Further information on Spring 2018 courses


Bill Woehrlin: Russian Literature in the 20th Century and After


Course text

Students will be asked to buy a very small book, actually a long essay – Stephen Lovell’s The Soviet Union – A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2009), available for about $10 at Content Books.

Students will also be asked to read A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alekssandr Solzhnitsyn, inexpensive used copies of which are widely available.

Other writings will be duplicated as part of a class packet (cost $15, included in course fee of $65 = $50 tuition + $15 packet).  This will be passed out in class.  Other materials will be sent by email as pdf files.


Expanded description

Russian writers of the 20th and 21st centuries often have worked under horrendous conditions. Not only did they live through wars and revolutions, that also they often had to confront government censorship and attempts to controls what they were allowed to write. Needless to add, there were some writers who opposed this control, often at risk of the own well-being and sometimes, in the Stalin period, at the cost of their lives.

I have identified several periods of time, according to the changing contexts in which writers tried to exercise their craft, to be dealt with in eight class sessions, as follows:

Class 1.  The dying Tsarist regime

Class 2.  War and revolutions

Class 3.  Literary conflict in “the roaring 20s”

Classes 4 & 5.  The Stalin era and literature under siege

Class 6.  Krushchev and partial reform

Class 7.  The growth of protest under Brezhnev and Yeltsin

Class 8.  Putin and a new strategy

For each of these periods, I will try to select stories and poems that students will enjoy reading (clearly a very dangerous promise for me to make!).