Middlebury Language Schools


Oleg Proskurin


Phone: work802.443.2006
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Kandidatskaya, Moscow State University

In 1984 I received my Ph.D. from the Department of Russian Literature at the Moscow State University. From 1985 through 1997, I taught Russian literature at the Moscow State Pedagogical University. My former students include successful editors, writers, and literary scholars. During the 1990's, I also taught as a visiting professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, and Cornell University. In 1998-1999 I worked as a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for European Studies (Cornell University); and in 2000-2001, as a Visiting Scholar in the Davis Center for Russian Studies at Harvard University.

I wrote a number of works on the history of Russian literature of the 18th-20th centuries and on modern literature, culture and politics.

My book Pushkin's Poetry, or A Lively Palimpsest (Moscow: NLO, 1999) was included in the short list of the 2000 Andrei Bely Award and was listed among the best Russian books of the 90's by several critics. My book Literary Scandals of Pushkin's Time (Moscow: OGI, 2000) provoked furious debates and was listed among the best books of the month, best books of the year, and best books on literature of the last decade.

Currently I am finishing my new book, "Gogol's High-Society Romance," and preparing a book-length commentary to Pushkin's narrative poems.

I love good parties, Baroque music, and long walking tours.



Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

RUSS 6615 - 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”).


Summer 2010, Summer 2014 Language Schools

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RUSS 6621 - Nikolai Gogol      

In his brilliant essay The Apotheosis of a Mask Vladimir Nabokov called Gogol’s work “a grotesque and grim nightmare making black holes in the dim pattern of life.” Reading Gogol’s masterpieces, from his earlier Romantic tales to fantastic Petersburg’s short stories, from his eminent comedy An Inspector General to his mysterious novel/poem Dead Souls, students will learn to distinguish the writer’s life and artistic strategies. We will explore Gogol’s work within the broad literary and cultural contexts of his time. Students will write weekly one-page response papers and a final paper.
Невский проспект
Записки сумасшедшего
Мертвые души

Secondary literature (articles for discussion)
Б. Эйхенбаум. Как сделана «Шинель» Гоголя
О. Проскурин. Посмертное братство: Как Гоголь стал Пушкиным, а Пушкин — Гоголем


Summer 2012

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RUSS 6623 - Prose of Russ Modernist Poets      

Prose Works of the Russian Modernist Poets of the 20th Century

Some major Russian modern poets were at the same time outstanding masters of the Russian prose. Their novels, short stories or memoirs were concerned with the psychological biography of an intellectual (poet, artist, etc.) in the period of crisis and despair (such as wars, revolutions, social catastrophes, the changes of the entire social order). In our course we will focus on the following works: The Noise of Time (Shum vrememi, 1925) by Osip Mandelshtam (the internationally acclaimed critic D. S. Mirsky placed this work ‘on the first place among the most important books of recent times’); Cynics (Tsiniki, 1928), the novel by poet-imaginist Anatoly Mariengof (the Nobel Prize winner Joseph Brodsky treated this novel as ‘one of the most innovative books in Russian Literature), The Goat Song (Kozlinaia pesn’, 1928) by Konstantin Vaginov, a member of OBERIU, the last Soviet avant-garde literary group, ‘The Story’ (Povest’, 1929) and ‘Safe Conduct’ (Okhrannaia gramota, 1931) by Boris Pasternak – the prose works, which in many respects anticipated his famous Doktor Zhivago. We will read the prose of these authors against the background of their innovative poetry.

Students will read about 25-30 pages for each class session. They will compose short papers (4) as well as a final paper.

Summer 2010

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RUSS 6634 - Contemporary Russ Literature      

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.


Summer 2014 Language Schools

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RUSS 6651 - The Caucasus in Russ Culture      

The Caucasus in Russian Culture

For over two hundred years, the Caucasus has occupied a unique place in the political and cultural life of the Russian empire, Soviet Union, and Russian Federation. Wars, ethnic cleansing, and mass deportations have occurred here. This course aims to demonstrate the complexity of the “Caucasus question” and examine its many echoes in Russian culture from Romanticism through Postmodernism. The course’s core readings include works by the greatest authors of the past two centuries (Pushkin, Lermontov, Tolstoy, Mandelshtam, Pasternak) and also works by lesser-known but important writers (Marlinskii, Polonskii, Makanin). The course will also examine several films on the Caucasus theme, from Nikoloz Shengelaya’s Eliso (1928) through Aleksei Uchitel’s Captive (2008).

Civ Cul & Soc Literature

Summer 2013

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RUSS 6652 - Russian Formalism      

Russian Formalism: Theory, Literature, Cinema

The Russian Formalism is definitely one of the most renowned intellectual trends of the 20th century Russia. A famous British scholar Terry Eagleton claimed that the theory of literature started in 1917 when a young Russian formalist Viktor Shklovsly published his pioneering essay Art as Device. Students will read and discuss the most acclaimed works (critical essays, academic articles, and short fiction) by Viktor Shklovsky, Boris Eikhenbaum, Yury Tynianov, and Lidia Ginzburg to explore connections between Russian formalism and Russian Modernism (in arts, literature, and cinema.) The lectures and discussions will be widely supplemented by clips from movies made by formalist authors. Students will write weekly one-page response papers and a final paper.

Виктор Шкловский.

Искусство как прием.
Письмо о России и в Россию.
Zoo, или Письма не о любви.
Рецензия на эту книгу (с. 380).
Об историческом романе и о Юрии Тынянове (глава о «Подпоручике Киже»).

Борис Эйхенбаум.

Как сделана «Шинель» Гоголя.
Из книги «Мой временник» (По мостам и проспектам: Из автобиографии ).
Проблемы киностилистики
О Викторе Шкловском.

Юрий Тынянов.

Литературное сегодня.
Литературный факт.
Об основах кино.
Либретто фильма «Шинель».
Подпоручик Киже (повесть)

Лидия Гинзбург.
Из записных книжек (записи 1920-х годов).


Шинель (Сценарий Ю. Тынянова)
3-я Мещанская (Сценарий Виктора Шкловского и А. Роома)
Поручик Киже (Сценарий Ю. Тынянова. Музыка С. Прокофьева)

Civ Cul & Soc Literature

Summer 2012

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RUSS 6660 - Pushkin:Prose, Poetry, Drama      

This course offers a fundamentally new reading of the central works of the Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin (1799-1837) and reexamines his literary evolution. The course will examine Pushkin’s works in the context of European literature, culture, and political events. We will consider Pushkin as a Russian and a European writer and political thinker. Much attention will be given to comparative analyses of Pushkin’s works and their European (and sometimes American) intellectual sources. Course readings will include Pushkin’s “canon” and also his lesser-known works such as diaries, critical articles, and travelogues.


Summer 2013

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RUSS 6674 - Pushkin in Russian Culture      

Pushkin in Russian Culture

This course attempts to answer the question of how Aleksandr Pushkin became, in Apollon Grigorev's formulation, "our everything." Why, over the last two hundred years, have groups of every possible aesthetic and political position claimed Pushkin as their own, and how have they interpreted his image and his works? Students will read some of Pushkin's key works but focus mainly on what various cultural figures have said about him over the last two centuries.


Summer 2011

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RUSS 6690 - Culture Shock:21C Russ Culture      

Culture Shock: RUssian Culture of the 21st Century

An in-depth examination of Russian popular culture, literature, and cinema of the 21st century.

Civ Cul & Soc

Summer 2011

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