Smolny Beyond Borders

A Liberal Arts Initiative

Trauma Narratives in Contemporary Russian Literature

Trauma Narrative Muravieva


Course Schedule:

F23 | Oct 6 - Nov 3 | Friday 4:10 7:10 PM Berlin (UTC+2)

Professor: Larissa Muravieva
Semester: Fall 2023
Subject: LIT
Course Level: 300
Number of Bard Credits: 1
Course Title: Trauma Narratives in Contemporary Russian Literature
Max Enrollment: 22
Schedule: 5 weeks (October 6 – November 3), Friday 4.10 – 7.10 PM Berlin (UTC + 2) 
Distribution Area: no
Cross-Listing(s): no
Language of Instruction: Russian

Russian literature of the early 21st centuries provides a space of reflection on the era’s historical and socio-cultural catastrophes as well as on personal trauma. In post-Soviet literature, the text becomes not only a mode of representation, but also a special “site of trauma”, or an attempt to refract unrepresentable experience. In contemporary trauma studies, the relationship between traumatic experience and narrative is understood primarily in terms of the construction of identity and the ways of representation of traumatic events. These problems become central in a number of contemporary novels by Russian-speaking writers. Literary reflection on trauma creates a special meaning space and also transforms the narrative model. The search for the “language of trauma” in contemporary literature turns out to be connected not only with special stylistic and linguistic means, but also with narrative experiments.
The course will examine Russian-language texts of the early twenty-first century, in which individual, family or collective trauma is represented through specific narrative techniques and storytelling practices. We will will develop skills in analysing and interpreting texts representing traumatic experience through the prism of narrative theory, trauma studies, and reception theory. Problems of representation of traumatic experience will be considered in conjunction with related concepts of memory, oblivion, experience, empathy, the sublime, as well as conceptualisation of trauma will be carried out with reference to the works by Freud, Caruth, Alexander, Ankersmit, LaCapra and others. Special attention will be paid to contemporary Russian autofiction focused on autobiographical traumatic experiences and the search for ways to narrate them.