Middlebury Language School Graduate Programs



« Summer 2013 Summer 2014 Language Schools


CRN: 60423

Adv Conversation Practicum

Advanced Conversation Practicum

Students in this class will focus on expanding their lexicon and their syntactical repertoire in scholarly and journalistic speech and on preparing scholarly presentations in their area of interest. Main themes will be political, economic, cultural, and social life in Russia, as students approach interesting and sometimes controversial topics concerning contemporary Russian society and culture. Students will read assigned articles from scholarly and media sources; watch videos on Russian politics, society, and culture; discuss these materials; and write compositions. Grades will be determined according to participation in class discussions, weekly compositions, an oral presentation, and a final oral examination.


CRN: 60537

Adv Composition & Stylistics
Advanced Writing & Stylistics

Advanced Russian Writing and Stylistics

The course is designed to develop students’ understanding of the peculiarities of various functional styles in the modern Russian language. Students are taught to stylistically evaluate language variants and to distinguish stylistic features of various texts through analysis; they also acquire skills to produce written texts of different styles and genres. The course focuses on different types of texts—e.g., the personal diary, the essay, non-fiction forms, the short story, literary criticism, etc. Readings include diaries of contemporaries; short stories by Pelevin, Tolstaya, and Prilepin; and essays by Genis and Epshtein. During class meetings, students participate in improvisation and write their texts on a range of topics. They prepare written assignments and produce written works in different genre styles.


CRN: 60541

Poets and Politics

Poets Against the Authorities: from G. Derzhavin to J. Brodsky

Poetry has always played a unique role in Russian history. Due to the absence of possibilities for legal political life and political action, poets sometimes took the place of politicians. Accordingly, state authorities always desired to convert Russian poets into their allies, or persecuted them as political enemies (i.e., exiled them, expelled them from the country, imprisoned them, and even sent them to their deaths). In 19th-century authoritarian Russia and the 20th-century totalitarian Soviet Union, we often find situations that could not be imaginable in ‘normal’ democratic societies: the leaders of the state (such as Alexander I, Nicholas I, and Joseph Stalin) carefully read the poetic works of the major Russian poets and carried special resolutions about them; some sessions of the State Council of Imperial Russia or the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party were completely devoted to recent poetic works and their possible impact on the inner conditions of society and on foreign affairs. In our course, we will examine the reasons for this unique attention paid by the state to poets and poetry. The political views of different Russian poets, as well as their influence on Russian society, will be a subject of our special examination. We will explore works and ideas of such poets as Gavriil Derzhavin, Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Fedor Tyutchev, Nikolai Nekrasov, Alexander Blok, Osip Mandelshtam, Anna Akhmatova, Boris Pasternak, and Joseph Brodsky. We will examine some cases in which poetry became a major issue of political life: Pushkin’s ‘southern exile’ and the case of his poem “André Chénier,” the Central Committee’s Resolution on the journals Zvezda and Leningrad (particularly against Anna Akhmatova), Pasternak’s Nobel Prize scandal, or the trials around Joseph Brodsky (who was charged with “parasitism”).


CRN: 60542

The Religions of Russia

This course covers the range of religions found in Russia. Students will become acquainted with the cultural and historical development of Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in Russia. Special attention will be paid to the traditional religions of non-Russians and to the practices of Russia’s religious minorities. The course will examine church/state relations in Russia until 1988 and the historical and political aspects of religion in the past that have influenced contemporary religion in Russia. Each class will include readings such as fragments of historical documents and scholarly articles.


CRN: 60540

Contemporary Russ Literature
Contemporary Russian Lit

Contemporary Russian Literature: Texts, Myths, Symbols

This course is designed to acquaint students with the way Russian literature has developed during the past decade. The emphasis will be on comprehension of the texts, myths, and symbols created by representatives of different trends in modern Russian literature, from recent examples of traditional psychological prose up to alternative or postmodern authors. We will also discuss modern social and political issues, as well as the most recent cultural events in Russia. Authors will include Tatyana Tolstaya, Victor Pelevin, Liudmila Petrushevskaia, Vladimir Sorokin, and Boris Akunin.


CRN: 60543

Religion in Post-Soviet Russia

Religion in Post-Soviet Russia: From the Religious Renaissance to Anticlericalism

This course will outline the periods of the post-Soviet transformation of religion in Russia, examine the factors that influenced the formation of the contemporary religion situation, and discuss the contemporary cultural and political developments affecting religion in Russia. Special attention will be paid to the relations among the church, government, and society, the development of the so-called “four traditional religions of Russia” and contemporary religious minorities, and the role of the Russian Orthodox Church not only as Russia’s most influential religious organization but also as a serious political force with a clearly defined social agenda. The course will also examine the formation of religious identity, religion and contemporary Russian mass culture, religion and education, religion and interethnic relations, religious tolerance and intolerance, and religious fundamentalism and anticlericalism. Each class will include readings from Russian media and scholarly articles.


CRN: 60546

Russia in Post-Soviet Space

The course, designed for graduate students interested in modern politics, undertakes a comprehensive study of the problems of Russia's foreign policy toward the countries that became independent after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The last twenty years have been one of the most complex and dynamic periods for Russia and her neighbors. The issues of independence, identity, interstate relations have been characterized by acute struggle, both within national political elites and among the states. Defining priorities has not been an easy process either in Russia or in the neighboring countries. This process was complicated by the clashing interests of external powerful “actors” (such as the USA, the EU, and China) over the post-Soviet space. Some rising powers (such as Turkey, Iran, and others) have recently become more active and claimed a special role in this Eurasian geopolitical region. This period is full of contradictions and conflicts and gives plenty of insight into historical, geopolitical, political, and cultural aspects of the region, and allows us to test major modern political theories and their applicability to the analysis of many interesting problems.


CRN: 60545

Russian-Ukrainian Relations

History of Russian-Ukrainian Relations

In spite of the fact that Russian-Ukrainian relations have lately become one of the key issues in contemporary international politics, this course will be devoted to the history of relations between Russia and Ukraine. This topic has a lot to offer and there are many aspects that still remain unclear and provoke a lot of discussions not only in society, but also among professional historians.

The early Middle Ages were characterized by joint development of Kiev and Novgorod lands, united by power, self-identification and common outlook. The following period was marked by the development of Ukrainian groups under the strong influence of Russia, Poland, and Austria, which shaped cultural peculiarities and social preferences of Ukrainians. The 17th century was a new stage in Eastern Ukrainian development as an integral part of the Moscow State and then the Russian Empire, while southwestern Ukrainian lands kept developing under the influence of other countries.

The 20th century turned out to be the most dramatic for both peoples. Two world wars, civil war, challenges of modernization — all these contributed to a growing number of contradictions when addressing problems of identity.

The course, aimed at graduate students, deals with the ethnic and cultural aspects of Russian and Ukrainian development as well as the formation of their social and political priorities and symbols. Understanding these phenomena will allow a better analysis and comprehension of the contemporary tension between Russia and Ukraine, which does not always reflect the mutual attitudes and values of both peoples.


CRN: 60544

Russian Auteur Cinema

Russian filmmaking includes a strong line of auteur cinema (avtorskoe kino). Directors of auteur films establish their technique and personal style as their main priority, and they develop their own cinematic language. This course examines films that were outside of the mainstream and explores advancements in film technology and techniques in the context of the continuous evolution of cinema and the cinematic industry. Films of the prominent directors Khutsiev, Muratova, Shepitko, Tarkovsky, German, Sakurov, and others, will be shown. This course includes readings of literary works and criticism, as well as detailed analyses and discussion of the cinematic works with two film screenings weekly. Students have to prepare written and oral assignments including four essays, a journal, and a final paper and project.


CRN: 60538

The Russian Anecdote

The Russian Anecdote: Understanding Russian Jokes and Humor

This course will focus on helping students toward a better understanding of Russian culture through the tool of Russian canned jokes (‘anekdoty’). We will discuss the conceptualization of the world in Russian jokelore (what is taken for granted in Russian jokes and what one needs to know to understand them) and give an account of the rules of telling jokes in Russian as well as the formal means of introducing a joke text into discourse. We will pay special attention to the main characters of Russian jokes, recognizable by the description of their appearance, behavior, clothes and other accessories, and their “linguistic masks,” which correlate with their “behavior masks.” In addition, we will analyze ways of using jokes in the media (in particular, indirect allusions to jokes). The course grade will be based on student homework, participation in class discussion, and a final exam.


CRN: 60539

Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina"

Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and the Family Novel

The course is designed as a close reading of the most acclaimed of Tolstoy’s works—his novel Anna Karenina. The novel was written and published in separate chapters during 1875-1877, and readers remained in suspense, as they did not know what would happen next with the heroes. Students will be repeating the experience of Tolstoy’s first readers during their six weeks of study. Tolstoy’s work is an encyclopedia of the Russian culture of the second half of the 19th century, making our course completely interdisciplinary: we will discuss social, historical, philosophical, religious, cultural, and legal issues, relevant for Tolstoy as well as for his heroes. Such topics as family, marriage, women’s emancipation, and children’s education will be the themes of our class discussion. Students must be prepared to read about 30 pages for each class session, to actively participate in class discussion, and to write weekly short papers. Students will compose their final paper and present it during the mini-conference at the end of the course.


CRN: 60167

Independent Study

This course consists of a thesis written in Russian, for which an advisor will be assigned, and is a requirement for MA candidates. The course can only be taken for the completion of the master’s thesis and may be taken only once.