Slavic Languages and Literatures

Program Offerings

Offering type
A.B.

The Slavic department welcomes students who are interested in developing a critically informed appreciation for the literature and culture of Russia and the Slavic world. Our majors attain a high level of proficiency that allows them to work with both primary and secondary sources in the target language (BCS, Czech, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian).

Goals for Student Learning

  • The Slavic department aspires to develop in its majors a critically informed appreciation for the literature and culture of Russia and the Slavic world.
  • Majors should develop comprehensive knowledge of those historical trajectories, artistic trends and intellectual currents that have shaped in a unique way the literary tradition they have chosen as their object of study.
  • Slavic majors should be critically equipped and discerning readers of texts. Apart from intimate acquaintance with primary sources in their area of interest, they are expected to acquire knowledge of theoretical paradigms and productive critical approaches to literature and culture.
  • Since linguistic competence is an indispensable prerequisite in the learning process, the department expects students to attain a level of proficiency that will allow them to work with both primary and secondary sources in the target language. The student’s competence in the chosen Slavic language should enable them to appreciate the subtleties of artistic expression in literary works, as well as to navigate the intricacies of critical/theoretical texts. Attentive close reading should result in an understanding of literary texts that is not only thematic or historical, but that also engages with the stylistic features.
  • Majors are expected to perfect their writing skills, so as to produce work that is solidly structured, rhetorically appealing and logically sustained. 
  • In their independent work, majors should offer an original and thoughtful interpretation of the chosen topic and sources.  

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 ([email protected]) to discuss placement in Russian for Heritage Speakers.

Prerequisites

RUS 107 (or placement equivalent) or RUS 108

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 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.

Majors 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 ([email protected]), the Firestone Library Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies librarian; and including, but not limited to, examples of scholarship written by Slavic department faculty. The final assignment for the seminar is an annotated bibliography that reflects the research the student has undertaken in preparation for the fall JP. Separate from the grade for the seminar, juniors receive one grade for their fall JP and one for their spring JP. Each JP is 20–25 pages long and written in English. It incorporates Russian (or other Slavic language) resources to a significant degree and comprises one-half of the overall junior independent 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 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 give a brief (5-minute) presentation in Russian (or relevant Slavic language), and 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

Students interested in summer study abroad can participate in the intensive Russian language course taught by native speakers of Russian at Tallinn University. The program runs June–August and will cover two semesters of Intermediate Russian, for which Princeton students will receive transfer credit for RUS 105-107. Please visit the Russian Summer Program in Tallinn website for more information.

Preparation for Graduate Study

Departmental majors 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.

Offering type
Minor

Slavic Languages and Cultures

The Slavic department welcomes students who are interested in developing a critically informed appreciation for the literature and culture of Russia and the Slavic world. Our majors attain a high level of proficiency that allows them to work with both primary and secondary sources in the target language (BCS, Czech, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian).

Goals for Student Learning

  • To attain a high level of proficiency in the languages offered by the Slavic department (BCS, Czech, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian) and obtain a critical understanding of the Slavic cultural tradition through the examination of original sources. 
  • To pursue an effective pathway of well-assorted and well-balanced courses in the Slavic cultural traditions that allows the students who major in other departments to enhance their knowledge. 
  • To increase the students’ competitiveness with respect to their future career plans, whether in law, medical fields, business, government, nonprofit organizations, consulting firms or humanities fields such as theater, art and curatorial work. 

Prerequisites

  • RUS 107 (or RUS 108 for heritage speakers of Russian).
  • RUS 207 (or a 300-level course for heritage speakers of Russian).
  • Three Slavic department courses beyond RUS 207, of which at least one must be conducted in Russian.

Program of Study

Undergraduates who are not Slavic majors are encouraged to pursue a minor in Slavic Languages and Literatures and undertake a focused exploration of our language and cultural traditions (BCS, Czech, Polish, Russian and Ukrainian).

In order to receive a minor, students must take five courses:

  • RUS 107 (or RUS 108 for heritage speakers of Russian).
  • RUS 207 (or a 300-level course for heritage speakers of Russian).
  • Three Slavic department courses beyond RUS 207, of which at least one must be conducted in Russian.

No independent work is required. 

Comparable requirements will be substituted for students wishing to focus on other Slavic languages (BCS, Czech, or Polish). It is allowed to substitute the Center for Digital Humanities’ course, Introduction to Data and Culture, for one of the SLA departmental courses, assuming that materials from Slavic traditions are examined.

Students are encouraged to declare a Slavic minor by contacting the Department Undergraduate Coordinator Jessica Heslin ([email protected]) in the spring of their sophomore year, but they may do so through the spring of their junior year.

Faculty

  • Chair

    • Ilya Vinitsky
    • Michael A. Wachtel (acting)
  • Director of Undergraduate Studies

    • Elena Fratto
  • Director of Graduate Studies

    • Yuri Leving
  • Professor

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

    • Elena Fratto
  • Professor Emeritus (teaching)

    • Caryl Emerson
  • Senior Lecturer

    • Ksana Blank
  • Lecturer

    • Margaret H. Beissinger
    • Ana Cohle
    • 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.

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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. K. Blank

RUS 405 - Advanced Russian 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. 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. 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 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. K. Blank

SLA 219 - Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky (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. 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. 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. 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 K. Blank

SLA 311 - Russian Music (also MUS 339) LA

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. 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. Staff

SLA 410 - Bakhtin, the Russian Formalists, and Cultural Semiotics (also COM 410) Not offered this year LA

SLA 411 - Selected Topics in Russian Literature and Culture (also RES 411) 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 emigre literature. 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. 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. M. Wachtel

SLA 415 - Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace: Writing as Fighting (also COM 415/ECS 417/RES 415) 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. 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. 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. Y. Leving