What is specifically “Russian” in Russian literature? What is its unique position between the East and the West? By raising these questions, literary scholar Alexey Vdovin outlines the Russian literary canon as seen from a historical perspective. Starting with the ancient didactic sermons or lives of saints, the lecturer leads all the way up to the recent postmodernist experiments of Vladmir Sorokin and Victor Pelevin. According to Vdovin, Russian writers have always been in dialogue with their external Other—Asian and European traditions. But by appropriating already existing genres such as the novel or novella, they managed to fill them with unique content—a search for the meaning of life and compassion toward the oppressed.
Recommended further readings:
Lotman, Iurii M.; Ginsburg, Lidiia Ia.; Uspenskii, Boris A. The Semiotics of Russian Cultural History. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1985.
Lotman, Yuri M. Universe of the Mind: A Semiotic Theory of Culture. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1990.
Zhivov, Viktor. Language and Culture in Eighteenth Century Russia. Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2009.
Ospovat, Kirill. Terror and Pity: Aleksandr Sumarokov and the Theater of Power in Elizabethan Russia. Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2016.
Todd III, William Mills. “The Ruse of Russian Novel.” In The Novel. Edited by Franco Moretti. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2006.
Terras, Victor. Handbook of Russian Literature. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985.
The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century Russian Literature. Edited by Evgeny Dobrenko and Marina Balina. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
The Cambridge Companion to the Classic Russian Novel. Edited by Malcolm Jones and Robin Feuer Miller. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
A HISTORY OF RUSSIAN CULTURE: ESSENTIALS
A series of seven lectures conducted by prominent Russian scholars in cinema, literature, visual art, theater, music, architecture, and design. Each of the speakers presents a broad authorial perspective on their respective fields and puts it in the wider cultural and social landscape. What distinguishes this crash course from others is that it highlights not only Western, but also Eastern influences, relations, and parallels. This series is held in English with Arabic subtitles and will be accompanied by the Russian Culture Manual. Participants: Kirill Adibekov, Alexei Vdovin, Kirill Svetlyakov, Valery Zolotukhin, Roman Nasonov, Anna Bronovitskaya, and Alexandra Sankova.