Who is to blame? What is to be done? How can we love, and how should we die? In an age when such larger-than-life questions animated urgent debates about self and society, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekhov and other writers whose famous shorter works we’ll read in this course reinvented the idea of literature itself. Political terrorism and non-violent resistance, women’s rights and imperial expansion, quests for social justice and personal happiness: as nineteenth-century Russian authors explored the cultural anxieties provoked by these challenges of modernity, their ambition was not to mirror experience but to transform it by interpreting its deepest secrets. This is an introduction to the daring, contradictory visions of life and art that forever changed how we do things with words. No familiarity with Russian history or culture expected. All readings in English.
Spring semester. Professor Wolfson.