Russian 6634: Syllabus
This is last year's syllabus and schedule. The program and meeting days for this semester will be discussed and defined at the organizational meeting (see Current Announcements at our home page).
Week 1: Sunday 01/19/13 - Saturday 01/25/13
Chernyshevsky: a packet prepared by Maya. (Her email is pasted below.) You are not expected to do much work on this before the class, but it will be useful if you scan the Russian pages and some of the translations. We'll look at them together in class and talk about anything that catches the eye. I don't know if we'll spend just one class on this or more. Let's see how it goes.

Our next project might be some American science fiction in Russian translation, with Kurt Vonnegut high on the agenda, but I'm open to any ideas.

Two pages from Что делать (see yellow tags).

Translation by M. Matz

Translation by B. Tucker

Translation by N. Dole and S. Skidelsky

Translation by L. Beraha

Background (an introduction by Michael Katz and William Wagner)

From Maya's email:

Привет всем!

I'm really excited to be reading Chernyshevsky for this week! He isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I hope you'll end up liking him as much as I do. I've attached a section from his most famous novel, «Что делать?» which he wrote while imprisoned in the Petropavlovsky Fortress. In the section I've attached, Vera Pavlovna, one of the novel's main characters, is talking to the student Lopukhov. Marya Aleksevna, Vera Pavlovna's mother is eavesdropping on the two, as she plans to marry Vera Pavlovna off to a wealthy suitor and is worried that Lopukhov may be trying to woo her daughter. The conversation between Vera Pavlovna and Lopukhov is one of the more famous exchanges in the book and is pretty representative, both of Chernyshevsky's style and political/aesthetic ideas.

I've attached four English translations of this same section (don't worry, the section is really short!). The Katz translation is generally considered to be the best, and I'd be interested to know if you guys agree. I've also attached several sections from the introduction to the Katz translation, which I think will be useful background if you don't know much about Chernyshevsky or the Russian 1860s. The background reading also has a note at the end on the various translations of What is to be Done? which is quite interesting, and mentions the other three translations.

I really love this book (so much that I'm writing a chapter of my thesis about it!). However, I should warn you that it is a really, really weird piece of literature. As a novel, it is an unmitigated disaster--it is terribly written, story lines start and don't finish, most of the dialogue feels forced, the plot is bizarre, and you never know if Chernyshevsky is serious or joking--but despite (or because?) of its strangeness it was one of the most influential radical works of the 19th century. I hope you enjoy it! ~ Майя

Week 2: Sunday 01/26/13 - Saturday 02/01/13
Thanks for the fun discussion last week! For this class, we decided to translate the passage at the end of the section marked by Maya in the Russian text: from — Видите, какая я хорошая ученица... to родилась от других. You may choose to translate from Russian to English or find this passage in one of the better translations and translate it back to Russian without looking at the original. (We decided that the best translation was the one where Hamlet's Trial begins on p. 114.) We'll look at all your work in class.
Week 3: Sunday 02/02/13 - Saturday 02/08/13
Translate from Russian the three paragraphs before the passage that you translated the previous week, starting with — Совет всегда один...

And think of what you want to do next.

Week 4: Sunday 02/09/13 - Saturday 02/15/13
On Yasha's suggestion, we decided to translate to English some prose by Даниил Хармс. Read about him in Википедия.

«Официальный» сайт Хармса находится здесь:

Outside his poetry for children, my favorite is a collection of short vignettes about Russian historical figures called Весёлые ребята.

Here is Kharms' longest story, «Старуха», and here is one anonymous English translation of that story. The site was prepared by an fan, apparently living in Germany. It is not authoritative in any sense.

Well-known translations published in print include those by George Gibian PG3213 .G44, PG3213 .G44 1987 (including one of «Старуха»); and a slimmer volume by Neil Cornwell PG3476.K452 Z65, PG3476.K452 V8 1989.

Assignment for the first class (this one):

  1. Read Анекдоты из жизни Пушкина and analyze Gibian's translation of these miniatures and this anonymous translation.
  2. Read Вываливающиеся старухи and analyze Gibian's and Cornwell's translations. See which one you like better; we'll want to know your reasons.
  3. Read Из дома вышел человек and its translation by Yankelevich and Ostashevsky. Do you like the poem? The translation? The song?
Week 5: Sunday 02/16/13 - Saturday 02/22/13
Даниил Хармс: Translate a few stories from Весёлые ребята.

If you don't know Donald Barthelme (thanks, Maya!), take a look at his "Game" and "The School." Some of his sentences are positively Kharmsian, although his stories are only half as absurd as Kharms' (I think).

Week 6: Sunday 02/23/13 - Saturday 03/01/13
Даниил Хармс: Finish what we started last week: write a "final" version of the translations we discussed in class and translate the two or three stories from Весёлые ребята that we looked at (but did not discuss) in class so that everyone has a translation of the same stories.
Week 7: Sunday 03/02/13 - Saturday 03/08/13
Даниил Хармс:
  1. Write one or two miniature stories in the style of Весёлые ребята. Email them to me no later than Wednesday night. I will forward them to everyone. As an alternative, feel free to collect the email addresses of your classmates and email your stories directly.
  2. Translate all these stories:
  3. Katya's
  4. Maya's
  5. Yasha's

Easter egg revealed here.

Week 8: Sunday 03/09/13 - Saturday 03/15/13
On Katya's suggestion, translate a few paragraphs of this humorous story by Russel Baker. Katya has kindly included a brief intro for those who don't know much about him, but your translation should be from the story, not the biographical preface.
Week 9: Sunday 03/16/13 - Saturday 03/22/13
Week 10: Sunday 03/23/13 - Saturday 03/29/13
We decided that we'd spend another day on Russel Baker's story, so please continue translating as much as you have time for.
Week 11: Sunday 03/30/13 - Saturday 04/05/13
You have the packet of printouts, a few pages from Alice in Wonderland and three different translations (one, by V. Sirin, was made by Vladimir Nabokov; he used to write under that name). Compare the first page or so (whatever your time allows) of the original to the translations and note anything of interest; we will discuss the translators' solutions in class. (Nothing to write for this class.)
Week 12: Sunday 04/06/13 - Saturday 04/12/13
Work with Sirin's (Nabokov's) text on page 8 that begins with Вниз, вниз, вниз. Translate that long paragraph back into English without consulting the original English text. In class we'll talk about your translations, compare them to Lewis Carroll's original, and see what we can learn from that exercise :)
Week 13: Sunday 04/13/13 - Saturday 04/19/13
Start working on an English translation of Chekhov's Chameleon,
Week 14: Sunday 04/20/13 - Saturday 04/26/13
Put the final touches on your translation of Chekhov's Chameleon.
Week 15: Sunday 04/27/13 - Saturday 05/03/13
Translate the letter from A. Chekhov to his no-good brother:
Week 16: Sunday 05/04/13 - Saturday 05/10/13