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CODE 61285


This 54-hour (9-credit) course will be taught in the first semester (3 hours per week) and in the second semester (2 hours per week) in person and in Italian. It is intended for (1) students in the LCM program at the Department of Foreign Languages and Cultures (DLCM), (2) students from Letters (DIRAAS, DAFIST), (3) others as an elective.



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 20th centuries that are linked by a particular theme; 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 first half of the 20th century or The Thaw).


This course will provide students (1) familiarity with the work of several significant Russophone writers of the 19th century; (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. Knowledge of Russian is not required for this course.


This course will be conducted in person and in Italian. 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 there 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: Excess, Abnegation and Power in Russian Literature

In this course we will read and analyze various texts from the 19th century, when Russian literature became internationally known. By "Russian literature" we mean “Russophone” literature, i.e. that produced in the Russian language by persons living in the territories of the Russian and/or Soviet empires. 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, issues of social estate and official ranks, together with the (dis)advantages of social status (wealth, connections, education) and gender. We will also consider the link between literary space and identity, the conflict between materiality and spirituality, obsession and crime, power and violence. We begin with the “svetskaja povest’” (society tale) and with the question of women’s writing, read short texts by Rostopčina, Žukova, Turgenev, Leskov, Dostoevskij, Chvoščinskaja, Garšin andČechov, view a brief animated film, and examine the famous and influential novel “What Is To Be Done?” in historical context.


(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)


Part 1: The woman writer and the svetskaja povest’

Rostopčina, Evdokija. Rank and Money (Чины и деньги, 1838) 

Žukova, Marija. “The Dacha on the Road to Peterhof” (Дача на Петергофской дороге, 1845)


Part 2: Excess and Abnegation

Turgenev, Ivan. “First Love” (Первая любовь, 1860)

Petrov, Aleksandr and Ivan Šmelëv. “My Love” (Моя любовь, 2006)

Leskov, Nikolaj. “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District” (Леди Макбет Мценского уезда, 1864)

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


Part 3: Power, violence, choice (12 ore/4 settimane)

Chvoščinskaja, Nadežda. “Ridnevа” (Риднева, 1875)

Garšin, Vsevolod. “Nadežda Nikolaevna” (1885)

Čechov, Anton. “The Fiancée” (Невеста, 1903)


Part 4: Transformation (Semester II)

Černyševskij, Nikolaj. “What Is To Be Done?” (Что делать? 1863)

Dostoevskij, Fëdor. “Notes from Underground” (Записки из подполья, 1864)


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




The week of September 30, 2024



The exam has a WRITTEN part (6 credits) and an ORAL part (3 credits). There may also be optional assignments over the course of the semester, such as the task of preparing specific tests for discussion in class. The oral exam for the remaining three credits may be taken beginning in June 2025. At the end of the first semester, students may take a two-hour written exam for the first 6 credits of 9. N.B. The division of this exam into two diverse parts will normally require two exam dates (appelli) to complete.

Whenever possible, you may sign up for the exam using the Unige site. The exam may be taken in Russian, Italian or English as the student prefers (and independently of the language selected for the lectures chosen). Students who wish to take the written part of the exam in English should notify the instructor by email when the sign up for the date. Exams will be held in Jan/Feb 2025, Jun/Jul 2025, Sept 2025, and Jan/Feb 2026. 

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 before the end of May.

This program “expires” in February 2026. 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 2025-26.


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.


ATTENDANCE: 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. 

Agenda 2030 - Sustainable Development Goals

Agenda 2030 - Sustainable Development Goals
Quality education
Quality education
Gender equality
Gender equality
Reduce inequality
Reduce inequality
Peace, justice and strong institutions
Peace, justice and strong institutions