Class on Solzhenitsyn's Fiction to Be Taught at University of Vermont During Fall 2018 Semester

Professor Kevin J. McKenna, a professor in the Department of German and Russian at the University of Vermont, plans to teach a semester-long course devoted to the fiction writing of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

The course description, provided by the department:

"Often compared both to Fyodor Dostoevsky as well as Leo Tolstoy, the fiction of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970. His works remain to this day so central to Russian literary culture that in 2006 Russian national television named them, along with Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, as the major national literary achievements in Russian fiction. In 2011, Time Magazine described Solzhenitsyn’s literary works as the main artistic achievements of the 20th century. To this day Solzhenitsyn’s writings are credited with exposing and “bringing down” the Soviet Union.  

The primary goal of this World Lit. 018/118 course will be to derive an understanding of the interplay between 20th-century history, society, and art as depicted in the fictional universe of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s novels, Cancer Ward) and In the First Circle). Closely related in theme, style and substance to the novels, his short story “Matryona’s House” and novella One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich will complete the reading list for this course. At all points of contact with Solzhenitsyn’s fiction one cannot help but pose one of Tolstoy’s original questions: “By what do we [humans] live/ Чем мы живём” and the 20th-century Soviet-era correlation “how does one survive with his/her conscience intact?” To better understand why a literary giant like Solzhenitsyn could not publish his fiction in his own country, this course will also consider the major philosophical, ethical and political constructs of Soviet “socialist realism” as practiced in the USSR in the 20th century."