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CODE 104355
SEMESTER 1° Semester


This 36-hour (six-credit) course will be taught in the first semester (3 hours per week) in person and in English. The course will be taught in parallel with course 61285 (LCM/Lettere), which has an almost identical syllabus for the first semester, but will be taught in Italian. Students are free to attend the lectures of either course.

104355 is intended for (1) students in the TTMI program at the Department of Foreign Languages and Cultures who wish to take a course in English (while those who prefer Italian should attend the lectures for 61285); (2) students of LCM and Lettere who have signed up for 61285, but prefer to attend lectures in English during the first semester. (In the second semester, course 61285 will be taught exclusively in Italian).




Our first-year course introduces students to Russian literature and culture from its medieval origins to the mid 1800s. In the second year, students focus more specifically on problems of literary style and evolution by examining texts from the 19th and early 20th centuries; students who take the third-year course will go still more deeply into the literature and culture of a more specific historical period (such as The Thaw).


This course will provide students (1) familiarity with the work of several significant Russophone writers of the 19th and early 20th centuries; (2) deeper knowledge of specific important texts; (3) the basic tools of literary analysis; (4) general knowledge of the main cultural figures, currents of thought, and social and cultural events from the period in question.


None. A knowledge of Russian is not required for this course.


This course will be conducted in person and in English. In order to keep pace with the course, it is necessary to sign up on Aulaweb. Not only will you receive announcements automatically, but you will also find on Aulaweb information regarding the course syllabus, lectures, and the exam. N.B. Access to the course on Aulaweb does not require a password, but actually signing up for the course requires an extra step: You do need to be sure that your name appears in the list of "participants" or else you have not managed to sign up and you will not receive any notifications.

It is also necessary to sign up for the course on Teams. The password will be made available on Aulaweb.

Students with certification of learning or other disabilities should inform the instructor (who is also the Departmental contact for the Inclusion of Students with Learning and Other Disabilities) in order to discuss possible accommodations regarding this course or studies at the University of Genoa in general.



Title of the course — Russian Literature: Excess, Abnegation, Transformation.

By "Russian literature" we mean Russophone literature produced by persons living in the territories of the Russian and/or Soviet empires. In this course we will read and analyze various texts from the 19th century, when Russian literature became internationally known, and from the 20th, up to the period immediately following the Revolution of 1917. We will examine the struggles of various literary characters who clash against the limits imposed upon them by the society of the time with its conventions and social practices. Of particular interest are themes such as: arranged marriage; the relative weight of social estates and official ranks; the advantages of social status (wealth, connections, education) and gender; the link between space (from the ballroom to the battlefield, from Russia to Europe and the world) and identity (Russian, Ukrainian, Jewish, hybrid); materiality and spirituality; obsession and crime; power and violence. We begin with the “svetskaja povest’” (society tale) and women’s writing, will read short texts by Rostopčina, Pavlova, Leskov, Tolstoj, Čechov and Zamjatin, and will view the cinema of Evgenij Bauer.


(N.B. This reading is not “recommended”, but mandatory!)

Obviously, students able to read the texts in Russian are encouraged to do so, while those who manage to look only at a few passages in the original and compare them with the translated versions will find numerous details relevant to their linguistic and literary studies.

The required texts may be found online, on Aulaweb (as pdf or in another form), borrowed from the library or purchased. Precise details regarding each text will be furnished on Aulaweb. Books can also be tracked down with the help of Libreria Bozzi (off via Cairoli).


For minor alterations and further details (such as specific pages), see Aulaweb. N.B. The language of the lectures that you choose to attend does not limit the language in which you read: students are free to choose between Russian, Italian and English.


Riasanovsky, Nicholas. A History of Russia (selected pages) — “Storia della Russia” (pagine selezionate)


Part 1: The woman writer and the svetskaja povest’

Rostopčina, Evdokija. Rank and Money (1838) — “Rango e denaro” — “Чины и деньги”

Pavlova, Karolina. A Double Life (1847) — “La doppia vita” — Двойная жизнь


Part 2: Excess and Abnegation

Leskov, Nikolaj. “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District” (1864) — Lady Macbeth del distretto di Mcensk — Леди Макбет Мценского уезда

OPTIONAL: “Katerina Izmajlova” (film of the lyric opera by Dmitrij Šostakovič with Galina Višnevskaja)


Part 3: The Old and the New: Melodrama and the cinema of Evgenij Bauer

Lectures in English with Professor Schamma Schahadat (Tübingen)


Part 2 bis: Excess and Abnegation

Tolstoj, Lev. “Father Sergius” (1898) — Padre Sergio — “Отец Сергий”

Čechov, Anton. “The Little Trilogy” (1898) — “La piccola trilogia” — “Маленькая трилогия”


Part 4: Transformations

Zamjatin, Evgenij. We (1921) — “Noi” — “Мы”


ADDITIONAL READING: For those interested in specific periods and authors, we recommend the following literary histories: Storia della civiltà letteraria russa, vol. 2 (UTET, 1997); Ettore Lo Gatto, “Profilo della letteratura russa dalle origini a Solženicyn” (Mondadori, 1975); and others. Please ask the instructor for specific recommendations in English.

N.B. While the quality of the information found in these volumes greatly surpasses that found easily online, these texts are not required. Since this course aims to develop students’ capacities to interact directly with the texts in question, uncovering information about them found in other sources is less important than your own individual involvement in the process of reading and reflection.


Exam Board



LAURA SALMON (Substitute)



The week of 2 October 2023: Tuesday, October 3, 8.30 am, Aula D (Polo Didattico)



WRITTEN exam at the end of the course. There may also be 2 or 3 optional assignments over the course of the semester, such as the task of preparing specific tests for discussion in class.

The 6-credit exam for this course may be taken in January/February 2024 or during the following three exam periods. This exam concludes course 104355; for the longer course 61285, however, this 6-credit exam represents the first part of the exam; an exam for the remaining 3 credits may be taken beginning in June 2024 at the end of the second semester.

Whenever possible, you may sign up for the exam using the unige site. The exams for the courses 104355 and 61285 may be taken in Russian, Italian or English as the student prefers. Exams will be held in Jan/Feb 2024, Jun/Jul 2024, Sept 2024, and Jan/Feb 2025.

A single exam in late spring will also be available exclusively for those students who are graduating in June or July. Since no additional exams are planned, students are advised to pay attention to the exam calendar and PLAN accordingly for personal deadlines regarding travel (including Erasmus) or scholarships.

This program “expires” in February 2024. Students who have not passed the entire exam by that time will be examined according to the version of this course that is current in 2024-25.


The exam will test whether or not students have actually (and recently) read the literary texts on the syllabus and will evaluate students’ ability to offer a critical interpretation of these, contextualizing them in historical, cultural, and literary context. Students are advised to read attentively and to formulate their own opinion on the material. The quality of the students’ self-expression in presenting their ideas and their correct use of relevant scholarly terms will figure into the grade.

Exam schedule

Data Ora Luogo Degree type Note
22/01/2024 14:00 GENOVA Orale Si tratta dell'esame ORALE per gli studenti LCM, TTMI e LETTERE degli anni precedenti (con programma 2022/2023). L'aula del 22 gennaio è da confermare ancora. L'aula del 6 febbraio è Aula 15 all'AdP.
06/02/2024 14:00 GENOVA Orale Si tratta dell'esame ORALE per gli studenti LCM, TTMI e LETTERE degli anni precedenti (con programma 2022/2023). L'aula del 22 gennaio è da confermare ancora. L'aula del 6 febbraio è Aula 15 all'AdP.


Attendance is strongly recommended since the course is based on the individual analysis of the texts, on the assignments, and on the discussions held in class. As a result, those who do not attend regularly or who do not complete the assignments may have difficulty passing the exam.

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