply rooted in his psychology and philosophy of life. First Love is Turgenev’s most poignant and finest aesthetic achievement. Turgenev constructs a complex narrative where all three main characters experience real love for the first time. We will look at what each of them discovers about love and how Turgenev creates narrative frames that, like a camera lens changing focus, can bring the characters’ experiences close one moment and distance them the next.

Spring Torrents is Turgenev’s reflection on his own life and on life in general. It is a story of extraordinary, haunting beauty, and it is also significant in revealing Turgenev’s intimate emotions. We will discuss the novel, together with a long essay written by Leonard Shapiro, that will illuminate Turgenev’s craft and philosophy.

Click here to register.

Class Format: The workshop will meet on three consecutive Tuesdays, July 1, 8, and 15, 2014, from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm CDT. Each session will consist of a 20 to 30 minute lecture by the teacher, followed by group discussion.

Age/Maturity Level: 15+ (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 novellas 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) and writing short assignments for each class.

Estimated Cost: $75.00. Please read the terms of payment here.

Number of Students: Minimum 5 students, maximum 16 students.

Technical Requirements: All participants 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 and a headset are required for live webinars. Headsets are strongly encouraged to reduce echo.

Workshop Syllabus:
July 1 Ivan Turgenev’s First Love
July 8 Ivan Turgenev’s Spring Torrents Chapters I through XXX (pp. 13 – 112)
July 15 Ivan Turgenev’s Spring Torrents Chapters XXXI to the end (pp. 112 – 177) and Shapiro’s Essay “Spring Torrents: Its Place and Significance in the Life and Work of Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev” (pp. 183 – 239)

First Love by Ivan Turgenev translated by Isaiah Berlin, Penguin Classics, 1978
ISBN-13: 978-0140443356

Spring Torrents by Ivan Turgenev translated by Leonard Shapiro, Penguin Classics, 1980
ISBN-13: 978-0760779095

Onion Sea Logo 100