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Decoding the 1920s: A Reader for Advanced Learners of Russian

Author: Nila Friedberg
Subject: Humanities
Source: Open Textbook Library
Publisher: Portland State University Library
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The materials presented in this book were developed for an advanced-level content-based Russian language course at Portland State University entitled “Russian Literature of the Twentieth Century: The 1920s.” Literature of this period is a major part of the Russian canon/ but is notoriously difficult for learners of Russian to read in the original/ due both to its stylistic complexity and the relative obscurity of its historical/ political/ and cultural references. And yet/ this decade is crucial for understanding Russia – not only in the Soviet period/ but also today. This was the period/ when Mikhail Zoshchenko/ Isaak Babel/ Mikhail Bulgakov/ and Andrei Platonov meticulously documented the birth of the “New Soviet Man/” his “newspeak” and Soviet bureaucratese; when Alexandra Kollontai/ a Marxist revolutionary and a diplomat/ wrote essays and fiction on the “New Soviet Woman”; when numerous satirical works were created; when Babel experimented with a literary representation of dialects (e.g./Odessa Russian or Jewish Russian). These varieties of language have not disappeared. Bureaucrats still use some form of bureaucratese. Numerous contemporary TV shows imitate the dialects that Babel described. Moreover/ Bulgakov’s “Heart of a Dog” gave rise/ due largely to its film adaptation/ to catch-phrases that still appear throughout contemporary Russian media/ satirical contexts/ and everyday conversation. Thus/ the Russian literature of the 1920s does not belong exclusively to the past/ but has relevance and interpretive power for the present/ and language learners who wish to pursue a career in humanities/ media analysis/ analytical translation/ journalism/ or international relations must understand this period and the linguistic patterns it established. The textbook is intended for adult learners/ and contains language assignments that would/ on the one hand/ help students transition to ACTFL’s Advanced proficiency level (i.e./ be able to create "narratives/ descriptions/ and summaries … using paraphrasing and elaboration” (ACTFL 2012: 12).)/ but at the same time promote meaningful engagement with literary texts. The assignments in this textbook are multilevel ones/ and thus offer a solution for multilevel classes that include literate heritage Russian speakers/ Intermediate High/ Advanced/ or even Superior-level readers.

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