University of Notre Dame

Star-Crossed Lovers: Sex, Courtship, and Marriage in Russian Literature

Course Number: RU 13186
Instructor: Thomas Marullo

Star-Crossed Lovers: Sex, Courtship, and Marriage in Russian Literature focuses on the relationships between the most famous couples in Russian literature from medieval to modern times. Texts include Hermolaus-Erasmus’s “The Tale of Peter and Fevronia of Murom” (eleventh century); Nikolai Karamzin’s “Poor Liza” (1792); Alexander Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (1833); Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons (1862); Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (1878); Anton Chekhov’s “The Lady with a Dog” (1899); Fyodor Gladkov’s Cement (1926); and, Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago (1957).

Topics to be considered are: the nature of relationships between men and women; the influence of age, experience, maturity, and social position on physical and emotional attachments; the impact of male, female, parental, political, societal, religious, and economic understandings and expectations on sex, courtship, and marriage; the presence of challenges, opportunities, and obstacles to meaningful and sustaining ties; and the reasons for triumphs and tragedies, successes and failures in the unions between the sexes.

Star-Crossed Lovers will also include a strong visual component: selections from the Internet of plays, operas and movies of the works in the course (e.g., the ball in Eugene Onegin, the horserace in Anna Karenina, and the partings of the lovers in “The Lady with a Dog” and Doctor Zhivago).