Slavic Languages and Literatures

Arnold Hall, 304 Elm Street, 203.432.1300,
M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D.

John MacKay

Director of Graduate Studies
Molly Brunson

Professors Edyta Bojanowska, Katerina Clark, Harvey Goldblatt, John MacKay

Associate Professor Molly Brunson

Assistant Professors Marijeta Bozovic, Jinyi Chu

Senior Lectors II Irina Dolgova, Constantine Muravnik

Senior Lectors I Krystyna Illakowicz, Julia Titus, Karen von Kunes

Fields of Study

The department offers the Ph.D. in Russian literature and culture and, by special arrangement, in medieval Slavic literature and philology.

Special Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree

All graduate students are required to take four courses. RUSS 607, Topics in Russian Literature from Its Origins to the Eighteenth Century, is coordinated with the department’s graduate reading list of required works in Russian literature of the period. All students will take an examination in RUSS 607 that will also double as the medieval Russian literature examination for the doctorate (for more on examinations, see below). RUSS 608, Eighteenth-Century Russian Literature, follows the same pattern as RUSS 607. Its readings are also coordinated with the department’s graduate reading list of required works in Russian literature. All students will take an examination in RUSS 608 that will also double as the eighteenth-century Russian literature examination for the doctorate. The other required courses are SLAV 754, Church Slavonic, and RUSS 834, Aspects of Russian Grammar and Teaching Methodology, which combines pedagogy with the structure of Russian. If possible, SLAV 754 should be taken before RUSS 607. RUSS 834 should be taken concurrently with or before a graduate student’s first term of teaching Russian language, typically during the seventh term of study.

The minimum number of graduate courses for the Ph.D. is sixteen, counting the above four required courses. Of the remaining twelve, at least two must be taken in nineteenth-century Russian literature and at least two in twentieth-century Russian literature, including poetry and prose or dramatic works.

Students who have done graduate work elsewhere may petition the department for up to three course credits toward their degree after one year’s residence at Yale.

A special curriculum may be arranged for students wishing to specialize in medieval Slavic literature and philology.

Minor field As part of their program of study, students will also be responsible for developing a minor field of specialization in one of the following: (1) a Western or non-Western literature; (2) film studies; (3) a topic in intellectual history; (4) one of the other arts; (5) another Slavic literature; (6) Slavic linguistics; (7) another discipline relevant to their primary interests in Russian literature. The student’s minor field of specialization will be determined in consultation with the director of graduate studies (DGS). The minor field can be developed most readily through reading courses in the Slavic department or by taking graduate courses in another department. Up to two graduate courses in other departments will count toward the sixteen for the doctorate if they are relevant to a student’s program of study. The successful completion of a course or courses in the student’s minor field taken in another department may double as the departmental examination in the minor.

Examinations The Ph.D. qualifying examinations comprise eight parts and will be completed during the third year of study: (1) medieval Russian literature; (2) Russian literature of the eighteenth century; (3) minor field; (4) nineteenth-century Russian prose and drama; (5) nineteenth-century Russian poetry; (6) twentieth-century Russian prose and drama; (7) twentieth-century Russian poetry; (8) pre-prospectus examination.

The first two examinations are taken in conjunction with courses offered during the first two years of course work, RUSS 607 and RUSS 608. Early in the fifth term of study, students will take (3), a forty-minute oral exam in their chosen minor field, administered by the DGS and relevant faculty within and/or outside the department; this examination will be waived if the student has successfully completed one or two relevant graduate courses in another department. In October of the third year of study (typically during the second week), students will take two written examinations, (4) and (5), of two hours each, the first on Monday of the given week, the second on Friday. Each exam will consist of two or three passages drawn from well-known works of literature that will be identified and that are designated as required on the department’s reading list (which also includes additional works that are recommended but not required). Students will be expected to choose one passage and write an essay in which they analyze the text from as many of the following points of view as possible: versification (if relevant), style, structure, narrative point of view, themes, genre, period, place in the author’s oeuvre and in literary history, comparative context, and critical reception. Two additional written examinations, (6) and (7), which will follow the same format, will be held during one week at the end of the student’s fifth term of study (typically the first week of December), again on Monday and Friday. Each of these four written exams will be compiled and graded by two faculty members with expertise in the given century and genres. After each exam, students will be informed as to how they performed.

After the final written exam, all students will have a one-hour oral pre-prospectus exam on a date to be specified by the department near the beginning of the sixth term (typically, during the first week of February). This examination will explore issues pertaining to the student’s future dissertation prospectus. Normally, preparation for the exam will entail a more focused reading of the departmental reading list. For example, a student who proposes to work on Pasternak would read not only the required and recommended works by Pasternak, but also the required and recommended works by other writers of the twentieth century. Students will also be expected to explore secondary and theoretical sources outside the reading list that are relevant to their chosen topic. Preparation for the examination will be done in consultation with two faculty advisers (see below), and students will be required to prepare in advance a seven- to ten-page text outlining their future dissertation topic, including a discussion of existing scholarship and the way they propose to structure their work. An annotated bibliography of primary and secondary works pertaining to their dissertation topic should also be appended. The pre-prospectus text will be distributed to all departmental faculty one week prior to the exam, and all faculty will attend the exam. The aim of this exam is for the student to take an intermediate step toward developing a dissertation prospectus and also to provide the student with feedback from the faculty about the project.

The departmental reading list is available on the department’s website.

Article in lieu of examination As a possible alternative to one of the four written examinations on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, students may choose to write an article that they will submit for publication to a scholarly journal. The work will be carried out in consultation with a faculty adviser and will focus on a work or works in either poetry or prose (or drama) of the given century. This article will be due on the date that the exam on the given genre is normally scheduled. It is expected that the article will be ambitious in its overview and in its conceptualization of the issue(s) being addressed. The faculty adviser will evaluate the work and will advise the student on publication.

Teaching Since faculty consider teaching to be an integral part of graduate training, all graduate students are expected to teach for a total of four terms. (In most cases, this teaching takes place in the third and fourth years of study.) Students are typically assigned to two terms of language teaching, during which they are mentored and trained by a lead language lector, and two terms of literature/culture teaching, for which they either run discussion sections for large-enrollment lecture courses (e.g., Tolstoy and Dostoevsky) or serve as instructor-apprentices in undergraduate seminars.

Combined Ph.D. Program with Film and Media Studies

The Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures also offers, in conjunction with the Film and Media Studies Program, a combined Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures and Film and Media Studies. For further details, see Film and Media Studies in this bulletin and the department’s website. Applicants to the combined program must indicate on their application that they are applying both to Film and Media Studies and to Slavic Languages and Literatures. All documentation within the application should include this information.

Master’s Degrees

M.Phil. See Degree Requirements under Policies and Regulations.

M.A. The Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures does not admit students for the terminal M.A. degree, nor does it award an M.A. en route to the Ph.D. degree. If, however, a student admitted for the Ph.D. leaves the program prior to completion of the doctoral degree, the student may be eligible to receive a terminal master’s degree. The student must have completed at least fifteen term courses in Russian literature and linguistics, chosen in consultation with the DGS. A grade of Honors in at least two term courses and an average of High Pass in the remaining courses must be attained. A reading knowledge of French or German is required, and candidates must pass departmental proficiency examinations in Russian.

More information is available on the department’s website,


RUSS 607a, Topics in Russian Literature from Its Origins to the Eighteenth CenturyHarvey Goldblatt

Representative works, mostly selected from "old" Russian "bookish writing," but also from the "new" Russian literature of the seventeenth and first half of the eighteenth century, are examined against a broad comparative background to illustrate the development of various literary types and writing techniques. Special attention is devoted to diverse historiographic and methodological approaches; traditional and innovative theories of literary expression; and the connections between writing activity and ideological trends.
M 9:25am-11:15am

RUSS 621a, The Invention of Tradition in Post-Soviet Nation StatesKaterina Clark

The breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 resulted in a number of independent countries that had never been countries before, or not for several centuries. In the ensuing decades, politicians, historians, and culture makers in each of these countries produced narratives that claim a separate national identity and chart its history over a long stretch of time, though in many instances the country as a geopolitical unit was a Soviet fabrication. The course looks at the countries of Central Asia, Russia, and Ukraine. It discusses how each of the countries covered has generated revised accounts of the past that disaggregate ethnic, linguistic, or cultural imbrications with neighboring countries. It also considers the aftereffects of empire in this process. As much as possible, course materials are available in Russian, but all are available in English translation.
W 9:25am-11:15am

RUSS 644b, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and the NovelMolly Brunson

An examination of the place of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy in the history and theory of the novel. Topics include modernity and the rise of the novelistic genre; narrative and description, time and space; novelistic form and discourse; psychological interiority and the elaboration of the self; the Realist novel, the Bildungsroman, and the epic; limits of novelistic representation. Alongside a selection of novels and contemporaneous critical and theoretical texts, we read the central works of twentieth-century novel theory by Bakhtin, Lukács, and others.
W 9:25am-11:15am

RUSS 681a, Russian Romantic PoetryMarijeta Bozovic and Jinyi Chu

This seminar explores Russian romantic poetry in cultural and international contexts. We study the philosophical foundations; the preoccupation with various temporalities; the longing for total art bounded by lyric form; aesthetics and politics; and other topics. Readings include the works of Aleksandr Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Fedor Tiutchev, Konstantin Batiushkov, Evgenii Baratynskii, as well as Vasilii Zhukovskii, Nikolai Nekrasov, Afanasy Fet, and others. The approach emphasizes prosody, genre, and medium as well as the dissemination of ideas across media and cultures. Weekly practices involve close reading, research, theoretical reframing, and ongoing collaborative participation and presentations.
F 1:30pm-3:20pm

RUSS 689b, Russian Symbolist PoetryMarijeta Bozovic

This graduate seminar explores Russian Symbolist poetry in cultural and international contexts. We study the philosophical foundations (Nietzsche, Solovyov); the preoccupation with various temporalities (modernity); the longing for total art (Wagner) bounded by lyric form; aestheticism; utopianism; decadence; and other topics. Our readings include the works of Vladimir Solovyov, Valery Bryusov, Konstantin Balmont, Fedor Sologub, Zinaida Gippius, Mikhail Kuzmin, Vyacheslav Ivanov, Andrei Bely, and Aleksandr Blok—as well as of “post-Symbolists” Nikolai Gumilyov, Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelstam, and Marina Tsvetaeva. Our approach emphasizes prosody, genre, and medium as well as the dissemination of ideas across media and cultures. Weekly practices involve close reading, research, theoretical reframing, and ongoing collaborative participation and presentations.
F 1:30pm-3:20pm

RUSS 692b, Modernist Culture in RussiaJinyi Chu

This course offers an interdisciplinary overview of modernist culture in Russia. Focus is on how poets, prose writers, artists, intellectuals, and politicians (from Merezhkovsky to Stravinsky, from Diaghilev to Lenin) interacted with each other and how imperial Russia developed its own modernist culture in global context. Topics include institutions of art and media; literary journals and groups; translation and book market; theater as industry; European thoughts in Russia; theosophy and literature; modernist sexuality; prerevolutionary urban culture; gentry life; dance, music, costume design; Russia between East and West; revolution and modernism. Students establish an in-depth understanding of the cultural milieu in Russia from the 1890s to the 1910s and are introduced to the scholarly discourses on Russian modernism.
Th 9:25am-11:15am

RUSS 696a / FILM 775a, Post-Stalin Literature and FilmKaterina Clark

The main developments in Russian and Soviet literature and film from Stalin’s death in 1953 to the present.
Th 1:30pm-3:20pm

RUSS 699b / CPLT 677b, The Performing Arts in Twentieth-Century RussiaKaterina Clark

The course covers ballet, opera, theater, mass spectacle, and film, as well as theory of the performing arts, including selections from the writings of some of the most famous Russian directors and choreographers, such as Constantine Stanislavsky, Vsevolod Meyerhold, and Michel Fokine. It also includes their major productions and some of the most important Russian plays of the twentieth century (e.g., by Anton Chekhov, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Mikhail Bulgakov) and works by contemporary dramatists. All readings are available in both English and Russian. No knowledge of Russian required. Students taking the course for credit in Comparative Literature can write their papers on texts in other languages.
T 1:30pm-3:20pm

RUSS 704b, Petersburg Myth Russian LitrKaterina Clark

W 1:30pm-3:20pm

SLAV 900a or b, Directed ReadingStaff

By arrangement with faculty.