Fall 2008

HUMS 653
Murder and Adultery: The French and Russian Novel


09/08/2008 - 12/12/2008
Thursday 05:30 PM - 08:00 PM

Fisk Hall 314

What did the Russians learn from reading French novels? How did they respond to them in writing their own? In this course, we will examine how themes taken from one national literature are self-consciously transformed by another, as we learn to read from the author's point of view.

In A Hero of Our Time, the first modern Russian novel ever written, Mikhail Lermontov reviews Western European Romantic genres and their Russian imitations; Lermontov answers them through the adventures of a self-aware realist hero who knows the sources of the standard plots he acts out. In Crime and Punishment Dostoevsky rewrites Balzac's Pere Goriot (and others' novels) to recast the more sociological treatment of prostitution and murder of the French works in Russian psychological and spiritual terms. In Anna Karenina, Tolstoy responds to Flaubert's Madame Bovary as well as to contemporary French and Russian discussions of the problem of adultery.

In class discussion and written assignments, we will use methods of close reading--motif study, subtext analysis-- to examine the dialogue between two cultures in six important novels of the nineteenth century.

A syllabus for this course is available at:
Course Syllabus

Priscilla Meyer (B.A., University of California, Berkeley; M.A., Ph.D., Princeton University) is professor of Russian language and literature. Her most recent book, How the Russians Read the French: Lermontov, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy (University of Wisconsin Press), is forthcoming in fall 2008. Click here for more information about Priscilla Meyer.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand (1768-1848), Reneand Atala (1802)

Benjamin Constant (1767-1830), Adolphe (1816)

Alfred de Vigny (1797-1863), Servitude and Grandeur of Arms (1835)

George Sand (1804-1876), L'Orco

Mikhail Yurievich Lermontov (1814-1841), A Hero of Our Time (1840)

Honore Balzac (1799-1850 ), PereGoriot (1834)

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881), Crime and Punishment (1866)

Gustave Flaubert ( 1821-1880), Madame Bovary (1857)

Leo Tolstoy (1828 -1910), Anna Karenina (1878)

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