CLRS G6110
Fall 2004
M 2:10-4
121 McIntosh Center (Barnard)

Rebecca Stanton
226D Milbank Hall,
(212) 854-3313
Office hours: Thursdays, 4-6.

This course approaches the development of self-narrative and literary self-conceptualization in Russian and West European literature from a comparative perspective.  By reading seminal Russian and Western works -- both fictional and non-fictional -- in the autobiographical mode, along with influential secondary texts on autobiography and its problematics, we shall examine the ways in which the notion of “the self” has been constructed at different times by different authors; explore the various uses to which this notion has been put; and seek to draw fruitful comparisons between the Russian and Western conversations about “self.” 

Regular and active participation in class meetings; one brief (10 minutes) presentation on a relevant work from the secondary literature; one critical paper of approximately 15 pages, on a topic chosen in consultation with the instructor. 

The following books are available at Labyrinth Books (536 W. 112th St., betw. Broadway and Amsterdam).

  • Augustine of Hippo, Confessions (Oxford World’s Classics)
  • Rousseau, Confessions (Oxford World’s Classics)
  • Wordsworth, The Prelude (Penguin)
  • Tolstoy, Childhood (Penguin) out of print.  We will use a xerox.
  • Gorky, Childhood (Penguin)
  • Lermontov, A Hero of Our Time (Everyman’s Library)


Sept. 13

I.  Introduction: Testimony, Lyric, Narrative

The disputed origins and uses of autobiography.  A comparative outline of the evolution of autobiography theory in the West and in Russia: major thinkers and developments. 

In-class readings:
*“The Story of the Flood,” The Epic of Gilgamesh
*Sappho lyrics TBA

II. The sacred self

Sept. 20

Primary reading:
Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, Books 1-9

Secondary readings:
W.C. Spengemann, “The Formal Paradigm,” in The Forms of Autobiography
Peter Brooks, “Confession, Selfhood, and the Religious Tradition, ” in Troubling Confessions
Michel Foucault, “On the Genealogy of Ethics: An Overview of Work in Progress,” in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow.

Sept. 27

Primary readings:
*The Life of Avvakum, Written by Himself

Secondary readings:
Philippe Lejeune, “The Autobiographical Pact”
Priscilla Hunt, “The Autobiography of the Archpriest Avvakum: Structure and Function,” Ricerche Slavistiche 22-23 (1975-1976), pp. 155-78
V.V. Vinogradov, “On the Tasks of Stylistics: Observations Regarding the Style of The Life of Archpriest Avvakum

III.  Eighteenth-century confessions

Oct. 4

Primary readings:
Rousseau, Confessions, Books 1-2
*Montaigne, “To the Reader” (preface to Essays) [in class]

Secondary readings:
Lydia Ginzburg, “Rousseau’s Confessions and the Modifications of Personality,” in On Psychological Prose.
Spengemann, “The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau,” in Forms of Autobiography.
Georges Gusdorf, “Conditions and Limits of Autobiography,” in Olney, Autobiography.

Oct. 11

Primary readings:
*Fonvizin, Chistoserdechnoe priznanie (excerpt) [in Russian]
*Karamzin, My Confession: A Letter to an Editor of a Journal

Secondary reading:
Nancy L. Cooper, “A Chapter in the History of Russian Autobiography”
M. M. Bakhtin, “Epic and Novel” (excerpt)

IV.  Rediscovering Childhood

Oct. 18

Primary readings:
Wordsworth, The Prelude: “Two-Part Prelude” (1799); Book I (1805); Book 14 (1850).

 Secondary readings:
Paul de Man, “Autobiography as De-Facement”
Richard Coe, When the Grass Was Taller: Introduction.

Oct. 25

Primary readings:
Tolstoy, Childhood
Gorky, Childhood (excerpt)

Secondary readings:
Andrew Wachtel, The Battle for Childhood
Philippe Lejeune, “Autobiography in the Third Person”

Nov. 1

Election Day weekend – no class

V.  Selves and history

Nov. 8

Primary readings:
*Herzen, selections from Past and Thoughts
*Mandelstam, selections from The Noise of Time
(Wordsworth, Prelude, Book 10 [1805]/10-11 [1850].)

Secondary readings:
Lydia Ginzburg, “Herzen’s My Past and Thoughts and Historical Identity,” in On Psychological Prose
Jane Gary Harris, “Autobiography and History: Osip Mandelstam’s Noise of Time,” in Autobiographical Statements...

Nov. 15

Primary readings:
*Solzhenitsyn, The GULag Archipelago: Preface and Chapter 1 (“Arrest”)
*Shalamov, Kolyma Tales: “In the Bathhouse,” “A Piece of Meat,” “Dry Rations,” “A Child’s Drawings,” “The Injector,” “My First Tooth”

Secondary readings:
Leona Toker, “Toward a Poetics of Documentary Prose”
A. Urban, “Khudozhestvennaia avtobiografiia i dokument”

Suggested further reading:
Babel, “My First Goose”

Nov. 22

Primary readings:
*Zoshchenko, Before Sunrise
*Akhmatova, Requiem
Shostakovich, String Quartet No. 8 in C minor

Secondary readings:
A.A. Zhdanov, Essays on literature, philosophy, and music (selections)
Additional TBA

VI.  Travel and Pathology

Nov. 29

Primary readings:
*Karamzin, Letters of a Russian Traveler (selections)
*Ilf and Petrov, Little Golden America [Odnoetazhnaia Amerika], Part III: “Toward the Pacific Ocean”

Secondary readings: TBA

Dec. 6

AAASS -- no class

Dec. 13

Primary readings:
Lermontov, A Hero of Our Time

Suggested further reading:
Nabokov, Lolita (1955)

Dec. 17

(Friday):   PAPERS DUE to the folder on my office door, 226D Milbank



Selected autobiographical works in Russian literature, with dates.

The Instruction of Vladimir Monomakh (ca. 1117)

The Supplication of Daniel the Exile (12th-13th century)

The Life of Avvakum, Written by Himself (1669-76)

Autobiographical texts of 18th-century noblewomen:

Memoirs of Princess Nataliia Dolgorukaia

Memoirs of Princess Ekaterina Dashkova

Memoirs of Catherine II

Karamzin, Letters of a Russian Traveler (1789-1790)

Lermontov, A Hero of Our Time (1840)

Tolstoy, Childhood (1852)

‑‑‑, Boyhood (1854)

‑‑‑, Youth (1857)

Dostoevsky, Notes from the House of the Dead (1860-62)

Herzen, excerpts from Past and Thoughts (1852-68)

Gorky, Childhood (1913)

‑‑‑, My Apprenticeship (1914)

‑‑‑, My Universities (1923)

Mandelshtam, The Noise of Time (1923-25)

Babel, Red Cavalry (1924)

---, childhood tales: “Childhood,” “The Story of My Dovecote,” “First Love,” “In the Basement,” “Awakening” (1925-30)

Akhmatova, Poem Without a Hero (1940-1966)

Zoshchenko, Before Sunrise (1943)

Nabokov, Speak, Memory (1951)

---, Lolita (1955)

Shklovsky, Once Upon a Time (1963)

Paustovsky, Story of a Life (1945-63)

Olesha, No Day Without A Line (1965)

Brodsky, Less Than One (1986)


Modest Musorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition (1874)

Petr Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 (Pathétique; 1893)

Dmitri Shostakovich, String Quartet No. 8 in C minor (1960)

Alfred Schnittke, Viola Concerto (1985)


Secondary works and texts of the Western “autobiographical canon”.

Anderson, Lisa.  Autobiography.  London: Routledge, 2001.

Ashley, Kathleen, Leigh Gilmore, and Gerald Peters, eds., Autobiography and Postmodernism.  Amherst: U of Mass. Press, 1994.

Augustine of Hippo, Confessions.

Bakhtin, M.M.  “Epic and Novel.”  The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays.  Ed. Michael Holquist.  Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist.  Austin: UT Press, 1981.

Barthes, Roland.  “The Death of the Author.”  Image—Music—Text.  Trans. Stephen Heath.  New York: Hill and Wang, 1977.

Beaujour, Michel.  Poetics of the Literary Self-Portrait. Trans. Yara Milos.  New York: NYUP, 1991.

J. L. Black, Essays on Karamzin: Russian Man-of-Letters, Political Thinker, Historian, 1766-1826.  The Hague: Mouton, 1975.

Brooks, Peter.  Troubling Confessions: Speaking Guilt in Law & Literature.  Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2000.

Brostrom, Kenneth N., trans. and ed., with article.  Archpriest Avvakum.  The Life Written by Himself.  Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Publications, 1979.

Bruner, Jerome.  “Life as Narrative.”  Social Research 54 (Spring 1987): 11-32.

Bruss, Elizabeth.  Autobiographical Acts: The Changing Situation of a Literary Genre.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1976.

Coe, Richard.  When the Grass Was Taller: Autobiography and the Experience of Childhood.  New Haven: Yale UP, 1984.

Cooper, Nancy L.  “A Chapter in the History of Russian Autobiography.” Slavic and East European Journal 40, no. 4 (1996 Winter): 609-22.

Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy.

de Man, Paul.  “Autobiography as De-Facement.”  Modern Language Notes 94, no. 5 (Dec. 1979): 919-930.

De Mijolla, Elizabeth.  Autobiographical Quests: Augustine, Montaigne, Rousseau, and Wordsworth.  Charlottesville: UP of Va., 1994.

Derrida, Jacques.  The Ear of the Other: Otobiography, Transference, Translation.  Ed. Christie V. McDonald.  Trans. Peggy Kamuf.  New York: Schocken Books, 1985.

Eakin, Paul John.  Fictions in Autobiography: Studies in the Art of Self-Invention.  Princeton UP, 1985.

---.  How Our Lives Become Stories: Making Selves.  Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1999.

---. Touching the World: Reference in Autobiography.  Princeton UP, 1992.

Egan, Susanna.  Mirror Talk: Genres of Crisis in Contemporary Autobiography.  Chapel Hill: UNCP, 1999.

Folkenflik, Robert, ed.  The Culture of Autobiography. Constructions of Self- Representation.  Stanford University Press, 1993.

Foucault, Michel.  The Care of the Self.  Volume 3 of The History of Sexuality.  Trans. Robert Hurley.  New York: Vintage, 1988.

Gilmore, Leigh.  The Limits of Autobiography: Trauma and Testimony.  Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2001.

Ginzburg, Lydia.  O psikhologicheskoi proze [On Psychological Prose].  Leningrad: Sov. Pisatel’, 1971.

---.  O literaturnom geroe [On the Literary Hero].  Leningrad: Sov. Pisatel’, 1979.

Gunn, Janet Varner.  Autobiography: Towards a Poetics of Experience.  Philadelphia: U of Penn. Press, 1982.

Harris, Jane Gary, ed.  Autobiographical Statements in Twentieth-Century Russian Literature.  Princeton UP, 1990.

Iavchunovskii, Ia. I.  Dokumental’nye zhanry [Documentary Genres].  Saratov: Saratovskii gos. univ., 1974.

Isalama, Saiyada Manajurula.  The Ethics of Travel: From Marco Polo to Kafka.  Manchester UP, 1996.

Lejeune, Philippe.  Le pacte autobiographique.  Paris: Seuil, 1975.

---.  On Autobiography.  Ed. Paul John Eakin.  Trans. Katherine Leary.  Minneapolis: U. of Minn. Press, 1989.

Marcus, Laura.  Auto/Biographical Discourses: Theory, Criticism, Practice.  Manchester UP, 1994.

Mashinskii, S.  “O memuarnoi-avtobiograficheskom zhanre” [On the Memoiristic-Autobiographical Genre].  Voprosy literatury 6 (1960): 129-45.

May, Georges.  L’autobiographie.  Paris: PUF, 1950.

---.  “Autobiography and the Eighteenth Century.”  In The Author and His Work, 317-33.  New Haven: Yale UP, 1978.

Misch, Georg.  Geschichte der Autobiographie.  8 vols.  Frankfurt: Schulte u. Bulmke, 1949-69.

---.  A History of Autobiography in Antiquity.  2 vols.  Westport: Greenwood Press, 1973.

Montaigne, Michel de.  Essays.

Muratov, A. B. and L. A. Iesuitova, eds.  Avtointerpretatsiia: sbornik stat’ei [Autointerpretation: a collection of essays].  St. Petersburg: Izd. S.-Peterburgskogo univ., 1998.

Newman, Cardinal John Henry.  Apologia Pro Vita Sua: Being a History of His Religious Opinions.

Olney, James, ed.  Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical.  Princeton UP, 1980.

---.  Memory and Narrative: The Weave of Life-Writing.  U of Chicago P, 1998.

---.  Metaphors of Self: The Meaning of Autobiography.  Princeton UP, 1972.

---, ed.  Studies in Autobiography.  Oxford UP, 1988.

Pascal, Roy.  Design and Truth in Autobiography.  New York, London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1985.

Poliak, L. M., and V. E. Kovskii, eds.  Zhanrovo-stilevye iskaniia sovremennoi sovetskoi prozy [Generic-Stylistic Investigations into Contemporary Soviet Prose.  Moscow: Nauka, 1971.

Porter, Dennis.  Haunted Journeys: Desire and Transgression in European Travel Writing.  Princeton UP, 1991.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques.  Confessions.

Russell, Alison.  Crossing boundaries: postmodern travel literature.  New York: Palgrave/St. Martin's Press, 2000.

Schonle, Andreas.  Authenticity and fiction in the Russian literary journey, 1790-1840.  Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 2000.

Schmid, Ulrich.  Ichentwürfe.  Die russische Autobiografie zwischen Avvakum und Gercen.  Zürich: Pano-Verlag, 2000.

Smith, Sidonie, and Julia Watson.  Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives.  Minneapolis: U. of Minn. Press, 2001.

Spengemann, William C.  The Forms of Autobiography: Episodes in the History of a Literary Genre.  New Haven: Yale UP, 1980.

Toker, Leona.  “Toward a Poetics of Documentary Prose: From the Perspective of Gulag Testimonies.”  Poetics Today 18, no. 2 (1997 Summer): 187-222.

Urban, Adol’f.  “Khudozhestvennaia avtobiografiia i dokument” [Artistic Autobiography and Document].  Zvezda 2 (1977): 192-208.

Vance, Eugene.  “Augustine’s Confessions and the Grammar of Selfhood.”  Genre 6, No. 1 (March 1973): 1-28.

Vatnikova-Prizel, Z.  O russkoi memuarnoi proze: kriticheskie analizy i bibliografiia [On Russian Memoiristic Prose: Critical Analyses and Bibliography].  East Lansing: Russian Language Journal, 1978.

Vinogradov, V.V.  “On the Tasks of Stylistics: Observations Regarding the Style of The Life of Archpriest Avvakum,” in Kenneth N. Brostrom, trans. and ed., Archpriest Avvakum.  The Life Written by Himself.  Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Publications, 1979.

Wachtel, Andrew B.  The Battle for Childhood: Creation of a Russian Myth.  Stanford UP, 1990.

Wilson, Reuel K.  The literary travelogue: A comparative study with special relevance to Russian literature from Fonvizin to Pushkin.  The Hague: Nijhoff, 1973.

Zhdanov, A.A.  Essays on literature, philosophy, and music.  New York: International Publishers, 1950.


«back to homepage