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19th Century Russian Literature and Film Adaptations – Fall 2021 and Winter/Spring 2021 to 2022

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 masterpieces by Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov. You are welcome to register for both semesters or for one semester.

Fall Semester 2021: Dostoevsky’s Short Fiction, Crime and Punishment, and Dostoevsky in Film


Illustration to Crime and Punishment. Artist Dmitry Shmarinov

Crime and Punishment is Dostoevsky’s first great novel of his mature period, and we will read it against Dostoevsky’s two romantic novellas, White Nights and The Dream of a Ridiculous Man. During our discussions, we will address important questions: What is the real motivation for Raskolnikov’s crime, a search for which provides a greater suspense than a search for a criminal in a conventional murder mystery? Why is Raskolnikov not running away from the crime but moves towards it? How does Dostoevsky force the reader into empathy for the brutal and bloody murderer for the first time in literature? Is the Epilogue necessary, although it is often disregarded by some critics? Why do Dostoevsky’s characters both attract and repel the reader?

We will examine the polyphonic quality of Dostoevsky’s art: the presence in his texts of persistent “other voices” generated by the narrator, frequent inner dialogue, a stream of literary quotations and allusions. We will pay particular attention to the connection between Raskolnikov and the city. St. Petersburg seemed to Dostoevsky “the most intentional and abstract city.” We will read Crime and Punishment in an outstanding translation by Oliver Ready. Ready’s translation is the closest to Dostoevsky’s style, bringing the vitality and humor of the original.

Required Texts:
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky translated by Oliver Ready, Penguin Classics, New York, 2015 ISBN: 978-0-14-310763-7

Great Short Works of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Perennial Classics, New York, 2004 ISBN: 0-06-072646-6

Syllabus – Fall 2021 Wednesdays, 10:00-11:30 am Central Time

Class 1 Sept 22 White Nights
Class 2 Sept 29 Crime and Punishment Part 1
Class 3 Oct 6 Crime and Punishment Part 2
Class 4 Oct 13 Crime and Punishment Part 3
Class 5 Oct 20 Crime and Punishment Part 4
Class 6 Oct 27 Crime and Punishment Part 5
Class 7 Nov 3 Crime and Punishment Part 6
Class 8 Nov 10 Crime and Punishment Epilogue and Treasure Hunt Presentations
Class 9 Nov 17 The Dream of a Ridiculous Man and Crime and Punishment Film Adaptations
Dec 8 First Draft of the Final Essay is due

Recommended Films:
Crime and Punishment, directed by Dmitry Svetozarov. DVD (416 min) by Maramant, 2007
Crime and Punishment, directed by Kulidjanov. Starring Georgy Taratorkin and Innokenty Smoktunovsky by Ruscico, 1969
Crime and Punishment, directed by Robert Wiene. (88 min), 1923
Pickpocket, directed by Robert Bresson. (75 min), 1959
Zbrodnia i kara, directed by Piotr Dumala. (30 min), 2002
White Nights, directed by Luchino Visconti. (102 min), 1957
The Dream of a Ridiculous Man, directed by Alexander Petrov. (20 min), 1992

Winter/Spring Semester 2022: Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Chekhov’s Annas, and Film Adaptations

Anna by Sokolov (1946)

Anna by Sokolov (1946)

Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is truly a masterpiece, and his heroine perhaps the most vital and intensely romantic woman in Western literature. Tolstoy is profoundly concerned with the values of late 19th century Russian and Western society as he struggles to discover what constitutes the good life and to understand why there is such a difference between the way we live and the way we ought to live.

The class will examine historical, social, philosophical, and literary concerns in Russia and Western Europe at the time: “the women’s question”, gender roles, social hypocrisy and constriction of individual self-expression and fulfillment, the role of art, the impact of the railroad, industrialization and urbanization, the role of agriculture, the peasants in post-emancipation Russia, and the role of the family on the path to human happiness. Together we will explore how the theme that had deeply concerned Tolstoy—the function of moral responsibility – encompasses the whole action of Anna Karenina.


“Lady with a Little Dog” Artist: Kukrynisksy (1953)

Two short stories about Annas – “The Lady with the Little Dog” and “Anna on the Neck” – are considered Chekhov’s riposte to Anna Karenina. Comparing the stories and the novel, the students will examine the universality and symbolism of Tolstoy’s Anna, as well as the differences between Chekhov’s realism and Tolstoy’s. I will draw upon my Russian background to provide the students with a unique chance to appreciate some of the pleasures of the original Russian versions of Anna Karenina and Chekhov’s stories that are inevitably lost in any translation. We will look closely, for example, at the semantics and pronunciation of the Russian names (frequently anglicized and jarring the Russian text) and their diminutives, used by Tolstoy with great care – to discover that they may have different meanings and connotations.

Syllabus – Winter/Spring 2022 (meeting times TBD)
Class 1 Jan 19 Anna Karenina, Part 1, Chapters 1 through 21, pp. 3 – 89
Class 2 Jan 26 Anna Karenina, end of Part 1; Part 2, Chapters 1 through 11, pp. 89 – 172
Class 3 Feb 2 Anna Karenina, end of Part 2, pp. 172 – 270
Class 4 Feb 9 Anna Karenina, Part 3, pp. 271 – 403
Class 5 Feb 16 Anna Karenina, Part 4, pp. 404 – 496
Class 6 Feb 23 Anna Karenina, Part 5, pp. 497 – 624
Class 7 Mar 2 Anna Karenina, Part 6, pp. 625 – 758
Class 8 Mar 9 Anna Karenina, Part 7, pp. 759 – 868
Class 9 March 16 Anna Karenina, Part 8, pp. 869 – 923
No Class March 23 Spring Break
Class 10 March 30 Chekhov’s “Anna on the Neck” and “Lady with a Little Dog”
Class 11 April 6 Anna Karenina and Chekhov’s Annas in Film: Discussion of Film Adaptations
April 20 First Draft of the Final Essay is due

Required Text List:
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy translated by Constance Garnett; revised by Leonard J. Kent and Nina Berberova, The Modern Library Classics, 2000 (ISBN: 0-679-78330-X).

Chekhov stories are available here:

Anna Karenina Film Adaptations:
Anna Karenina, directed by Vladimir Gardin. Performers: Maria Germanova, Vladimir Shaternikov. Russkaia Zolotaia Seria, 1914
Love,  directed by Edmund Goulding. Performers: Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, and Brandon Hurst. MGM, 1927
Anna Karenina,  directed by Clarence Brown. Performers: Greta Garbo, Frederic March, and Basil Rathbone. MGM, 1935
Anna Karenina,  directed by Julien Duvivier. Performers: Vivien Leigh, Kieron Moore, and Ralph Richardson. London Film; Twentieth Century Fox, 1948
Anna Karenina, directed by Rudolph Cartier. Performers: Claire Bloom, Sean Connery, and Marius Goring. BBC, 1961 (TV series)
Anna Karenina,  directed by Alexander Zarkhi. Performers: Tatiana Samoilova, Nikolai Gritzenko, and Vasily Lanovoy. Mosfilm, 1967 (All students need to watch this adaptation.)
Anna Karenina,  directed by Margarita Pilikhina. Performers: Maya Plisetskaya, Alexander Godunov, and the Bolshoi Ballet, 1974 (ballet)
Anna Karenina,  directed by Simon Langton. Performers: Jacqueline Bisset, Christopher Reeve, and Paul Scofield. Colgems; Rastar, 1985 (TV series)
Hannah and Her Sisters,  directed by Woody Allen. Performers: Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest, Barbara Hershey, and Michael Caine. MGM, 1986
Anna Karenina,  directed by Bernard Rose. Performers: Sophie Marceau, Sean Bean, Alfred Molina, and James Fox. Icon Entertainment Intl.; Warner Brothers, 1997
Anna Karenina,  directed by Sergei Soloviev. Performers: Tatiana Drubich. Russian TV series (5 episodes), 2009 (in Russian)
Anna Karenina,  directed by Joe Wright. Performers: Keira Knightley, Jude Law. Focus Features, 2012

Film Adaptations of Chekhov’s Stories:
Anyuta: A Ballet,  directed by Alexander Belinsky. Performers: Ekaterina Maximova and Vladimir Vasiliev. Vai DVD, 1982 (ballet)
The Lady with the Little Dog. directed by Iosif Heifits. Performers: Iya Savvina and Alexei Batalov. Ruscico, 1960. (with English subtitles)

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.

Blended Class Format (Synchronous and Asynchronous Classroom): This is a blended course. This means that we will meet synchronously through a live webinar using Zoom software once a week for an hour and a half. We will also meet online using Canvas learning management system during the week, 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: Synchronous classes will take place on Wednesdays (the time will be determined based of students’ availability) and 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 Assignments area. Students will post their weekly short reflection paragraphs on the Weekly Reflections Discussion forum. A good question is as valued as a comment. Students need to finish reading the assigned chapters, write a paragraph, and comment on other students’ paragraphs before the synchronous session. Also, students will post their scavenger hunt finds on the Scavenger Hunt Discussion forum not later than 2 hours before each synchronous class. Students are encouraged to participate actively on all forums and extra points will be awarded for helping others and building an online community.

The scavenger hunt: Both Crime and Punishment and Anna Karenina can be viewed as a labyrinth of linkages. The students will discern some of Dostoevsky’s and Tolstoy’s linking using a sort of textual scavenger-hunt exercise, finding in the text and connecting images, themes, events, and literary devices. The students will be assigned particular items, and they will look for multiple examples of these items as they read the novel. They will post their treasure finds on the Scavenger Hunt Discussion forum. During the last couple weeks of each semester, the students will search for possible patterns, links, and the overall design of the novels.

Film Adaptations: Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov on screen will become our special discussion topics and we will explore a variety of film adaptations of the novels. During the last class of each semester, we will talk about the art of film adaptations: what are their goals, and how they interpret the Russian writers.

Course Requirements/Amount of Outside Work/Contact Info: 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 discuss actively what they have read during the synchronous session.

The workload will include weekly supplemental reading (essays, criticism, history, poetry, and philosophy); watching films; weekly short written assignments and comments; and two PowerPoint presentations on relevant, individually researched topics. Students will also be expected to write and revise one analytical paper (7 to 10 pages long in the MLA format) each semester.

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!

Prerequisites: Honors-level high school English classes or AP English Composition or Literature are prerequisites. Students are expected to have experience writing essays. While I will encourage students to develop their ideas and style and to improve their skills in writing about literature, the course is intended neither to be an introduction to English composition nor to literary analysis.  In the past, students with significant experience in analyzing literature and writing about it have been the most successful in these classes. I highly recommend  Reading and Writing about Literature: A Portable Guide by Janet E. Garner, which is a very good resource.

Level: College-level Age/Maturity Level: 15+. We are going to read adult, college-level fiction. Russian fiction may contain sexual themes and episodes of disturbing 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. At least one film adaptation is R-rated.

Evaluations and Transcripts: Written evaluations will be provided for all writing assignments and presentations. 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. Although the class is not officially accredited, the grades and evaluations have been appreciated by colleges and universities and quite useful to former students in the college application process.

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 paper: 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

Learning Outcomes:
1) Read literary and cultural texts with discernment and comprehension and with an understanding of their conventions.
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.
4) Write focused, analytical essays in clear, grammatical prose.
5) Employ logic, creativity, and interpretive skills to produce original, persuasive arguments.
6) Employ primary and/or secondary sources, with proper acknowledgment and citation, as they contribute to a critical essay’s thesis.

How to Apply for the Course:

If you are interested in taking the class, please do the following:
1. Copy and paste the application below from “Student Application” through all of the “Statement of Intent” into the body of an email.
2. Complete all the questions, and type your name and the date in the Statement of Intent. Please include “Student Application for Teen Russian Literature Course” in the subject of your email.
3. Email the completed Student Application and Statement of Intent directly to me at jkdenne at aol dot com.
Note: All students under the age of 18 must include the name and signature of a parent or legal guardian on the application.

I will respond as soon as possible to all applications received by email.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Julia Denne




Student Name and Age:
Student Email:
Parent Name (if under 18):
Parent Email (if under 18):

NEW STUDENTS ONLY: Please cut and paste a 500-word (or less) sample of your recent academic writing, which represents you as a writer. You can include part of a longer work. Choose writing that you feel reflects your independent writing ability.


Please describe why you’re interested in taking this class. What do you hope to gain from it? What is your background as a reader or writer, and why do you think this course is a natural next step in your education? (One or two short paragraphs are fine!)

I have read the course description and understand what this course will require from me. I further pledge to participate fully in the course, keeping up with required assignments and deadlines. The work I submit will be solely my own composition. Plagiarism is grounds for dismissal from the course with a failing grade. Even though I am submitting this electronically, I understand that my signature is still binding.
Student Name:
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