cod. 13980

Academic year 2021/22
2° year of course - First semester
Maria Candida GHIDINI
Academic discipline
Slavistica (L-LIN/21)
Letterature straniere
Type of training activity
30 hours
of face-to-face activities
6 credits
course unit

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.


in order to successfully attend the course you must have read the above mentioned texts and taken the Russian Literature 1 exam.

Course unit content

Narrating the threshold. Golgol', Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov: writing in the face of death

"We Russians, all decent people as we are, have a real passion for these problems that remain unresolved."

From the remote tradition of ancient lamentations, literature has always found itself face to face with death. If literature is really a figure of life, it is in one specific thing: in the feeling of being to limited in itself, wanting to go beyond its own borders. It creates magnificent enclosed works that imitate the maximum openness of life. And for this reason the end and beginning of life are at the centre of her interests, they are "in a strong position", one might say in poetry.
"Art is always and relentlessly dominated by two things. It reflects tirelessly on death and thus creates, tirelessly, life. The great, true art is that which is called the Apocalypse of St. John and that which adds something to it" (B. Pasternak, Dr. Zhivago)
The course focuses on the theme of death in some of the stories of the three giants of Russian literature of the nineteenth century. Precisely because the theme is often dealt with by epiphanies, the short form has been preferred, often more suitable for expressing the dark anguish of death and the possible overcoming of it. Tolstoy's diaries a will help in the reflection, without analysis or conceptualization, but through an experiential journey, because the experience of death is inextricably linked to the experience that life has of itself and represents one of the most valuable experiences of man.

Full programme



N.V. Gogol’, Тhe Old World Landowners (in "Mirgorod")
F.M. Dostoevskij:
- Bobok
- The meek
- The Dream of a ridicolous Man
L.N. Tolstoj, Ivan Il’ič's Death
L.N. Tolstoj, Pensieri ultimi, Diari 1908-1910, Diabasis, Parma 2019
A.P. Čechov, A boring story


G. Carpi, Storia della letteratura russa, Carrocci, Roma, SOLO i capitoli su Gogol' (pp. 382-408), Tolstoj (pp. 495-510 e 554-558) e Čechov (pp. 564-571).
M.C. Ghidini, Vivere, ammalarsi, morire. Čechov legge Tolstoj, “Torre di Babele” 8, 2012 (
M.C. Ghidini, Dostoevskij, Salerno, Roma 2017

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, Bobok, The Meek and The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

L.N. Tolstoy, The death of Ivan Il'ič
L.N. Tolstoy, Pensieri ultimi, Diabasis, Parma 2019
A.P. Chekhov, A boring story

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
Due to the still uncertain health situation, the course, which will presumably be held in presence, will also guarantee remote access through the use of the Teams and Elly platforms with recordings and other specific teaching activities. 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://