Russian Literature: 1953-Present

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Essay Question Topics for the Final

You will be asked to answer two questions; one from Group A and one from Group B

Group A (For these questions, please refer to works from both before and after the midterm.)

1. Many of the stories you have read feature social outcasts, alcoholics, or the mentally ill as main characters or even as narrators. Why do so many Russian authors choose to show us the world through the eyes of such characters? How successful are the authors at conveying the inner world of these characters?

2. What were some of the themes and topics that dominated the Russian literary scene from the late fifties to the current day? If someone asked you to sum up the last 65 years of Russian literature, what would you say?  Give a broad overview, mentioning as much as you can about everything we have read.

3. Discuss the lives, dreams, and hopes of the female characters in “Our Crowd,” "Fire and Dust," and "Witch's Tears" How do they compare with those of the male characters in works by male authors? Do these comparisons lead to any conclusions about the relationships and equality between men and women in Russian and Soviet society?

4. How does the portrayal of Russian and Soviet society in the literature we have read for this course correspond to the mental picture of Russia and the Soviet Union that you had coming into this course? How has the reading changed your views of Russia and the USSR and what has it confirmed about them? Be specific and use examples from as many works as possible.

5. Compare the post-Soviet works you have read for this class with the Soviet era works. How do they differ in style, tone, and content? How are they similar?

Group B

6. The works of Viktor Pelevin can be enjoyed on several levels. Do you find Pelevin’s excursions into metaphysics and Buddhist philosophy to be a strength or a weakness in his stories? How are Venichka’s drunken visions in Moscow to the End of the Line similar to the varying perceptions of reality found in Pelevin’s works? How do they differ?

7. The action in The White Ship takes place in Kyrgyzstan. What is said, both directly and through allegory, about Kyrgyzstan in this story? How does Aitmatov use myth and legend to complement the primary story line?

8. How does the The Slynx differ from a typical post-apocalyptic dystopian novel? How does the future portrayed in this novel reflect Russia's past? How are the various characters used to comment on entire classes of Russian society? What is the role of literature and folklore in the novel?