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RUSS-379 Gogol: Cross-Disciplinary Quotes
Offered academic year 2011-2012
Faculty:
  • Meerson, Olga
  • In this course, we will read several major works of Gogol—in English, unless your Russian is good enough to do so, an endeavor that is more than welcome but not obligatory. The translations I insist of, with the exception of “The Inspector General”, should be by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Dead Souls may also be read in the translation of Robert Maguire but for the sake of comparison, not as a substitute to the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation. As Gogol is a writer of uncommonly absurdist sensibilities, somewhat atypical of what is customarily considered to be typical of 19th century “realism”, we will try to examine how these, modern elements, translate into the genres of other artists, 20th Century primarily. These include excerpts from D.D. Shostakovich’s opera “The Nose”, as well as Rolan Bykov’s film based on the same story, some renderings—mostly, non-Russian—of “The Overcoat” and, perhaps, “The Inspector General” and (time permitting) “The Gamblers”. Reading Dead Souls will be accompanied by viewing and examining Mark Chagall’s illustrations for the book, followed by viewing and discussing several excerpts from the mid-1980s Mikhail Shveytser film and listening to “The Gogol Suite” by Alfred Schnittke. We will start the course with reading Petersburg Tales, but slightly out of order. “The Diary of a Madman” will be first—to give you a taste of what the course will involve—followed by watching the German Expressionist film “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” — for reasons that will transpire after we are through with reading the story. If you know Spanish or German and want to work on E.T.A. Hoffmann or Cervantes as subtexts to this story, you are welcome, but neither that knowledge nor analyzing its relevance are required.

    The course will require at least one brief email response from each of you per week, on a topic I may ask about as concerns your readings, a Midterm examination and a Final paper for which the Midterm will prepare you (more discussion of that in class). The email responses are all obligatory but pass/fail. Four skipped ones automatically fail you—just as four unexcused absences do. The grade worth of these responses is 3 points per response. The grade here is strictly quantitative and will count as 26% of your total grade (by the number of weeks for responses; if you skip no responses, you will get 100% for that assignment, which will give you a 26% credit towards the total grade). The Midterm is worth 34% and the final 40%.
    Credits: 3
    Prerequisites: Non
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