Chekhov–Saunders Humanity Kit

ENG 650 (Forms):
The Russian Short Story in Translation (for Writers)

Thursdays, 9:30 – 12:15, Bowne Hall 110

Office Hours: By appointment.

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Ethos:

This class is intended not as a survey of the Russian short story, but rather as a chance to read (very closely) a selected number of great stories from that tradition, with an eye to craft. Our real topic is simply: the short story itself. How does a good story work? What do you value in a story? What we really want to accomplish is to improve your fiction. Exposure to these masterpieces, and the close analytical work we’ll do to try and understand their power, should, we hope, rub off on our own fictional efforts. As such, I’d like to err on the side of reading a smaller amount of text each week, so that our discussions will center on close line readings and study of fictional effects, rather than, say, larger historical or thematic concerns. We are basically just reading a number of amazing stories and trying to figure out how they work – and they happen to all be by a handful of great Russian masters, mostly from the 19th Century. We’ll read these authors in roughly chronological order. The reading assignments listed below are approximate – at the end of each class I’ll confirm or revise the following week’s assignment. So please don’t “read ahead” in the class – I’d like the reading to be done during the week before class, so your responses are fresh. In some cases we’ll only end up discussing one of the stories, but the other(s) will be useful for background. There are no texts on order for the class – I’ll provide the texts each week, either in hardcopy form or as (emailed) pdfs. But should you want to own good editions by these writers, I’d recommend the following, from which many of our translations come:

 

OPTIONAL Texts:

**The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol, translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky,
    Vintage Classics, ISBN 0-375-70615-1.

**The Best Short Stories of Dostoevsky, translated by David McDuff, Modern
    Library, ISBN 0-679-60020-5.

**Great Short Works of Leo Tolstoy, translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude,
    Perennial Library, ISBN 0-06-083071-9.

**The Portable Chekhov, edited by Avrahm Yarmolinksy, the Viking Portable
    Library, ISBN 0-14-015035-8.

**Red Cavalry and Other Stories, translated by David McDuff, ISBN
    0-140-44997-3.

I’ll also bring in copies of alternate translations and supplementary materials.

 

Work: Each week I’ll expect you to hand in, at the beginning of class, a 3-5 page (typed) notebook entry per story, detailing your journey through the works in question. Please note that some weeks we will be reading more than one story; this means 3-5 pages per story. These entries can take any form you like, and can include sketches, musings, graphs – really, whatever authentically helps you take the story apart and come to an understanding of it that is meaningful to you and your artistic process. Things to avoid: sloppy musing, spacefilling, irrelevant dirgressions, undue pointless cleverness. Things to embrace: sincere questioning, structural examination, questions-to-self, questions to pose in class – really, anything that is based on specificity, detail, and close examination/reading of the story – I’m looking for evidence of deep engagement. These essays and your classroom participation will determine your grade. This reading load is relatively light for a graduate course, and I’m not asking for any term papers – so please do focus all of your energy on your essays and then on really pitching in during the discussions. I’ll read your papers every week, provide light comments, and get these back to you the following week.   What I’ve found is that these papers are a great way to make sure the classroom discussion gets up to the high ground quickly. All told, then, you’ll have approx 18 of these due (i.e., one per story), and I’m not going to be accepting late papers. So it’s essential that you get these done and hand them in at the end of each class. Otherwise, no credit. If you have an excused absence, I’ll accept the papers one week late.

 

Approximate Schedule:

AUG 29:     INTRO and CLASS OVERVIEW

SEPT 5:     TURGENEV: “The Singers”

SEPT 12:     GOGOL: “The Story of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled…” +

“Nevsky Prospect”

SEPT 19:     GOGOL: “The Nose” + “The Overcoat”

SEPT 26:     DOSTOYEVSKY: “The Honest Thief,” + “The Christmas Tree and a Wedding,” + “The Peasant Marey”

OCT 3:     TOLSTOY: “The Devil” + “”Master and Man”

OCT 10:     TOLSTOY: “The Death of Ivan Ilych” + “Alyosha the Pot”

OCT 17:     No class.

OCT 24:     CHEKHOV: “In the Cart” + “The Darling”

OCT 31:     CHEKHOV: “The Man in a Shell” + “Gooseberries” + “About Love”

NOV 7:     CHEKHOV: “The Lady with the Pet Dog”

NOV 14:     CHEKHOV: “In the Ravine”

NOV 21:     POST-REVOLUTIONARY WRITERS TBD. (Babel, Sharlamov, Kharms, Krzhizhanovsky, et al)

NOV 28:     No Class – Thanksgiving Break

DEC 5:     POST-REVOLUTIONARY WRITERS TBD. (Babel, Sharlamov, Kharms, Krzhizhanovsky, et al)

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