A Faculty Project Course - Best Professors Teaching the World
During the previous two centuries, Russian speaking writers and composers have made extraordinary contributions to Russian literature and to the culture of the world. They have also presented a truly remarkable understanding of the human soul. The objective of this Russian Literature course is to provide an opening into this colorful, absorbing, and deeply sensitive universe of written images and pulsating sounds
We will begin the course with a lecture on the medieval beginnings in Kiev to help conceptualize Russain literature and music. For each lecture, I'll post some thought questions for you to ponder or comment in a post.
Nicholas Riasanovsky, "History of Russia"
Sergei Zenkovsky, "Medieval Russia's Tales, Legends, Chronicles"
The Correspondence Between Kurbsky and Ivan the Terrible (published in English Translation, in Cambridge, Massachusetts)
The title of this lecture refers to St. Petersburg and Pushkin's education.
Pushkin showed extraordinary talent from a very early age. He was fortunate to enter an extraordinary school, called a Lycee, whose teachers recognized both his magnificent talent and his equally magnificent way of being hard to handle.
In the early 1820's the 23-year-old Pushkin for the first time encountered the work of Shakespeare -- in French translation. The Russian youth was deeply moved by the English Poet's poetic drama. Pushkin decided to do for the Russian Historical Theatre what Shakespeare had done for the English.
In Russia, Karamzin's History had just appeared, and the saga of the presumed 16th Century murder of the Muscovite Crown Prince, organized by Boris Godunov, was fresh in the reading public's mind. Pushkin saw the parallel with Henry IV, who had organized the murder of King Richard the Second. The resulting Russian Poetic Drama. "Boris Godunov" was enough to send shivers up the spine of the Tsar in Pushkin's time, so that the drama was not performed on the stage until several decades later.
Read the book by Chester Dunning, Caryl Emerson, and others: "The Uncensored Boris Godunov" - Prof. Emerson is one of our finest teachers, researchers, and musicians.
In Musorgsky's powerful operatic work, the story of the monarch with a guilty conscience comes forward with burning intensity. In spite of the fact that the Composer was a Member of the "Mighty Five", whose adherents wanted only Russian tones and themes in their music. Musorgsky managed to combine both Church Slavonic Chants and Russian Folk Music with the best of techniques developed in Italy by Verdi. The result is an umparalleld combination of History, Drama,and Music.
The lecture includes some demonstrations of the vocal music.
Listen to a DVD of Musorgsky's Opera, preferably with a cast from the Russia's Bolshoi theatre.
Pushkin's most famous Poem was "a novel in verse" - the story of Eugene Onegin and his understanding and misunderstanding of the great feminine character of Tatiana Larina. The music of Tchaikovsky's Opera caught the poetry better than any other translation.
Additional Reading & Activity
A brief snippet about one of the great Russian writers - Alexander Pushkin