Jun 20, 2024  
2024-25 Catalog 
2024-25 Catalog


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Go to: Division of Literature and Languages  


Evgenii Bershtein
Russian Symbolism, the semiotics of Soviet culture, gender and sexuality in Russian culture, Pushkin, Tolstoy, Eisenstein.

Naomi Caffee
Minority and transnational writing in Russian, postcolonial studies, Russian literature and environment, Indigenous literatures, Central Asian studies, literary translation.

Marat Grinberg
Russian-Jewish literature and culture, Soviet poetry, poetics and cinema studies, Russian and European modernism.


With over 250 million speakers spread across all seven continents (including Antarctica), Russian is the eighth most widely spoken language in the world, and the third most widely spoken language in the state of Oregon. The Reed College Russian department offers courses on a range of topics related to the diverse literary, cinematic, and cultural traditions of the Russian-speaking world, as well as Russian language instruction from the introductory through advanced levels. The Russian  major and Russian Minor  provide students with robust training in textual analysis, written and oral communication, critical thinking, and intercultural competence. Our graduates have gone on to enroll in top MA and PhD programs in Russian and Slavic studies, Jewish studies, and comparative literature, and pursue successful careers in the fields of diplomacy, law, translation and interpretation, business, technology, education, and the arts.

The course offerings of the Russian department are designed to meet the twofold objective of providing training in the Russian language and achieving a critical expertise in Russia’s literary and cultural traditions from their beginnings to the present. By following the prescribed course of studies, the student majoring in Russian will have acquired the active and passive language skills required for undertaking senior thesis research in the original.

The language courses, from the introductory through the advanced levels, are taught in Russian and offer supplementary drill opportunities through the language laboratory and weekly conversation sections with a native speaker. In the second year, students continue their study of grammar and consolidate their active and passive language skills with reading, discussion, and written commentary on Russian lyrical poetry and texts on Russian cultural history. The third-year level offers extensive reading of the Russian short story, writing, and oral exercises, while continuing formal language training.

The literature offerings, organized by period and genre, survey the development of Russian poetry and prose from the Middle Ages to the present. A three-semester sequence (RUSS 371 , RUSS 372 , RUSS 373 ) covers the most important prose texts produced within the thousand-year history of Russian letters, while our poetry courses examine the main figures and movements in nineteenth- and twentieth-century poetry.

In addition to these survey courses, the department offers a number of seminars on specialized topics, the content of which varies from year to year, as well as the opportunity for independent study by special arrangement with the instructor. Seminar topics in the past have included the critical theory and practice of the Russian formalists and structuralists; terror and the sublime in Russian literature; Russian masculinity; art of political discourse; and literature, film, and society since glasnost. A unique dimension of the Reed program in Russian is represented by offerings in the literature, film, and theater of East and Central European Jews.

Independent study topics have ranged from introductory Ukrainian and Old Church Slavonic to Russian comix. With the exception of the poetry courses, which are limited to students with a reading knowledge of Russian, the literature offerings are open to non-Russian majors. Russian majors as well as students who need Russian literature credit for classes taught in English are required to read texts in the original and to attend an additional weekly discussion section.

Majors are expected to broaden their general background and to enhance their critical skills by pursuing work in the humanities, other literatures, philosophy, history, and the fine arts. The junior qualifying examination in Russian is given to majors at the end of their third year or, with prior consultation with the faculty, at the start of the senior year. The written exam tests the student’s preparation in language and seeks to establish the breadth and depth of experience in Russian literature through a series of broadly conceived essay questions.

Of special interest to first- and second-year students who may not wish to major in Russian are the three courses in the survey sequence that are offered in English translation, as well as the one-semester, 200-level course in the Russian short story, which is offered on alternate years.

The Russian House on campus provides a focal point for extracurricular programs in Russian. Besides housing a small community of learners of Russian, the Russian House hosts social gatherings, sponsors visiting lecturers or Russophone guests, and helps organize the Russian film series. Every year a native Russian language scholar is in residence.

The Russian Old Believer community in nearby Woodburn, Oregon, and a growing number of Russian immigrants in Portland provide opportunities for students to acquaint themselves firsthand with native speakers. Arrangements can be made for Reed students to provide English lessons in exchange for Russian conversation practice.

Study Abroad

Students are typically encouraged to participate in the immersive study of Russian through study abroad. Both semester-long and summer programs are available. Students interested in participating are advised to discuss their plans with the faculty during the semester before application. In addition, students wishing to accelerate their study of the language may enroll in a number of intensive summer programs in the United States. Students should inquire with International Programs  as to the current availability of study abroad options.




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