Generally speaking, I view myself as a facilitator—Alison King’s “guide on the side”—rather than as an instructor in the strict sense of the word. By holding students to high standards and challenging them to see and develop alternative ways of thinking no matter the subject, I strive to aid them in their individual academic careers andpersonal goals.
The interaction between text and context greatly informs my teaching methods. In my literature and culture classes, students are asked to consider both the peculiarities of the texts at hand, as well as the various circumstances that played a role in their creation. In this way, I endeavors to provide three main concepts: 1. knowledge of the texts along with relevant background developed through a combination of close reading, reflection, and discussion; 2. an understanding of various means of literary analysis; and 3. the awareness that each person can craft an interpretation and is not dependent on me for one “true” answer to any given question.
In language courses, I likewise emphasize a communicative approach along with grammatical mastery. I help students to develop the skills necessary for long-term success, personalized language use, and independent learning. Role-play activities and authentic materials (texts, film clips, music, etc.), among other tools, feature prominently in my language classes of all levels.
The following are only a few of the courses I have taught at various institutions, as well as some posters I have designed. For a complete list of classes offered, please see my CV. Sample syllabi available upon request.
Crime or Punishment: Russian Narratives of Captivity and Incarceration
“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons." - Fyodor Dostoevsky. While the Gulag remains the most infamous aspect of the Soviet justice system, Russia has a long history of inhumane punishment on a terrifying scale. This course explores narratives of incarceration, punishment, and captivity from the 17th century to the present day. In discussing (non-)fiction, history, and theory, we will consider such topics as justice, violence and its artistic representations, totalitarianism, witness-bearing, and the possibility of transcendence in suffering. Readings include works by Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Akhmatova, Nabokov, Solzhenitsyn, Pussy Riot, Foucault, Arendt, and Sontag, among many others.
The 20th-Century Russian Novel: Revolution, Terror, Resistance
What does a culture look like after it undergoes a series of revolutions—sexual, linguistic, artistic, political—in short succession? To answer this question, this course surveys the Russian novel throughout the long twentieth century. During this tumultuous era, Russian authors continued the tradition started by Aleksandr Pushkin, the father of Russian literature, of using the word as a forceful means of resistance. An integral part of the formation of Russia’s national identity as it grew more prominent in world affairs in the nineteenth century, the continued evolution of this novelistic tradition in the twentieth century is one of the best means to understand the character of this epoch, as well as present-day conditions in Russia. We will examine selected novels in terms of their literary, social, and historical contexts and will highlight such issues as revolution, repression, emigration, trauma, forms of resistance, the artist’s role in society, Russia’s relationship to the West, and Russia’s national identity.
The End of History: Contemporary Russian Culture
Hailed as the “end of history” and “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century,” the fall of the Soviet Union forced Russia to reconcile a past that had long been suppressed with a present reality full of possibility. We’ll discuss works that address contemporary issues (Putinism, protests, refugees, corruption) and resurrect historical traumas (the Civil War, the Stalin years, the Leningrad Siege, Chernobyl) to understand Russia today. This course features a wide range of texts: fiction, non-fiction, oral histories, poetry, art, performance, and film. We will also have the opportunity to speak with some of the figures whose work we’ll examine. No knowledge of Russian required.
The Russian Novel: The Classic Tradition
This course surveys the rise of the Russian novel during the 19th century, a time of rebellions and reforms. We will discuss works by literary giants, such as Dostoevsky and Tolstoy in translation, while probing issues of Russia's national identity, class system, and tendency toward totalitarianism during this paradoxical century of inertia and upheaval. As a writing intensive course, students are required to produce and revise at least 20 pages of original work.
Using VR headsets and 360-degree videos and photos, students in RUSS013 explored various parts of St. Petersburg mentioned by Fyodor Dostoevsky in Crime and Punishment. They then discussed the role the city plays in the novel, as well as its influence upon the characters of Dostoevsky's novel.
Intensive Second-Year Russian
Designed to impart an active command of the language, RUSS003 combines the study of grammar with intensive speaking practice, work on phonetics, writing, and various kinds of authentic materials: readings in literary and expository prose, film clips, music, and web materials. Conducted primarily in Russian.
O, Father Where Art Thou?: Generations of the
Twentieth-Century Russian Novel
Seminar for graduate students and advanced undergraduates. Devoted to the topic of generations as a primary theme in the works discussed, the connections between their authors, and how the Russian novel itself embodies these influences and conflicts. Featured a discussion with contemporary writer Mikhail Shishkin.