Undergraduates can take 19th-century Russian literature courses within literature, classical studies or Slavic language programs. At the undergraduate level, no Russian language knowledge is required to study Russian literature. Graduate students in the field of Slavic or Russian studies can often focus on the specific subject of Russian literature in the 19th century.
Here are some major people and topics you may encounter:
- Alexander Pushkin's Poetry and Prose
- Anton Chekhov's Short Stories and Drama
- Fyodor Dostoevsky and the Russian Novel
- The Life and Work of Leo Tolstoy
- Russian Influence on English Language Literature
19th-Century Russian Literature
This is an overview course that is sometimes offered in two parts. The boundaries of the coursework are usually marked by Sentimentalism or Romanticism at the start of the century, and Realism at the end. As students explore the various ways in which Russian prose developed in both purpose and style, they work with original material of the age and learn about its major contributors, along with the techniques they brought to their craft.
The Age of Realism
A more specific course found at the graduate level, this class focuses on the period of Russian literature from 1850 to 1881. These years were marked by the realistic depiction of common Russian life at the time, as well as broad ethical and spiritual issues. Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are the most noted figures from the Age of Realism, and these two writers often receive the majority of the focus in such a course. Some programs eschew classes on the Age of Realism in favor of classes focusing exclusively on the work of one of these two authors.
A specific course devoted to Dostoevsky is often a part of graduate or even undergraduate Russian literature programs. This course provides an overview of Dostoevsky's early experimentation, moves through his better-known work, including the classics Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, and finishes with an examination of his masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov. Along the way, students learn about the writer himself, his relationship with Russian culture and society, and his influence on modern literature.
Another popular Russian author and the focus of many university courses is the Russian short story writer and playwright, Anton Chekhov. A major influence in the final twenty years of the 19th century, Chekhov's work comes primarily after 1881, and thus is not included in the Age of Realism. Nonetheless, in this course, Chekhov's prose works are analyzed for their stylistic devices and commentary on Russian society. Students also learn a great deal about the man himself and his effect on Russian culture and literature.