cod. 13980

Academic year 2018/19
2° year of course - First semester
Academic discipline
Slavistica (L-LIN/21)
Letterature straniere
Type of training activity
30 hours
of face-to-face activities
6 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit
in - - -

Learning objectives

This approach to Russian literature texts will offer to the students a basic knowledge and understanding in the field of the Russian literary culture in the XIX century.
During the course, the student learns to
- understand the late nineteenth century Russian literary scene and, through the prism of its literary monuments, to grasp their historical, political, cultural and artistic panorama;
- highlight texts' formal characteristics linking them with all the vivid polemics of the so-called Great Reforms Era;
- find independently additional information on the topics discussed bibliography using both in print and digital material;
make judgments informed and motivated, based on a careful decoding of the text,
- refine the method of a close reading by applying it freely to other texts, exposing their interpretations in light of the critical literature on the subject.


General culture at high school level, good knowledge of Italian.

Course unit content

Ecfrasi. When the word asks for help with painting:
Dostoevsky's The Idiot and Tolstoy's Anna Karenina

The debate on realism in Russia took place mainly between 1840 and 1870 and was repeated in the same terms as it exploded in the rest of Europe, starting from the conflict triggered by the coexistence of romantic individualism and social determinism that dominated sociological theories of the period. These were the years in which the techniques of representation of reality multiplied and refined: even in Russia the photographers arrived and the documentary, truthful power of photography posed the problem of another type of image, in addition to the verbal and pictorial one: a image apparently more accurate and objective. Literature was looking for a form of representation of reality that went beyond conventions and aesthetic devices and adhered to its object: it was so natural to turn to painting to find a way to make an image that overcomes the static mechanics of photography and the sketch , as if painting could provide a more immediate vision of reality than word, but at the same time richer and deeper than the mere documentary record. Therefore, painting, as the maximum expression of the gaze, could provide a useful paradigm in the moment in which the relationship between art and reality seemed to escape or, on the contrary, was sought as the fulcrum of artistic thought. This is why the novels of the great Russian realists of the late nineteenth century all have a high rate of ekphrasis.
At its apogee the Russian realistic novel uses the image par excellence, that of face, to go beyond the mere reproduction of reality, interrogate it and to put the big "cursed questions".

Full programme

F.M. Dostoevskij, L’idiota
L.N. Tolstoj, Anna Karenina

G. Carpi, Storia della letteratura russa. Da Pietro il Grande alla rivoluzione d'Ottobre, Carocci: cap. 6 Gli anni 1830-40: pp. 382-436; cap. 7 Metà Ottocento: l'età del romanzo: p. 437-523.
M.C. Ghidini, Dostoevskij, Salerno Editori, Roma 2017
V. Nabokov, Lezioni di letteratura russa, Garzanti, Milano, cap. su Tolstoj, Anna Karenina (ed.1994 pp.169-270)
A.M. Ripellino, Per Anna Karenina, Woland, Roma
M.C. Ghidini, La grande domanda del realismo ottocentesco, in catalogo della mostra Tra verità e bellezza. Opere del realismo dal 1860 al 1920, Marsilio, Venezia (disponibile sulla piattaforma)
M. BACHTIN, Tolstoj, Il mulino, Bologna 1986 or G. STEINER, Tolstoj o Dostoevskij, Garzanti, Milano

Further bibliographic references will be given during the course and will be listed in the exam syllabus on the course page on the academic platform elly


F.M. Dostoevsky, The Idiot
L.N. Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Teaching methods

Classroom lectures with audiovisual materials and oral discussion.
During the lectures the professor will introduce the main elements of the historical and cultural context, the author's profile and the novels, using both the bibliography of the course and additional visual or textual materials, that will be ​​available on the platform elly. Suggestions for individual path of study and analysis will be provided, to stimulate a more original and independent approach to the subject

Assessment methods and criteria

Oral examination.
The oral examination will check
- Knowledge of texts, authors, their ideological context and formal issues of the literary period in question;
- Adequate ability to study independently, to re-elaborate personally the material learned during the course, to propose individual insights that go beyond the topics covered in the course, to solve problems decoding complex texts, and make independent judgments.
In order to verify the achievement of such knowledge and skills, oral test questions are designed to assess the knowledge, the ability of independent and original reworking of such knowledge, and the ability to apply knowledge through the analysis of the text and to extend it through connections, comparisons and contrasts.
The examination won't be sufficient when the student can't demonstrate a minimum understanding of the course material and the necessary ability to work autonomously with the course's content. Sufficient evaluation (18-23/30) is determined by the demonstration by the student to have learned the basic and minimum contents of the course, a sufficient level of self-preparation, ability to solve problems related to information retrieval and decoding of texts, as well as the formulation of independent judgment. Scores between 24 and -27 are assigned to the student who produces evidence of a level more than sufficient (24-25/30) or good (26-27/30) evaluation indicators listed above. Higher scores (from 28/30 to 30/30 cum laude) are awarded in presence of a very good to excellent evaluation.

Other information

To attend the course it is useful to follow the course page on the university platform: ttp://