Aims/Description: Thirty years after its collapse, ordinary citizens' accounts of life in the Soviet Union are still emerging. This module examines their place in Russian literature of the past hundred years. We'll think about how different kinds of sources claim to represent the past, with a focus on literature in particular, and will see how accounts of personal experience relate to dominant narratives. We start by seeing how the avant-garde's response to the prospect and reality of revolution broadened the Russian literary language by including spoken and non-standard elements. As this type of writing came under increasing pressure in the Stalin period, distinguished memoirists such as Nadezhda Mandel'shtam wrote 'for the desk drawer' about the crimes of the Terror for a future public. After Stalin's death, gulag writers were divided about this role of witness: for Solzhenitsyn, suffering could be shown as redemptive; Shalamov vehemently denied this. Questions of the limits of literary expression such as this still interest contemporary writers: Svetlana Alexievich and Maria Stepanova chart the profound sense of loss - of many kinds - felt after 1991 by interviewing those who grew up in the Soviet Union. For both authors, their subjects' words are literature in the making. The Russian literary language is thus again expanded by the spoken words of those who are only now coming to terms with the past.

Staff Contact: FERGUS ADAM A
Teaching Methods: Seminars, Independent Study
Assessment: Course work, Presentation, Project/ portfolio

Information on the department responsible for this unit (Languages and Cultures):

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Teaching methods and assessment displayed on this page are indicative for 2021-22. Students will be informed by the academic department of any changes made necessary by the ongoing pandemic.

Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK