Russia Through the Lens of Short Fiction

Course Title:   Russia Through the Lens of Short Fiction

Course #19F07

Course Fee: $35 Early Bird Fee $30 by Oct 1st

Dates:  October 14, 21, 28, and November 4, 2019

Time: 10:00 a.m. to noon

Location: Mercer Public Library, 2648 Margaret St. Mercer

Objectives:    Russian literature is perhaps known best for its lengthy works: War and Peace, Anna Karenina, The Brothers Karamazov, and the like.  This course, to the contrary, will introduce students to four outstanding Russian short stories.  Our study of these works will both illustrate the artistic variety of Russian short fiction and enhance our understanding of Russian life over the span of 100 years.

Course Structure:  The course will be given in four sessions, each 90 minutes to two hours in length.

Each session will focus on a single short story.  These works and their authors are:   “The Overcoat” (Nikolai Gogol); “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” (Nikolai Leskov); “The Peasants” (Anton Chekhov); and “Mahogany” (Boris Pilniak).

Class sessions will begin with an open discussion of the day’s chosen story. Students are encouraged to come to class with views on the main themes of the story, its strengths and weaknesses, and with any questions they may have.  It is essential that participants have read the assigned story in advance of the class.  The instructor will enter the discussion as appropriate and will also introduce additional information to enhance students’ appreciation of the story and its implications for life in Russia.

Requirements:  Three of the stories are available in creditable English translations on line.  “The Overcoat” can be found in a PDF version at “eastoftheweb.”  “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” can be found at the “Hudson Review” website 2013/02.  “The Peasants” is available at “The Literature Network” or at Wikisource (be sure to select the Constance Garnett translation at this site).

At this time, “Mahogany” does not appear to be available on line.  A paperback, entitled  Mahogany and Other Stories, translated by Vera T. Reck and Michael Green, is available in paperback at Amazon.

Copies of all the works will be available at the Mercer Public Library.

Instructor: Michael Hittle

Michael Hittle received his B.A. degree in Russian Studies from Brown University and his M.A. and Ph.D degrees in history from Harvard University.  He taught in the history department at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI, from 1966-2001.  His research and publications centered on the relationship between the Russian state and the country’s nascent middle class during the 17th and 18th centuries.  Long since retired, Mr. Hittle has turned his attention to matters closer to hand—especially the history of the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage—about which he published in 2018 An Accidental Jewel. Wisconsin’s Turtle-Flambeau Flowage. He readily admits that there is more than geographic distance between the flowage’s past and the satire of Nikolai Gogol, but he believes that a little contrast now and then can make life that much more interesting.