Teaching Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature: Essays in Honor of Robert L. Belknap

Teaching Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature: Essays in Honor of Robert L. Belknap

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Edited by Deborah Martinsen, Cathy Popkin & Irina Reyfman

Series: Ars Rossica
ISBN: 9781618113498 (hardcover) / 9781618113863 (paper)
Pages: 354 pp.
Publication Date: March 2014

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Teaching Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature: Essays in Honor of Robert L. Belknap grew out of a conference in honor of Robert Belknap, an outstanding teacher and scholar. The collected essays present concrete strategies for teaching the works of some of Russia’s best-known writers: Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, Turgenev, Saltykov-Shchedrin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov. They address the teaching of these iconic works of Russian literature in different contexts and to different audiences, from undergraduate students reading Russian classics in the context of general education courses to graduate students exploring the larger context of Russian print culture. Most of the essays address teaching in English translation, a few in the original, but all offer useful strategies that can be adopted for teaching to any audience.

Contributors include: Robert L. Belknap, Elizabeth Klosty Beaujour, Ksana Blank, Ellen Chances, Nicholas Dames, Andrew R. Durkin, Jefferson J.A. Gatrall, Svetlana Slavskaya Grenier, Robert Louis Jackson, Liza Knapp, Deborah A. Martinsen, Olga Meerson, Maude Meisel, Robin Feuer Miller, Marcia A. Morris, Gary Saul Morson, Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy, Cathy Popkin, Irina Reyfman, Rebecca Stanton, William Mills Todd III, and Nancy Workman.

Deborah A. Martinsen is Dean of Alumni Education at Columbia University, where she teaches courses in the Core Curriculum, the Slavic Department, and the Department of English and Comparative Literature. She is the author of Surprised by Shame: Dostoevsky’s Liars and Narratives of Exposure (2003; in Russian 2011) as well as articles on Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Nabokov. She is the editor of Literary Journals in Imperial Russia (1997; in paper 2010) and is currently co-editing Dostoevsky in Context. She was President of the International Dostoevsky Society from 2007-2013.

Cathy Popkin is the Jesse and George Siegel Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Russian at Columbia University. She is the author of The Pragmatics of Insignificance: Chekhov, Zoshchenko, Gogol (1993) and the editor and one of the translators of the new Norton Critical Edition of Anton Chekhov’s Selected Stories. She is currently completing a book on the disciplinary practices and documentary forms that shape Chekhov’s narrative prose and continuing an ongoing project on Turgenev and metaphor.

Irina Reyfman is Professor of Russian Literature at Columbia University. In her studies, Reyfman focuses on the interaction of literature and culture. Reyfman is the author of Vasilii Trediakovsky: The Fool of the ‘New’ Russian Literature (1990), Ritualized Violence Russian Style: The Duel in Russian Culture and Literature (1999; in Russian 2002), and Rank and Style: Russians in State Service, Life, and Literature (2012). She is also a co-editor of Mapping the Feminine: Russian Women and Cultural Difference (2008). She is currently completing a book on the interaction of writing and state service in Russian literature of the imperial period.


This impressive volume on nineteenth-century literature with its twenty-two essays (on such classical Russian writers as Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Nikolai Gogol, Ivan Turgenev, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Lev Tolstoy, and Anton Chekhov) authored by experienced scholars who regularly teach the great books attests to the notable influence of the late Robert L. Belknap (Columbia University) on the field of Russian Studies in the United States.
— Elizabeth Blake, Saint Louis University, Slavic and East European Journal, 59.3 (Fall 2015)
This volume celebrates the career of Columbia University Professor Robert L. Belknap (1929-2014), who trained a generation of teachers and scholars working across North America. The contribution to it by Belknap himself provides a fascinating history of pedagogical experimentation at Columbia during his time there. The twenty-one other contributors to the volume, drawn from his former students, colleagues, and admirers, practice what he preached. The mix of close-reading and contextualization that he and his colleagues promoted and delivered is an inspiration and a challenge for those of us who deal with shorter semesters, fewer teaching hours each week, and undergraduates who cannot read as many pages as he did. . . . In his own essay, Belknap describes his own life’s work as “studying and teaching.” It seems clear that he regards the two as linked, as indeed they are in all the contributions to this volume. Each essay can be profitably read as both scholarship and pedagogy.
— Donna Orwin, University of Toronto, The Russian Review, October 2015, (Vol. 74, No. 4)