Topics in Russian & Slavic Studies

Why is nineteenth-century European literature preoccupied with the figure of the bourgeois, and how did this preoccupation shape our views of the bourgeoisie as a class? How do artistic representations of things bourgeois (the middle class, merchants, burgers … ) function in different texts and traditions? If the middle class and the genre of the novel are as closely related as has often been claimed, why has the novel flourished in societies where there is no bourgeoisie? Any category denoting a “middle” is unstable. For example, in different contexts “bourgeois” and closely related words can suggest what is snobby and high or what is lowly and tainted: great distances separate Balzac’s daring Parisian capitalists from Dickens’ stolid shopkeepers, Germany’s assiduously cultured town-dwellers from Flaubert’s myopic provincials—yet all can be categorized as bourgeois. On the peripheries of European culture we find even sharper differences. In Brazil, Machado de Assis produced a version of realism that could only arise in a society where slavery coexisted with “bourgeois” literary forms. And Russian writers, despite the total absence of a bourgeoisie in Russia, reacted strongly to the idea of the bourgeois, often using it as a figure for modernity’s various disruptions and threats. Readings will include primary texts from the late-eighteenth through the early-twentieth centuries, mostly novels (Goethe, Balzac, Dickens, Flaubert, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Machado de Assis, Mann, Chekhov, and others). Theoretical and critical texts by Anderson, Cohen, Elias, Gay, Hobsbawm, Marx, Moretti, Schama, Schwartz, Wallerstein, Watt, Weber, and others. All readings in English.






Fall 2021

Anne L Lounsbery
W: 6:20 PM - 8:20 PM 19UP 224
Maya V Vinokour
T: 6:20 PM - 8:20 PM BOBS 836

Spring 2022

Rossen L Djagalov
R: 6:20 PM - 8:20 PM 19UP 224
Sergey Viktorovich Sanovich
M: 6:20 PM - 8:20 PM 19UP 224