The course offerings of the Russian department are designed to meet the twofold objective of providing training in the Russian language and a critical appreciation of Russia's literary tradition from its beginnings to the present. By following the prescribed course of studies, the student majoring in Russian will have acquired the requisite active and passive language skills to undertake senior thesis research in the original.
The language courses, from the introductory through the advanced levels, are taught in Russian and offer supplementary drill opportunities through the language laboratory and weekly conversation sections with a native speaker. In the second year, students continue their study of grammar and consolidate their active and passive language skills with reading, discussion, and written commentary on Russian lyrical poetry and texts on Russian cultural history. The third-year level offers extensive reading of the Russian short story, writing, and oral exercises, while continuing formal language training.
The literature offerings, organized by period and genre, survey the development of Russian poetry and prose from the Middle Ages to the present. A three-semester sequence (Russian 371, 372, 373) covers the most important prose texts produced within the thousand-year history of Russian letters, while a two-semester sequence (Russian 354, 355) examines the main figures and movements in nineteenth- and twentieth-century poetry.
In addition to these survey courses, the department offers a number of seminars on specialized topics, the content of which varies from year to year, as well as the opportunity for independent study by special arrangement with the instructor. Seminar topics in the past have included the critical theory and practice of the Russian Formalists and Structuralists, the experimental prose of the 1920s, and literature, film, and society since Glasnost. Independent study topics have ranged from introductory Old Church Slavonic, Czech, readings in epic, to Serbo-Croatian and the modern dystopic novel. With the exception of the two-semester poetry sequence, which is limited to students with a reading knowledge of Russian, the literature offerings are open to non-Russian majors. Russian majors as well as students who need Russian literature credit for classes taught in English are required to read texts in the original and to attend an additional weekly discussion section.
Majors are expected to broaden their general background and to enhance their critical skills by pursuing work in the humanities, other literatures, philosophy, and the fine arts. The junior qualifying examination in Russian is given to majors at the end of their third year or, with prior consultation with the faculty, at the very beginning of the senior year. The written exam tests the student's preparation in language and seeks to establish the breadth and depth of experience in Russian literature through a series of broadly conceived essay questions.