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THE GREAT RUSSIAN MINDS: MIKHAIL BAKHTIN

*The Great Russian Minds Series: Mikhail Bakhtin

MLAL 3076 L11 - Course Number: 13128

June 1st-July 1st, 2021 M-Th, 1-4 p.m. EST

Fordham LC (online)

In Mikhail Bakhtin’s understanding, the novel perpetually outgrows and renews its form, making it well-suited for literature’s enduring task as he sees it: to reflect the unfinalizable image of the human being. Bakhtin draws inspiration from various fields of study in his history and theory of the novel, including psychology, literature, phenomenology, Judeo-Christian theology, class ideology, ethics, and music. In Bakhtin’s view, humor, revelry, absurdity, tragedy, the grotesque body, and the carnivalesque dismantle oppressive cultural and rhetorical power structures, supplanting them with empathy and catharsis. For Bakhtin, truth is dialogic; a fact expressed artistically in the polyphonic novel, where individual characters voice discordant world-views that occasionally strike a chord. For him, the novel humanizes authoritative texts by wresting them from their hallowed heights and turning them on all sides to view them up close with curiosity.

 

This summer survey course brings Bakhtin’s inquisitive method to bear on the great thinker himself, approaching him from all sides. We read several excellent translations beginning with Art and Answerability (1919) and Toward a Philosophy of the Act (1919-21), continuing with essays “Discourse in the Novel” (1934–1935), “Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel” (1937–1938) “From the Prehistory of Novelistic Discourse” (1940), “Epic and Novel” (1941), “Rhetoric to the Extent that it Lies” (1943), “A Person at the Mirror” (1943), “On questions of Self-Consciousness and Self-Evaluation” (1943), and concluding with Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics (1963, much-expanded from his 1929 Problems of Dostoevsky’s Art), Rabelais and His World (1965), and Speech Genres & Other Late Essays (1979). Curated scholarship contextualizes Bakhtin’s works. All readings and discussions in English. 

 

Russian reading and writing track available. Counts towards Fordham’s Russian minor for those who have declared. Covers OCSC, Advanced Lit Core, and Comp Lit credits. SUMMER ONLINE 2021. 

 

*This course is the first of three in the Great Russian Minds Series to be offered over the next three summers (2021, 2022, 2023) through Fordham at Lincoln Center (online) with a generous grant from the Orthodox Christian Studies Center.

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DOSTOEVSKY AND RACE IN AMERICA

Dostoevsky and Race in America is a comparative course that begins with three Dostoevsky novels paired with three works by American writers that engage the question of race in America. The pairs include Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow with Notes From the House of the Dead, Ellison’s Invisible Man with Notes From
Underground, and Wright’s Native Son with Crime and Punishment. The course begins with James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time and culminates with contemporary American thinkers such as Cornel West’s readings of Chekhov, Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates’s reading of Solzhenitsyn, and hip-hop artist Black Thought’s interpretation of Crime and Punishment in his song “Dostoevsky.”

Russian track available. Spring 2021.

 
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COURSES TAUGHT AT FORDHAM LINCOLN CENTER

Prof. Ossorgin's love of dialogue derives not only from Dostoevsky's polyphonic novels but also from visual arts and from reading Plato with thoughtful underclassmen and tutors at his alma mater, St. John's College (Annapolis). He holds space for people to learn from each other through preparation, contemplation, and receptivity to original thought. As a professor of literature and art, he takes his responsibility to the works very seriously, but he ultimately wants to help you figure out what you have to say about them.

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THE APOCALYPSE COURSE: RUSSIAN REVELATIONS

THE APOCALYPSE COURSE: RUSSIAN AND AMERICAN REVELATIONS

Explore the revelatory moment that reverberates through historical and personal time. This interdisciplinary course is rooted in John’s Book of Revelation according to Russian religious philosophy. Comparative studies include Last Judgment Icons with Michaelangelo and Kandinsky's apocalyptic masterpieces; Blok’s "The Twelve” and T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men"; Gogol’s The Portrait and O’Connor’s “The Enduring Chill”; Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita and Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five; Tarkovsky's Sacrifice and Lindelof and Perrotta's The Leftovers; Freud's "Beyond the Pleasure Principle"; Kermode's The Sense of an Ending; Scriabin’s Second Symphony and Bob Dylan’s “Hard Rain.” Fulfills Orthodox Christian minor requirement. Taught in English. Russian track available.

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TOLSTOY, DOSTOEVSKY AND THE MEANING OF LIFE AND DEATH

We will read two works—one large book on Russian family life, one short meditation on death—from each of Russia's two most famous authors: Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky. We will read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (1878) and The Death of Ivan Ilych (1886) and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (1880) and The Dream of a Ridiculous Man (1877). Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are each profound psychologists and religious philosophers. While Tolstoy masters interpersonal and societal relations, Dostoevsky illuminates the extreme ranges of the human psyche. Tolstoy’s Levin in Anna Karenina asks “What is the meaning of life?” Dostoevsky’s Ivan Karamazov struggles to reconcile God’s creation with the suffering of innocent children. The two novels were written in close proximity to each other and bear fruitful comparisons. Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilych explores the mind of a prestigious court official who is terminally ill. Dostoevsky’s The Dream of a Ridiculous Man reveals the story of a man who dreams his own death. These two great authors are often pitted against each other, but Dostoevsky himself described Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina as “flawless,” and Tolstoy adored Dostoevsky’s religious teachings in The Brother’s Karamazov expressed through the character of Father Zosima. This course shows how the works of the great Russian writers compliment our understanding of life and death. Russian track available.

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MEDIA AND THE RUSSIAN STATE

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RUSSIAN VISIONS: THE INTERPLAY BETWEEN RUSSIAN LIT AND VISUAL ARTS IN THE 19TH AND EARLY 20TH C

Literature and Art. An original interdisciplinary course that explores the interaction between the Russian visual arts and Russian literature during two artistically flourishing periods of Russian and early Soviet history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

This course consists of two primary components: 1) an intermediate/advanced Russian language study and 2) a survey of censorship in Russian and Soviet history. It is available to both intermediate and advanced students of Russian and fulfills a Russian language requirement. The language track offers Russian grammar instruction that will prepare students to read and research advanced Russian texts. The cultural component of this course spotlights great works of Russian and Soviet art under censorship, beginning with imperial censorship in the second half of the nineteenth century, and continuing with press censorship leading up to and during WWI. We examine artists’ battles against Soviet censorship and Socialist Realism, using case studies of writers Zamyatin, Boris Pilnyak, Boris Pasternak and Joseph Brodsky; filmmakers Sergei Eisenstein and Aleksandr Askoldov; classical composers Shostakovich and Prokofiev; and Malevich, which includes a class trip to observe MoMA’s Suprematist collection. Finally, we will analyze Putin’s state-sponsored news outlets and compromised freedom of expression in present-day Russia. Heritage students will read original Russian texts and post responses in Russian. Scholarship and literature will be available in English for non-heritage speakers. Discussions will be in both Russian and English. Completion of 2001 or instructor approval required. Reading material and conversations are in both Russian and English.

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RUSS 1001

Build a rock-solid foundation for your Russian studies in this intensive one-semester course. Master Russian cursive. Peer into the Russian mind. This is the first of the four semesters required to meet your language requirement.

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RUSS 1501 AND 1502

The second and third semesters of the Russian language program cover all Russian cases. This course will complete your rock solid Russian grammar foundation and develop your speaking and compositional skills for continued study.

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RUSS 2001

RUSS 2001 is the exit level course or the final course that you'll need to complete in order to meet the language requirement. It is also the beginning of all of your continued advanced Russian studies from this point on. We begin to study excerpts from literature, poetry and biographical accounts of famous Russian literary figures. This sets you up to pursue the Russian minor at Fordham! The advanced courses offered after 2001 continue to grow your reading comprehension and your conversational and written Russian.