COMP 271
Phantasmagoria, Madness, and the Absurd in Russian Literature and Film Spring 2020
Division I
Cross-listed RUSS 232 / COMP 271
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

In one of Nikolai Gogol’s most famous stories, a man wakes up one day to find that his own nose has left his face and taken on a life of its own. This situation, which we might label bizarre or absurd, just as easily shows how reality often fails to meet our expectations and even suggests that the story’s leading character might have gone mad. But what then is insanity? Likewise, one of Dostoevsky’s socially marginal characters contemplates the fact that only sick people see ghosts, which, in his opinion, “only proves that ghosts cannot appear to anyone but sick people, not that they themselves do not exist.” This course aims to analyze the rich tradition, typified by Gogol and Dostoevsky, of the absurd, the fantastic, and madness in Russian literature and film of the 19th-21st centuries. Addressing the aesthetic, historical, and political circumstances that nurtured this tradition in Russian literature and cinema, our course material will explore new dimensions of reality, point out the many paradoxes and absurdities of human existence, and question our perceptions, as well as the assumption that we are sane. Close analysis of literary and cinematic texts will lead us to a broader discussion of the relationship between reality and representation, as well as the notions of the absurd and madness. Authors/directors will include Alexander Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekhov, Mikhail Bulgakov, Lyudmila Petrushevskaya, Andrey Tarkovsky, and Kira Muratova, among others. All readings will be in English, and all films will have English subtitles.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: none
Expected: 10
Class#: 3358
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: class attendance and participation; two analytical papers (3-5 pages); leading class discussion; a creative assignment; an oral presentation; a final paper (6 pages)
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: none
Distributions: Division I
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
RUSS 232 Division I COMP 271 Division I
Attributes: FMST Related Courses

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