Slavic Languages and Literatures

Humanities Quadrangle, 203.432.1300,
M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D.

John MacKay

Director of Graduate Studies
Molly Brunson

Professors Edyta Bojanowska, Katerina Clark, John MacKay

Associate Professor Molly Brunson

Assistant Professors Marijeta Bozovic, Jinyi Chu, Claire Roosien

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 644a, 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.
M 1:30pm-3:20pm

RUSS 651a, ChekhovEdyta Bojanowska

Detailed study of Anton Chekhov’s writing in all genres: fiction, nonfiction, and drama. Focus on Chekhov’s formal innovations, literary polemics with contemporaries and predecessors, and his works’ embeddedness within the social contexts of late imperial Russia and late Victorian Europe. Attentive close reading of texts is combined with interdisciplinary approaches to the study of Chekhov, such as ecocriticism, performance studies, gender studies, postcolonial studies, theories of the spatial turn, and medical humanities. Prerequisite: students without reading knowledge of Russian need permission of the instructor.
F 9:25am-11:15am

RUSS 655b / HSAR 535b, Russian Style: Material Culture and the Decorative Arts in Imperial RussiaMolly Brunson

This seminar examines the historical development of a national style in Russian decorative arts and material culture from the eighteenth century to the early twentieth. Although known for borrowing liberally from western European artistic traditions, Russian imperial culture—from the baroque and neoclassical courts of Elizabeth and Catherine to the exported “native” imaginaries of the Ballets Russes—also sought to distinguish itself in design, scale, manufacture, and style. Structured around a series of case studies, this seminar considers highlights from the history of Russian decorative arts, all while exploring broader questions about the transnational movement of style, the intersection of nationalism and design, the invention of “native” cultures, and the materialities of empire and modernity. Topics include the branding of Catherine the Great; Russia’s natural resources and trade networks; consumer culture in St. Petersburg; the materialism of realism; the Abramtsevo artists’ colony and the discovery of folk art; russkii stil’ (Russian Style) at the World’s Fairs; curating ethnographies and archaeologies; and the “relics” of the Romanovs. Organized as an intensive research seminar, this course brings the central conceptual and theoretical concerns of visual and material culture studies (e.g., materiality and thing theory, ornament and the decorative, the socioeconomics of taste) to a historical and object-based consideration of Russian style. Significant use is made of the museum and library collections at Yale and nearby.
M 1:30pm-3:20pm

RUSS 680b, Space and Place in Modern Theory and FictionEdyta Bojanowska

The study of literature has been dominated by questions of time and chronology, but recent scholarship has seen a surge of interest in the spatial discourses of literary texts. This course considers geometric, geographic, social, and epistemic spaces of literary texts. How do humans organize—and are organized by—space? How do literary texts conceptualize and sometimes transgress their own spatial order? How does spatial discourse situate knowledge, culture, and society? Borders, thresholds, and in-between spaces occupy us, along with transformations and animations of space. Theoretical readings span philosophy, literary and cultural theory, anthropology, sociology, phenomenology, and geography and include Plato, Heidegger, Goffman, Lefebvre, Foucault, Anderson, Bakhtin, Lotman, Tuan, Bachelard, de Certeau, Moretti, Massey, Grosz, Said, Bhabha, Deleuze, and Guattari. Literary readings include Russian texts from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century by Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Bely, Zamyatin, Platonov, Nabokov, Ulitskaya, and Pelevin. Readings are in Russian.

RUSS 682a, Russian Avant-Garde PoetryMarijeta Bozovic

This graduate seminar explores generations of Russian poetic avant-gardes in their cultural, historical, and political contexts. We focus on poetry but draw on visual culture, music, performance, and political actions as we follow our iconoclasts across genres and media, into and outside of the institutions they critique. We read seminal and recent theories of the avant-garde (Frankfurt school; Bürger; Mann; Sell) and poetry and aesthetic productions of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. From the demiurgic ambitions of the historical avant-garde (Khlebnikov, Mayakovsky, Vertinsky) we move to its Soviet continuation and transformation (Kharms, Oberiu); nonconformist Soviet-era practices (Nekrasov, Roald Mandelstam); Conceptualism (Prigov, Rubinstein); and finally post-Soviet and contemporary leftist avant-gardes (Medvedev, Chukhrov). Our readings include the works of Tsvetaeva, recontextualized in an alternative tradition of Russian poetry, as well as poems published this very year. What do such interventions mean today? The artistic avant-garde has always stood as a metaphorical surrogate for political violence; but has the “avant-garde tradition” become a travesty of the ambitions that marked its historical beginnings? Our approach emphasizes language, form, and medium as well as theory, philosophy, and politics. Weekly practices involve close reading, research, theoretical reframing, and ongoing collaborative participation.
F 1:30pm-3:20pm

RUSS 695a / FILM 778a, Russian Literature and Film in the 1920s and 1930sKaterina Clark

This course presents a historical overview, incorporating some of the main landmarks of the 1920s and 1930s including works by Pilnyak, Bakhtin, the Formalists, Platonov, Mayakovsky, Bulgakov, Zoshchenko, Eisenstein, Protazanov, Pudovkin, the Vasilyev “brothers,” and G. Aleksandrov.
W 1:30pm-3:20pm, T 7pm-10pm

RUSS 851b, Proseminar in Slavic LiteratureKaterina Clark

Introduction to the graduate study of Russian literature. Topics include literary theory, methodology, introduction to the profession.
W 1:30pm-3:20pm

SLAV 900a or b, Directed ReadingStaff

By arrangement with faculty.