Slava Paperno (director)
Krystyna Golovakova
Raissa Krivitsky
Viktoria Tsimberov
Richard L. Leed (1929-2011)
Lora Paperno (retired)

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Russian 6634: Course Description

RUSSA 4434 and RUSSA 6634 in the course catalog are the same course, the one described below. Cornell's enrollment system requires that undergraduates enroll in 4434 while graduate students enroll in 6634 for purely administrative reasons.

Russian 6634 is a variable credit course. It meets once or twice a week (depending on the number of credits) for 50 minutes each time. Discuss with your teacher the number of credits to register for. The decision regarding the work load is usually made at the organizational meeting where the materials and format for the course are discussed and defined.

This course is taught differently each year depending on the interests of the students who take it. This is also discussed at the organizational meeting.

The course is open to native as well as advanced non-native speakers of Russian.

In 2023, students in this course read Russian classical and modern prose (once a week), and at the second weekly meeting, participate in a creative writing workshop with Dmitry Bykov, each time on an assigned theme or in a suggested genre.

In 2022, this course was about reading and discussing three classics of Russian literature: «Записки из подполья» Достоевского, «Анна Каренина» Льва Толстого и «Собачье сердце» Михаила Булгакова.

In 2019, the course combined two approaches that we had used in the past: we read classics of early Soviet literature; we spent a class or two discussing and analyzing the text, and then had a class when each student will make a 5-7 minute presentation on his or her perception and conclusions of the part that was discussed.

In 2018, the course was about translating American movie culture to Russian. We watched American films, then discussed them in Russian, and the students wrote an essay on each film in Russian. The idea was to create a continuous narrative about the two cultures as presented in the films. The films will had a common theme or themes, and mostly we worked with more than one film from each director.

In 2016, we taught this as a course in public speech, one of its incarnations mentioned below. Each student selects her own readings for each class and prepares a seven-to-ten minute presentation on the issues that seem of interest. The purpose of making the preparation is to practice speaking clearly, elegantly, and effectively. The rest of the group will serve as an intelligent audience: pertinent questions, additional or counter examples and arguments are expected.

In 2014, we heard one presentation a week from each student, each week on a different subject that was picked by the students as we went along. In each class, all presentations were on the same subject. People spoke for 7 to 10 minutes, and discussion followed. Speakers were asked to stay on topic, but not to dwell on things that were too specialized. Each presenter sent a draft of his or her presentation to Slava about 36 hours before the class. Slava returned these with comments and suggestions on the eve of the class.

Some years (e.g. 2015) 6634 was taught as a practical translation course. We analyzed several classic Russian translations of English-language literary texts published in Russia as well as some Russian literary works published in English in the English-speaking world. The rest of the semester was sometimes spent translating American short stories into Russian and comparing the students' translations to published professional translations of the same works.

In 2013, we had lots of fun working with Daniil Kharms' prose for four weeks. First, we analyzed a few published translations, then composed our own, and finished by writing (and then translating) a bunch of stories à la Kharms. Here they are: three by Katya, two by Maya, and two by Yasha, all pretty irreverent. Some of our translations from Kharms' Весёлые ребята can be read here.

Some years, this was a course in speaking Russian in a variety of styles, and then analyzing sound recordings of these discussions: what could have been said differently? What could have been said better? What speech patterns should be avoided, and what speech patterns need to be developed and cultivated?

Once, recently, we spent most of the semester rendering in Russian (not translating) American media publications from various periodicals in various fields as well doing the reverse: writing accounts of Russian media stories in good academic English.

A variety of other matters related to Russian can also be treated in this course. We're open to suggestions. Come to the organizational meeting and talk to us.

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Dept. of Comparative Literature • Russian Language Program • 240 Goldwin Smith Hall • Cornell University • Ithaca, NY 14853-4701, USA
tel. 607/255-4155 • fax 607/255-8177 • email