The topic of social change, so prominent within New Drama and contemporary poetry and film, forms the touchstone of my contemporary Russophone literature syllabus, which introduces students to writers such as Zakhar Prilepin, Roman Senchin, Dmitry Bykov, and Viktor Pelevin. 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. After 1968, censorship flexed its muscle again and culture went underground. Bard poetry and lyrics of underground rock music are examples of culture from the periphery that were catalysts for social and political change in the 1980s.

In addition to contemporary and post-Stalin literature and media, I teach realism/documentary in literature 19th-c. to 21st-c. in literature by Russian authors and by authors from “the periphery” of the Caucasus; 20th-c. modern Russian art and literature; and gender and sexuality in Russian literature, with a focus on women’s issues in Russia and East Europe and meaningful comparisons to North America. I am interested in forms of feminism and femininity in the Soviet and East European canon, as are my students. I published a translation (with accompanying scholarship) about a dictionary (that is accompanied by an art exhibition) dictionary that defines gender in layman’s terms, И-Искусство; Ф-феминизм: Актуальный словарь in Apparatus: Film, Media, & Digital Cultures in Central & East Europe.

“How do Chekhov’s Plays Work?” lecture, Princeton University
Experiential/Experimental Approaches to Pedagogy in the Language Classroom

In language pedagogy, we strive for students to engage in interactive dialogue in the target language. Drama is built out of dialogue. The most significant improvement as a result of using theatre in the language classroom is improved pronunciation, in speaking with more ease and confidence, with frequently correct emphasis on stressed syllables in words, and with a wider range of vocabulary use (E. Susanna Weygandt, “Ludic Acts of Language Acquisition: Role, Dialogue, and Stage for L2 Russian Oral Proficiency,” Dynamic Teaching of Russian: Gamification of Learning, 2023). In an intensive Beginner’s Russian course at Middlebury Institute of International Studies, students at the end of the course performed an abridged version of Onward…Onwards…Onwards / Дальше…Дальше…Дальше (1986, 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. In all of my productions, each student has a role and delivers memorized dialogue in Russian, while my lessons are weaved into rehearsals that explain the grammar in that dialogue.

Assignments that start in my classroom can take on lives outside the classroom in the form of publications of students’ translations. Students see that skills they learn in class can help them in the professional world. I teach material from Princeton’s digital archive Playing Soviet: The Visual Languages of Early Soviet Children’s Books in my culture courses, thanks to translations of some of the stories that my language students have done.

после урока, мы пошли в поход
Above: После урока, мы пошли в поход!
nasturtium flowers
Above: Nasturtium flowers
place at right hand side, in the place of the pastel painting with the two nuns
Beginner's Russian class performs Master and Margarita in the original
Above: Beginner's Russian class performs Master and Margarita in the original
Picture B
Above: Teaching The Crucible in Modern U.S./Soviet Women's History course
students sitting in group
Scene from Blue Machinist, Torian Room, Sewanee
Scene from Blue Machinist, Torian Room, Sewanee
Literature and Culture before Freedom after Censorship
Chekhov and Gender
Realism and the Documentary in Russia's Long 20th-Century