L&S Curricular Connections

L&S Discovery Courses

LS 40A

The Soviet Experience

Arts and Literature, Historical Studies

This Discovery Course explores the dramatic history of the Soviet Union, which has recently come to an end. With it ended the great utopian experiment of the 20th century: an attempt to organize society in accordance with the socialist ideals of equality and social justice. The course approaches the Soviet phenomenon from a specific perspective: through experiences of concrete people whose lives were deeply affected by the social upheavals of Soviet history. Topics include the early visions of the new social order and experimental living; family, sexuality, and gender; the state terror in Stalin’s times; the fall of the Soviet order and the revision of the Soviet experience. Course materials include documents (architectural designs, legal codes, political propaganda, personal diaries), works of art (novels, films, paintings), scholarly studies (drawn from the disciplines of history, literary scholarship, and cultural studies), and journalistic writings.

Readings include: from Richard Stites, Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution (historical scholarship); from Katerina Clark, The Soviet Novel (literary scholarship); Yuri Olesha, Envy (novel); Valentin Kataev, Time, Forward! (novel); from Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago (documentary fiction); from Intimacy and Terror: Soviet Diaries of the 1930s (personal documents); Lidia Chukovskaya, Sofia Petrovna (novel); David Remnick Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire (journalism).

All readings in English.
Prerequisites: none. Format: lectures (with viewing of films/slides) and discussion session. Requirements: weekly readings, a take-home midterm (essay and research assignment), short in-class quizzes, in-class final (essay and a quiz of factual information).

Terms Offered

  • Fall 2008
  • Spring 2006