The topic of social critique, so prominent within New Drama and contemporary poetry and film, forms the touchstone of my contemporary Russian literature syllabus, which introduces students to writers such as Zakhar Prilepin, Roman Senchin, Viktor Pelevin, and Tatiana Tolstaya. I like to show the stepping stones from earlier literature to contemporary literature by explaining the shifting rules of censorship during the Thaw after Khrushev initiated a critique of Stalin. As my students in my Easter 2020 course at Sewanee, Countercultures in Film and Literature after Stalin have an interest in music and poetry as well, we read bard poetry and lyrics of underground music to learn how this culture from the periphery was a catalyst for social and political change in the 1980s.
The Russian literary canon is permeated by works by authors with bold observations about gender, from Alexandra Kollontai’s autobiographies and political legislation about equity, to Svetlana Alexievich’s oral histories of female veterans, to Alisa Ganieva’s travel literature written in post-Soviet Caucasus. Following my long-standing interests in documentary and realism genres, I am focusing on Alexievich’s books.
“How do Chekhov’s Plays Work?” lecture
Experiential Learning in the Russian Language Classroom
One of the main ways that my teaching stands out as perfectly suited for a liberal arts environment is my demonstrated dedication to mentoring students so that assignments that start in the classroom take on lives outside the classroom in the form of publications, particularly students’ translations. I teach material from Princeton’s digital archive of Soviet children’s literature in my culture and language courses, and I invite students to take an active role with this literature through their translations. Here is the link to this material--http://commons.princeton.edu/soviet/search/node/dalhousie (after arriving at this page, click on one of the book titles in red, and then click “view annotations” once so that the book image enlarges, and then click “view annotations” again, and my students’ translations will appear).
Translated subtitles to contemporary films and music videos by students of my Advanced Russian language course at Sewanee as part of their Challenge/ Челлендж.
- Wesley Bailey’s original website about translations of Russian idioms: www.slavophile.net (use Google Chrome browser)
- Alastair Ferenbach’s poignant subtitles to the song “Выходной" by the group СБПЧ: https://youtu.be/ZhdDjk8vCdE (use Google Chrome browser)
- Translation of talk show Наедине со всеми by Caroline Greenhalgh: https://youtu.be/82wrHGM_P7U
- Translation of the Soviet cartoon, “Как козлик землю держал” by Don Rung Jr.: https://youtu.be/ZyQYfJb0q2A (use Google Chrome browser)
I have expertise in designing learning outcomes in the classroom. To me, Sewanee’s G6 General Education requirement is essential to my language courses: “Students develop a range of communicative strategies in a foreign language, recognition of another cultural perspective, and the capacity for informed engagement with another culture and also to reflect on one’s own mentality, language, and culture.” Incorporating original literature and films in the classroom, in particular Russian drama, reinforce the goals of G6. How do plays about human nature originating in modern and contemporary Russia give us insights into ourselves and our own culture? The depths a single line of dramatic text provides insights into human psychology and nature, and when performed, these moments of realization provoke and change us. At the end of the Summer Intensive Language Program, 2019, at Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, my language students performed a scene from “Дальше... дальше ...дальше... / Onwards…Onwards…Onwards…” (1987) by Mikhail Shatrov. Stalin comes back to life and is tried by his victims. The text of the play, however, is based on archive material and minutes of meeting between Lenin, Stalin, and members of the Central Committee of the USSR. Each student had a role and memorized their lines. For this project, the process has been just as important as the result. My students, who progressed from Beginner’s to Intermediate Low within the course of one summer with me, read the play in Russian, discussed it in Russian in class, and students translated the play. Students also interpreted the lines of their roles into their own Russian (“pereskaz”), and some of the dialogue in the play was replaced by students’ interpretation of historical and political events in students’ own Russian. I enjoy drawing on these content-based approaches to language instruction at my classes at Sewanee, where immersion is always a part of our classroom environment.
Directing (selected) of my Russian language students in Russian dramatic scenes
Project SWAN / Проект СВАН (Andrei Rodionov and Katerina Troepolskaya). Tennessee Williams Center, Sewanee, TN. Performance in Russian by students of Sewanee’s Russian Department. March, 2020. Given this play’s emphasis on immigration topics, this event is supported by the International and Global Studies (IGS) department’s list of extra-curricular events related to IGS on campus.
Onwards…Onwards…Onwards / Дальше…Дальше…Дальше (Mikhail Shatrov). Documentary play based on archive material, performed in Russian to entire Russian Program, Middlebury Institute of International Studies, Monterey, CA, August 6. 2019
The Master and Margarita (Mikhail Bulgakov) adaptation of the novel to the stage, performed by my First Year Russian students in Russian at Dalhousie University Russian Night. Open to the public (200 audience members), Halifax, Nova Scotia, March 18, 2017
Illusions (Ivan Vyrypaev) performed in Russian by Princeton graduate students. Play-reading as part of Literary Theatricality: Theatrical Text conference, Princeton University. October 26, 2012
The Twelve (Aleksandr Blok), Middlebury College Davis School of Russian, Middlebury, VT.. July 29, 2007
Director’s assistant (Dir. Varvara Faer, Teatr.doc), Teatr.doc (Moscow), Pussy Riot Eye Witness Theater, NYC tour at Harriman Center, Columbia University, NYC, March 13, 2013