Time, Memory, and Narrative: Twentieth-Century Literature and Film
Cross-listed as COMP233 / RUSS233
This is not the current course catalog
Time and space belong to the most fundamental categories that define our conceptualization of the world we live in. Overcoming the restrictions that these dimensions impose on our existence has always been humanity’s major preoccupation. Is there a way to break with time’s linearity and irreversibility? One magic tool of overcoming time that we all possess is our memory. Another is art; specifically, such spatial-temporal forms of art as literature and film. Memory, literature, and film are similar in their use of narrative. In order to recast the past we pull out memories and “narrate” them to ourselves or others. A literary character’s recollections and reminiscences often constitute the plot of a literary work or film. The sequence of cinematic images in film creates the visual narrative, while one of its main techniques ¿ montage ¿ replicates the seemingly random association of memories in our mind. Apart from its structural significance, time constitutes an important subject of artists’ philosophical reflection in both literature and film. In this course, we will explore the themes of time and memory in their relation to different narrative strategies by way of a few masterpieces of 20th-century Russian/Soviet literature and film. How can trains on the Railroad around Moscow annihilate time? What happens if Tsar Ivan the Terrible finds himself in Soviet Moscow? Where does the Russian Ark float and whom does it carry? To answer these and other questions we will read the novels of Vladimir Nabokov and his most congenial successor Sasha Sokolov; a play by Mikhail Bulgakov, and a novella by Vladimir Makanin, among others. We will also watch and discuss the famous films by Leonid Gaidai, Andrey Tarkovsky, and Aleksander Sokurov. In addition, we will read a few scholarly essays on time, memory, and narrative, relating them to our primary material. Readings, films, and discussions are in English.
The Class: Type: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: participation, writing assignments, discussion prompts, a final project
Enrollment Preference: students majoring or considering a major in Russian or Comparative Literature
Distributions: Division I;