Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures

Faculty

Chair

  • Ilya Vinitsky

Director of Undergraduate Studies

  • Elena Fratto

Director of Graduate Studies

  • Michael A. Wachtel

Professor

  • Ellen B. Chances
  • Yuri Leving
  • Simon A. Morrison
  • Serguei A. Oushakine
  • Ilya Vinitsky
  • Michael A. Wachtel

Assistant Professor

  • Elena Fratto

Senior Lecturer

  • Ksana Blank

Lecturer

  • Margaret H. Beissinger
  • Ana Berdinskikh
  • Tamara Hundorova
  • Svetlana Korshunova
  • Laura E. Matthews
  • Mark R. Pettus
For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.

Program Information

Information and Departmental Plan of Study

Advanced Placement

The department gives its own placement test to all incoming students who have studied Russian. On the basis of this test, students are placed in an appropriate course. Successful completion of RUS 107, RUS 108 (Russian for Heritage Speakers), or immediate assignment to a higher course satisfies the A.B. language requirement. If students have experience speaking Russian at home, but lack formal schooling in the language, they should contact Svetlana Korshunova (sk22@princeton.edu) to discuss placement in Russian for Speakers.

Program of Study

A minimum of eight departmental courses is required, in addition to a required Junior Methods Seminar. Four upper-level courses must be within the department, two of which must be from the core survey courses (SLA 219, 220, 221); the other four courses may be from cognate areas depending on the student's particular interests. For example, if the major field of concentration is 19th-century prose, the program might include courses from French or German literature. Students with a strong interest in Russian and Soviet studies might take area courses in the Program in Russian and Eurasian Studies such as Russian history, politics, anthropology, or sociology. These are only sample suggestions. The program is flexible and strives to satisfy as wide a range of interests as possible.

Concentrators are required to complete RUS 207 and one or more advanced language courses (RUS 208, 405, 406, 407, or 408); or one of the upper-level literature courses taught in Russian (SLA 308, 312, 350, 413). Students who place beyond RUS 207, or who complete the Russian Heritage Speakers courses (RUS 103-108), will work with the director of undergraduate studies to design an appropriate course of study.

Independent Work

Junior Independent Work. Slavic majors are required to take a credit-bearing methods seminar in the fall of their junior year. This seminar will be devoted to various approaches to the field in Russian (or other Slavic languages), including one seminar session on research methods with Dr. Thomas Keenan (tkeenan@princeton.edu), the Firestone Library Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies librarian; and including, but not limited to, examples of scholarship written by Slavic department faculty.  Separate from the grade for the seminar, juniors will receive one JP grade for their year-long independent work, which will be recorded on the spring transcript. The English-language paper (20–25 pages), which will incorporate Russian (or other Slavic language) resources to a significant degree, will comprise one-half of the year-long junior independent work grade. Please refer to the Slavic Department Guide to Independent Work for the most up-to-date guidelines for each assignment.

Senior Independent Work. In the senior year, the student's independent work, written under departmental supervision, consists of a thesis of about 20,000 words to be submitted two weeks before the first day of the spring term reading period. After the thesis is submitted, students do a brief (5-minute) presentation in Russian (or relevant Slavic language), and following after each presentation, there is a question and answer period in English, for the Slavic Department faculty and fellow students. Total presentation time will run roughly 15 minutes per student. This presentation does not receive a grade.

Senior Departmental Examination

Graduating seniors are required to take a comprehension examination on Russian literature. Together with the thesis and departmental grades, this examination is one of three components that determine departmental honors. The take-home exam is based on a core list of works taught in the three survey courses offered by the department. Students may substitute a limited number of works based on their individual interests for the comprehensive exam. The finalized list must be submitted to the director of undergraduate studies one month before the exam.

Study Abroad

For students who begin Russian at Princeton, the department has organized a second-year course (RUS 105R-107R) for credit in St. Petersburg that may be taken the summer immediately following the completion of RUS 102. This course is taught by Princeton faculty as well as the instructors of the Derzhavin Institute. The dean of the college office is generally able to provide financial assistance to students enrolling in the summer course. More advanced students are urged to spend either a summer or semester in Russia. The St. Petersburg program is temporarily on hold. 

Certificate in Language and Culture

The Slavic department also offers a certificate in Russian Language and Culture.

Course Work. Students must complete RUS 207 in addition to three upper-level language or literature courses conducted in Russian. While course offerings might change from year to year, a selection of courses that satisfy the requirements of the certificate are as follows:

Language courses: RUS 208, RUS 405, RUS 406, RUS 407, RUS 408

Literature courses: SLA 308 (Short Story), SLA 312 (Russian Drama), SLA 350 (Russian Fairy Tale), SLA 413 (Pushkin and His Time), most topics courses (e.g., Lermontov, Russian poetry), most graduate literature courses. Should the student take a course on Russian literature that offers a Russian precept, that course may also count toward the certificate if additional work is completed for the course in Russian. This work must be approved by the director of undergraduate studies in consultation with the course instructor at the start of the term. Credit will not be granted retroactively. Students who place beyond RUS 207/208 must consult with the director of undergraduate studies to design an alternative course of study for the certificate no later than the end of fall semester, junior year. Students placing beyond 207/208 are still required to take four courses in the department to satisfy the certificate requirement.

Independent Work. Students must complete a paper in Russian of approximately 1,000 words. The paper ordinarily will be devoted to a close analysis of a literary text of about 10–20 pages. However, a student with strong related interests could write on questions of linguistics or a topic of broader cultural significance (e.g., Russian art, Russian film, politics). In any case, readings in Russian will be a mandatory component of the paper.  This paper may be an expanded and significantly revised version of a paper written for one of the courses taken to fulfill the certificate, but should be done in consultation with the instructor for whom the paper was written. In this case, at least one-third of the content (by word count) should be new material. Alternatively, a student may write a summary of their thesis (1,000 words) in Russian. All topics must be cleared in advance with the director of undergraduate studies, who will decide on their appropriateness in consultation with other department members and who will assist in assigning an adviser for the certificate paper as needed. An adviser should be chosen no later than the start of a student's senior spring semester.

Note: Students may obtain the certificate in Russian language and culture in addition to the certificate in Russian and Eurasian studies. However, they may not apply the same courses toward both certificates (with the necessary exception of RUS 207).

Preparation for Graduate Study

Departmental concentrators who are considering pursuing graduate studies in Slavic are reminded that most graduate schools require a reading knowledge of a second modern language. French and German are important for Russian literature. Graduate programs in Russian literature often require another Slavic language. Students should think about preparing themselves while still undergraduates to meet these requirements.

Courses

BCS 101 Beginning Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian I Fall

An introduction to the Bosnian-Croation-Serbian (also called Serbo-Croatian) language that develops the four major language skills: speaking, listening comprehension, reading, and writing. Class time is devoted to mastering conversational skills, grammar explanations, oral drills, and reading a variety of texts--popular writing, fiction, poetry, and expository prose. Covers the fundamentals of BCS grammar (verbal conjugations, aspect, the primary verbal tenses, and all cases); high-frequency vocabulary will be progressively learned and reinforced. Five classes. Instructed by: M. Beissinger

BCS 102 Beginning Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian II Spring

A continuation of BCS 101. This course continues to develop and refine the four language skills (speaking, listening, reading, and writing), concentrating on conversational practice, advanced grammar points, oral drilling, increased reading (BCS literature, folklore, and expository prose, including works chosen according to students' interests), and viewing films. Prerequisite: BCS 101. Five classes. Instructed by: M. Beissinger

CZE 101 Beginning Czech I Fall

Introductory course designed to teach the basic aspects of Czech grammar, vocabulary, and communication in a variety of situations. The course aims to teach all four language skills: reading, writing, listening comprehension, and speaking. Five classes. Instructed by: Staff

CZE 102 Beginning Czech II Spring

A continuation CZE 101. This course continues to develop and refine the four language skills (speaking, listening, reading, and writing), teaching all fundamental aspects of Czech grammar and basic communication skills in a variety of situations. As the course progresses, the rich Central European culture of Bohemia and Moravia will be sampled through poetry, film, and fictional as well as expository prose. Prerequisite: CZE 101. Five classes. Instructed by: Staff

CZE 105 Intermediate Czech I Fall

Advanced grammar topics, building of vocabulary through studying Czech word formation and reading challenging samples of Czech literature (prose, poetry, drama). Continuing practice in oral communication. Prerequisite: CZE 102 or instructor's permission. Three classes supplemented by required discussion sections, tutorials, and language lab. Instructed by: Staff

CZE 107 Intermediate Czech II Spring

Advanced grammar topics, building of vocabulary through the study of Czech word formation and reading challenging samples of Czech literature. Continuing practice in oral communication. Prerequisite: CZE 105. Three classes supplemented by required discussion sections, tutorials, and language lab. Instructed by: M. Pettus

PLS 101 Beginning Polish I Fall

A beginner's course that introduces the student to four areas of competence in Polish: speaking, grammatical knowledge, listening and reading comprehension, and writing. Emphasizes active language targeted at concrete practical contexts and communicative situations. Previous knowledge of other Slavic languages is advantageous, but not mandatory. Classes combine lectures, recitation, and drill formats. Five classes. Instructed by: M. Pettus

PLS 102 Beginning Polish II Spring

A continuation of PLS 101. This course continues to develop and refine the four language skills (speaking, grammatical knowledge, listening and reading comprehension, and writing). Emphasize active language targeted at concrete practical contexts and communicative situations. Classes combine lectures, recitation, and drill formats. Prerequisite: PLS 101. Five classes. Instructed by: M. Pettus

RUS 101 Beginner's Russian I Fall

Introduction to the essentials of Russian grammar. Presentation of grammar reinforced by oral practice of grammatical patterns. One hour per week devoted specifically to development of oral skills. Five classes Instructed by: M. Pettus

RUS 102 Beginner's Russian II Spring

A continuation of 101. Introduction to the essentials of Russian grammar. Presentation of grammar reinforced by oral practice of grammatical patterns. One hour per week devoted specifically to development of oral skills. Five classes. Instructed by: M. Pettus

RUS 105 Intermediate Russian I Fall

Grammar review; advanced grammar; introduction to word formation; expansion of vocabulary through readings of classical and modern fiction and history. One hour per week of translation and discussion of readings. Prerequisite: successful completion of 102 or placement test at Princeton. Five classes. Instructed by: M. Pettus

RUS 107 Intermediate Russian II Spring

A continuation of 105. Grammar review; advanced grammar; introduction to word formation; expansion of vocabulary through readings of classical and modern fiction and history. One hour per week of translation and discussion of readings. Prerequisite: 105. Five classes. Instructed by: M. Pettus

RUS 207 Advanced Russian Reading and Conversation I Fall

A content-based language course designed to develop speaking and reading proficiency through reading the texts on prominent figures of contemporary Russian culture: journalists, actors, sports people, and political activists. Special emphasis is placed on communicative activities. Review of grammar: cases, numbers, verb aspect, verbs of motion, subjunctive, participles, verbal adverbs, and conjunctions. Prerequisite: RUS 107 or instructor's permission. The course is not open to heritage speakers. Four classes. Instructed by: K. Blank

RUS 208 Advanced Russian Reading and Conversation II Spring

The course focuses on key events of 20th century Russian history as they are reflected by major Russian poets and writers. Reading and discussion of poems by Alexander Blok, Anna Akhmatova, Marina Tsvetaeva, Osip Mandelstam, and a short story by Vladimir Nabokov. A continuation of 207, this course is designed to further develop speaking and reading proficiency, writing skills and substantial expansion of vocabulary. Prerequisite: RUS 207 or instructor's permission. The course is not open to heritage speakers. Four classes. Instructed by: K. Blank

RUS 405 Advanced Russian Grammar through Reading

A practical approach to advanced Russian grammar and structure through reading and translation of Russian prose texts with special focus on difficult grammatical constructions. Two 90-minute classes. Prerequisite: 207 or 208. Instructed by: Staff

RUS 406 Russian Sentence Structure through Reading

A basic introduction to Russian sentence structure with special emphasis on word order, use of participles and gerunds, impersonal sentences, negation, voice, and long/short form adjectives. The course includes substantive readings of Russian texts and their syntactic analysis. Two 90-minute classes. Prerequisite: 207 or 208. Instructed by: Staff

RUS 407 Advanced Russian through Film Fall LA

The course presents six films, all of which are well known in Russia and have become classics. Three of them are based on literary works (Mikhail Bulgakov's comedy, Leo Tolstoy's story, and Alexander Ostrovsky's drama). The class discussion will center around various cultural, social, historical, and literary topics. Prerequisite: RUS 208 Instructed by: K. Blank

RUS 408 Practical Translation (also
TRA 408
) Fall

The course aims to familiarize students with the basic techniques of translation from English into Russian, so students can learn how to anticipate translation problems before they arise. Classroom time is divided between discussions of excerpts from literary works by American and British authors published in Russian and translation exercises focusing on various grammatical and lexical difficulties. The acquisition of practical translation skills will help students to achieve a higher level of proficiency in oral and written Russian. Prerequisite: RUS 208 for heritage speakers, RUS 108 or instructor's permission. Two 90-minute classes. Instructed by: K. Blank

SLA 219 Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky: Introduction to the Great Russian Novel (also
RES 219
) Fall LA

This is an introductory course, conducted entirely in English, on the classics of nineteenth-century Russian literature. No previous knowledge of Russian language, literature, culture, or history is expected. The focus of the course is on close readings of individual works. At the same time, we will pay close attention to the way a distinctively Russian national tradition takes shape, in which writers consciously respond to their predecessors. All of these works have a firm position in the Russian cultural memory, and they have significantly contributed to Russian national identity. Instructed by: M. Wachtel

SLA 220 The Great Russian Novel and Beyond: Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, and Others (also
RES 220
) Spring LA

A survey in English of Russian literature from mid-19th century to Soviet literature. Authors read include, among others, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Nabokov, and Bely. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Knowledge of Russian not required. Instructed by: E. Chances

SLA 221 Soviet Culture, Above and Below Ground (also
RES 221
) Spring LA

A survey in English of Soviet literature from 1917 to 1965 against the background of major social and political developments. Readings include works by Zamyatin, Babel, Bulgakov, Solzhenitsyn, and other representative authors. Two lectures and preceptorial. Knowledge of Russian not required. Instructed by: K. Reischl

SLA 308 The Russian Short Story (also
RES 309
) Spring LA

In Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment a character says about St. Petersburg: "It's rare to find a place where so many murky, sharp and strange influences have their effect on human soul as in Petersburg." We will read Gogol and Dostoevsky's Petersburg stories, focusing on all kinds of influences the city has on its inhabitants: physical, psychological, emotional, intellectual, and moral. Additionally, we will explore Gogol's literary influence on Dostoevsky. The entire course is conducted in Russian and special emphasis is placed on active use of the language. All readings are in Russian. Prerequisite: RUS 208; for heritage speakers RUS 108 Instructed by: K. Blank

SLA 311 Russian Music (See MUS 339)

SLA 312 Russian Drama (also
RES 312
) LA

Introduction to major dramatic works of the 19th and 20th centuries, including Pushkin, Gogol, Chekhov, Shvarts, and Vampilov. Readings, discussions, oral and written reports in Russian. Two 90-minute seminars. Prerequisite: RUS 207 or instructor's permission. Instructed by: O. Hasty

SLA 316 Ethical Dimensions of Contemporary Russian Cinema (also
RES 316
/
VIS 353
) Not offered this year EM

Exploration of the quest for moral values in Soviet and post-Soviet Russian cinema of the 1960s to the present. Topics include, among others, the effects of Stalinism; the struggle for freedom of individual conscience under totalitarianism; the artist's moral dilemmas in Soviet and post-Soviet society; materialism versus spirituality. Films of Andrei Tarkovsky, Nikita Mikhalkov, and others. One three-hour seminar. Knowledge of Russian not required. Instructed by: Staff

SLA 410 Bakhtin, the Russian Formalists, and Cultural Semiotics (See COM 410)

SLA 411 Selected Topics in Russian Literature and Culture (also
RES 411
/
ENG 441
/
COM 456
) EMLA

Topics include: Russian literature and the city; Russian literature and the intellectual; the search for moral value in post-Communist literature; satire; Russian literature and music; 20th-century Russian poetry, Russian emigre literature. Instructed by: Staff

SLA 412 Selected Topics in Russian Literature and Culture LA

Topics include: Russian literature and the city; Russian literature and the intellectual; the search for moral value in post-Communist literature; satire; Russian literature and music; 20th-century Russian poetry, Russian emigré literature. Instructed by: O. Hasty

SLA 413 Pushkin and His Time (also
RES 413
) LA

An introduction to Pushkin's works with attention to a number of genres (lyric, long poem, drama, short story). Readings in Russian with discussions in Russian or English, depending on students' preference. Two 90-minute classes. Prerequisite: RUS 207 or instructor's permission. Instructed by: M. Wachtel

SLA 415 Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace: Writing as Fighting (also
COM 415
/
RES 415
/
ECS 417
) Spring EM

The course is primarily about War and Peace, framed by some earlier and later fiction and by Tolstoy's essays on art and religion. Tolstoy's radical ideas on narrative have a counterpart in his radical ideas on history, causation, and the formation of a moral self. Together, these concepts offer an alternative to "The Russian Idea," associated with Dostoevsky and marked by mysticism, apocalypse, and the crisis moment. To refute this idea, Tolstoy redefined the tasks of novelistic prose. Seminar. Instructed by: I. Vinitsky

SLA 416 Dostoevsky (also
RES 416
) LA

A consideration of Dostoevsky's major works with particular emphasis upon their relation to the political, social, religious, and literary currents of his time. Knowledge of Russian not required. One three-hour seminar. Instructed by: E. Chances

SLA 417 Vladimir Nabokov (also
COM 406
/
ENG 424
/
RES 417
) Fall LA

An examination of Nabokov's major accomplishments as a Russian/American novelist in the context of the Russian literary tradition and the cultural climate of emigration. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Instructed by: Y. Leving