Reviews of Literature 013R - The Russian Novel

Name: Omitted Year: 2003 Major: Undecided Professor: Thompson Bradley Taken Fall 1999 Recommends? yes

Overall, it was an excellent class. Thompson Bradley is a bit of an odd duck, but he knows a lot about literature, and specifically Russian literature, as well as about Russian culture, and he's good at communicating what he knows. He's deeply involved with the students: even though it was a PDC, we didn't use WAs, but rather wrote three ungraded papers which he read, and on which he wrote lengthy, substantive comments, and returned to the students by meeting with them individually to discuss the papers. He is, as he says himself, a Marxist, which is an interesting bias. At first it bothered me, but the main way it shows up in his teaching is that he constantly links Russian literature with Russian politics. I liked this because it taught me about Russian history as well as the literature, the former being a subject in which I am woefully deficient. I also consider it a fair thing to do, because most of the novels were written with conscious political overtones.

The main workload of the class is the reading: the list calls for ten Russian novels, which of course are not famed for their brevity. It's a lot of reading, though it ends up being ok if you miss one or two. We spent a long time discussing the first few, which meant we skimped on the later ones, something I found frustrating because I really like Tolstoy, Bulgakov, and Solzhenitsyn. for papers, it's three ungraded papers (~3 pages) handed in for comments and discussion with the professor, and two longer (~5-6 pages) graded papers handed in at the end of the semester. Though he's not often in his office, he's very accessible via appointments, and easy to talk to after class. I borrowed I think two books from him because it occurred to him that I might find them useful in one of my papers, and that's the kind of thing he does a lot. The main drawback of the class was that it was too large for effective discussion, but he'd often try to have discussion anyway. Most of the time it was wonderful, though. I appreciate some of the books (specifically the Brothers Karamazov) much more than I otherwise would have, and the combination of the literary and the political was an interesting approach to the books, especially in the ways it was specifically applied to the context of (mostly) nineteenth century Russia.

in summary: I liked the class a lot. You should take it. It's not too much work - a lot of reading, though - and you learn a lot. also he's retiring, so you should take it now.

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