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Russian Literature

Russian Literature at Oregon: A Storied Tradition

image2 In the late 1960s, when Professor Albert Leong and the late Professor James Rice were hired to develop a program in Russian literature under the aegis of the German Department, UO had one of very few such programs on the West Coast. Together with Slavic linguist John Beebe and senior language instructor Fruim Yurevich, as well as colleagues in history, anthropology, art history, and other fields, Professors Rice and Leong were able to generate tremendous interest in Russian literature on the part of both students and the general public and to elevate their program into a separate Russian Department, with degree programs at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. In 1976, Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky came to the Russian Department for an extended visit.

In 1989, a generous grant from donor Marjorie Lindholm transformed Oregon’s Russian Department into one of the liveliest centers of Russian literary and cultural studies in the United States. For the next thirteen years, the Lindholm Endowed Professorship in Russian Language, Literature, and Culture brought a series of world-renowned Russian writers, artists, and critics to Eugene as visiting professors for periods ranging from two weeks to an academic quarter. Lindholm Professors included sculptor Ernst Neizvestny, prose writers Vladimir Voinovich, Tatyana Tolstaya, Lev Loseff, Andrei Sinyavsky, and Ruth Zernova, poet Vladimir Ufliand, historian Boris Mironov, linguist Catherine Chvany, and cultural critics Efim Etkind, Helena Goscilo, and, most recently (in 2002) Mikhail Epshtein. During their stays in Eugene, the Lindholm Professors gave public lectures and readings and taught advanced courses on various aspects of Russian culture.

Today, a new generation of scholars and students is carrying on the tradition of Russian literary studies at Oregon. Although the Russian Department has been integrated into REEES, we continue to offer comprehensive coursework in Russian literature for the Master’s degree, and concentrators in Russian literature may be able to continue their studies at the doctoral level in the Program in Comparative Literature at UO or in a reputable program elsewhere. Please consider joining us for your graduate studies!

Programs of Study

Like other disciplinary concentrations in REEES’s MA program, the Russian literature concentration includes three components: coursework within the discipline, a comprehensive written exam, and a thesis, as well as language study and electives in other fields. The nature of a graduate student’s coursework will depend on his or her individual goals; students interested in Russian literature as part of an interdisciplinary, terminal MA may wish to spend much of their time exploring other fields, and limit their coursework in Russian literature to the minimum requirement of four graduate courses, while students who intend to continue their study of Russian literature at the Ph.D. level will want to take as many courses in Russian literature as they can. The program is intimate enough that students can expect to work closely with their professors. In addition to regularly-offered research seminars and topical courses, graduate students have the option of arranging with professors to do one-on-one reading and conference courses on specific subjects or authors.

Students should try to plan their course of study in such a way as to take a reduced courseload in winter and spring of the second year, so as to concentrate on exam preparation and the thesis respectively (this can be done by signing up for credits in RUSS 605 Reading and RUSS 603 Thesis). Literature written exams will consist of three parts. Two three‐hour exams will be centered on the 18th and 19th and 20th and 21st centuries, respectively, and one two‐ hour exam will focus on the student’s thesis exam field of about 25 primary and secondary works approved by the advisor. The exam will take place on one day during finals week of winter quarter of the second year of study. The student will be given four essay questions in each of the two period‐specific exams and will answer the two he or she chooses to answer. In the thesis exam field, two questions will be provided, of which the student will answer one. These will be broad, thought‐ provoking questions that allow the student to show his or her knowledge. The thesis advisor and committee will all provide potential questions, with final versions of the questions to be approved by the thesis advisor.

The thesis should be a major piece of literary analysis, roughly 45-100 pages long, based on original texts as well as the relevant secondary and theoretical literature. Reading in Russian is mandatory. Ideally, students should develop a thesis topic at the end of the first year of coursework so as to begin researching it over the summer.

Recent graduate courses in Russian literature have included:

RUSS 507 Russia’s Roaring Twenties (Presto)
RUSS 510 Russian Drama (Nemirovskaya)
RUSS 511 Pushkin and His Era (Nemirovskaya)
RUSS 526 Russian Symbolism and Decadence (Presto)
RUSS 526 Russian Modernism (Presto)
RUSS 534 Bulgakov and Chekhov (Nemirovskaya)
RUSS 534 Russian Literature and Folklore
RUSS 534 Russian Orentalism/Russian Empire in Literature (Hokanson)
RUSS 534 Self and Other in Russian Literature and Film (Lim)
RUSS 534 Comparative Realism in Russia and China (Chan)

In addition, several courses in Comparative Literature have significant Russian components and can be used to fulfill requirements in REEES. Recent examples include:

COLT 561 Studies in Contemporary Theory: Writing Disaster (Presto)
COLT 518 Modernisms: Gender and Modernism (Presto)

Click here to download a copy of the M.A. literature reading list.


Roy Chan. Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures. Ph.D. University of California-Berkeley, 2009. Professor Chan’s first book, The Edge of Knowing: Dreams, History, and Realism in Modern Chinese Literature (University of Washington Press, 2017), focuses on the rhetoric of dreams and reality and its relation to issues of literature, modernity and revolutionary utopianism in modern Chinese fiction. His second project engages a translingual and transcultural literary critique of Soviet/Russian and Chinese literary texts that address the other country tentatively titled A Reflection of Sovereignty: Revolutionary Utopia and Transnational Desire in Russian and Chinese Literatures. A third project, in beginning stages of preparation, aims to comparatively explore “cultures of care” in Soviet/Post-Soviet and modern Chinese society, and their relation to psychology, counseling, biopolitics, and sociality and self. Research interests include modern literature, realism, narrative, the imperial imagination, and popular culture, among others. Theoretical concerns include Marxism, psychoanalysis, gender and sexuality, semiotics, and affect.

Katya Hokanson. Associate Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature. Ph.D. Stanford University, 1994. Publications include: Writing at Russia’s Border (University of Toronto Press, 2008); “The ‘Anti-Polish’ Poems and ‘I Built Myself a Monument…’: Politics and Poetry,” in Taboo Pushkin: Topics, Texts, Interpretations (University of Wisconsin Press, 2012); “Russian Women Travelers in Central Asia and India,” The Russian Review 70 (January 2011); “In Defense of Empire: ‘The Bronze Horseman’ and ‘To the Slanderers of Russia,’” Beyond the Empire: Images of Russia in the Eurasian Cultural Context, 21st Century COE Program Slavic Eurasian Studies, Hokkaido University Slavic Research Center, April 2008; “‘Barbarus hic ego sum’: Pushkin and Ovid on the Pontic Shore,” Pushkin Review 2005; “Onegin’s Journey: The Orient Revisited,” in Pushkin Review (2000); “The Captivating Crimea: Visions of Empire in ‘The Fountain of Bakhchiserai’,” in Russian Subjects: Nation, Empire, and Russia’s Golden Age, ed. Monika Greenleaf and Stephen Moeller-Sally (1998); and “Literary Imperialism, Narodnost’, and Pushkin’s Invention of the Caucasus,” in Russian Review (1994). A second monograph, The Politics of Travel: Writing the Russian Empire, is in progress. Teaching areas: 19th-century Russian literature, Pushkin, post-colonial theory, Russian women’s writing, literary theory.

Susanna Lim. Associate Professor of Literature at the Clark Honors College. Ph.D. University of California-Los Angeles, 2006. Professor Lim’s first book, China and Japan in the Russian Imagination, 1685-1922: To the Ends of the Orient (Routledge, 2013), explores the ways Russian philosophers, poets, political thinkers, and novelists have understood and imagined Asia—in particular China and Japan. She looks at how images of an “Orient” considered to be threatening, yet fascinating and exotic, are in fact shaped by Russian ideas regarding its own identity as a nation, and its ambiguous position as an empire straddling both Europe and Asia. Combining literary analysis with history, Lim’s study of Russia and East Asia highlights how observations of strange “other” lands are deeply influenced by the observer’s beliefs, illusions, and desires regarding race, gender, and nation. She is currently working on several new projects, including a study on the great popularity of Leo Tolstoy’s Resurrection in modern Korea, and the Korean intellectual Yun Ch’iho’s ideas on race based on his experiences of American and Russian racial discrimination. Her second book project looks at the development of South Korean nationalist discourse as seen in Pak Kyoung-ni’s groundbreaking multi-volume novel Land (T’oji, 1969-1994).

Julia Nemirovskaya. Senior Instructor of Russian Literature. Ph.D. Moscow State University, 1991. Author of numerous articles in Russian on Pushkin, diverse Russian poets, and contemporary Russian literature, as well as the acclaimed Russian-language textbook Inside the Russian Soul: A Historical Survey of Russian Cultural Patterns (1997). She is also a published author of poetry and short fiction; translations of her literary work can be found in Glas: New Russian Writing, The Literary Review, and Two Lines: A Journal of Translation. Teaching interests center on Russian literary classics, Russian drama, Russian culture, and theater as a vehicle for Russian language study.

Jenifer Presto. Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Russian. Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1996. Professor Presto is the author of Beyond the Flesh: Alexander Blok, Zinaida Gippius, and the Symbolist Sublimation of Sex (University of Wisconsin Press, 2008) and of articles and book chapters in the Cambridge History of Women’s Writing in Russia, Russian Literature, Russian Review, Slavic and East European Journal, and Slavic Review. She has also coedited a special section of Slavic Review on “Russian Geopoetics” and a forum in Slavic and East European Journal on “World Revolution.” Currently, she is at work on a new book, entitled Catastrophic Modernism: Russian Writing Between Etna and Vesuvius. This study explores the Russian fascination with the myriad disasters embedded within the deep history of southern Italy, ranging from the 1908 Messina earthquake—the worst earthquake in modern Europe—to the legendary eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 C.E. In so doing, this project brings to the fore a strain of Russian modernism rooted not in the northern Europe’s metropolitan centers but rather in the elemental forces of Europe’s southern periphery.