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1.2: Structure of the Book

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    The textbook is structured as follows. Each chapter has the same exercise format. PRE-READING ASSIGNMENT (ПЕРЕД ЧТЕНИЕМ) and PREPARATORY WRITTEN ASSIGNMENTS (ПОДГОТОВИТЕЛЬНЫЕ ПИСЬМЕННЫЕ ЗАДАНИЯ), which include assignments 1–7, are completed at home. DISCUSSION AND TEXTUAL ANALYSIS (ОБСУЖДЕНИЕ И АНАЛИЗ ТЕКСТА), which includes assignments 8–15, is completed in class. SUPPLEMENTARY ASSIGNMENTS (ДОПОЛНИТЕЛЬНЫЕ ЗАДАНИЯ), which include assignments 16–19, are optional and include videos, essays, presentation topics, and vocabulary or grammar review.

    Assignment 1 (Задание 1. Перед чтением) is appropriate for Intermediate High or higher level students, and is completed either orally or in writing. The goal of this assignment is to turn students from passive readers of explanatory footnotes to active “looker-uppers”; in a sense, students will be creating footnotes of their own. After completing assignment 1, students read the text at home.

    After reading the text, students complete all or some of the PREPARATORY WRITTEN ASSIGNMENTS (ПОДГОТОВИТЕЛЬНЫЕ ПИСЬМЕННЫЕ ЗАДАНИЯ) at home. Assignments 2 and 3 typically check students’ basic comprehension of the plot, and can be completed by Intermediate High-level students. In many chapters, the questions in assignment 3 employ the present tense and prompt students to practice using this tense in order to facilitate “narration in all time frames,” as required by ACTFL’s Advanced level.

    Assignment 4 typically lists quotes from the text and asks students to translate them; in some chapters, where the text exhibits a multitude of voices (i.e., polyphony), the assignment also asks to identify who is speaking to whom and when. Due to the difficulty of some translation examples (e.g., false cognates), the assignment is most appropriate for Advanced and Superior-level students. Assignment 5 consists of multiple-choice questions, typically (though not in all chapters) asking students to guess the meaning of fixed expressions (фразеологизмы), idioms, colloquialisms, or false cognates from the context; these are of use for students of any level enrolled in the course.

    Assignment 6 consists of the “Lexical-Grammatical Commentary” section in English with an accompanying exercise; i.e., it is an example of a linguistic support (Freels 2000, Kulibina 2001, Comer 2016) given to the reader. Such linguistic support in this book comes in two types. The first type is narration- or description-driven, where students learn lexical or grammatical structures that later help them tell a story or describe a character; the structure in question may or may not appear in the target text (see Babel’s “The King” or the chapters on Il’f and Petrov’s The Twelve Chairs). The second type is interpretation-driven (see Reyfman 2014): for example, in assignments of this sort, learners become aware of normative grammatical or lexical patterns that will later help them “decipher” a character who deviates from the norm (see Babel’s “My First Goose”). As Reyfman observes, merely showing students where deviations from the norm occur “will not train the students themselves to uncover places where a writer deliberately uses faulty grammar to create a particular effect. It is therefore worth spending some time teaching them to expect all kinds of deviations from the linguistic norm in a literary text, coaching them to detect the obvious ones, and finally training them to see the ones that they are inclined to expect the least, namely deliberate anomalous usage” (Reyfman 2014: 54).

    Both assignment 5 and 6 are appropriate for Intermediate High or higher levels; the vocabulary or grammar can be later reviewed in assignment 19, if there is time. The goal of the grammatical or lexical commentary is not only to provide students with linguistic support, but also to familiarize them with the work of various linguists (e.g., Iu. Apresian, M. Gorham, L. Grenoble, T. Ianko, I. Kovtunova, O. Kisselev, M. Krongauz, E. Paducheva, D. Rozental, M. Shardakova, N. Shvedova, O. Yokoyama, and others).

    Assignment 7 deals with stylistics and in some cases asks students to check the meaning or stylistic labels of words on, or to guess the meaning of and paraphrase dialectal or figurative language. It is appropriate for ACTFL’s Advanced or Superior-level students, though due to the shortness of some of these phrases, and their importance for text comprehension, Intermediate level students can guess their meaning or look them up in the dictionary, too. Specific literary terms for the given figures of speech are omitted, insofar as the book’s focus is language acquisition rather than literary theory; but, depending on students’ interest and proficiency level, the instructor may wish to point out instances of defamiliarization / остранение (when familiar things are represented as unfamiliar) or synecdoche (when a part is used to describe the whole) in Bulgakov; metaphors or similes in Babel; etc.

    In class, students work on the section DISCUSSION AND TEXTUAL ANALYSIS (ОБСУЖДЕНИЕ И АНАЛИЗ ТЕКСТА), which includes assignments 8–15. Assignment 8 is a warm-up conversation. Assignment 9 allows students to practice paraphrase and definitions, an Advanced-level skill; it recycles the information they checked at home for assignment 1. Assignment 10 involves narration, with students typically given a list of questions, a list of keywords, and a list of connector words; the goal is for them to produce a coherent narrative that would contain answers to the questions. Assignments 8–10 are appropriate for Intermediate High students aiming to become Advanced.

    Assignment 11 asks students to analyze quotes from the text, paying attention not only to language, but also to character interpretation (e.g., who said what and why). Likewise, assignment 12 typically consists of two excerpts for rereading, which provide students with an opportunity to go beyond discussion of basic plot elements and perform a close reading. (The teacher can split the class into two groups and assign each group one passage, depending on the appropriate difficulty.) One of the questions for the rereading passage asks students to select an adjective from a list and explain how it applies, or does not apply, to the character. The adjectives on the list were chosen strategically: they include words from the published “lexical minimum” word lists (Andriushina 2014) that students have to master in order to pass the Test of Russian as a Foreign Language during their study abroad and attain the second certification level in Russian proficiency. Some chapters use vocabulary of an even higher level: e.g., assignment 6 in the Platonov and Zoshchenko chapters includes the “lexical minimum” words from Russia’s Third certification proficiency level (Andriushina 2014). In this respect, the textbook is a preparation for those aiming to study abroad.

    Assignment 13 constitutes a “rhetorical frame,” where students are given the “skeleton” of a mini-essay or speech with some words filled in, the rest to be supplied. In most cases, this comes in the form of a speech, with the student pretending to be a certain character, or a lawyer defending or indicting this character in court; or pretending to be a party official banning the given writer’s work, or the writer defending himself. The frames go beyond teaching students to speak or write in paragraphs, prompting them to create extended paragraphs. For example, they show that to prove your idea to an opponent, you can first acknowledge and describe the opponent’s point of view, then list the flaws in that point of view, and then give the opponent advice. To describe a person, you can first talk about the way the person is perceived by others, and contrast it with how you perceive the person; alternatively, a first impression of the person can be described, then the circumstances or events that led this impression to change. All these devices are applicable in more than one situation, and are especially helpful for students who will be taking oral proficiency interviews to determine their linguistic progress.

    Assignment 13 may be particularly useful to students interested in literary history; here, in some cases, students are asked to imitate a real historical event (to imagine, for example, what a real party official banning Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog might have written in his assessment). Linguistically, assignment 13 is of equal use to multiple proficiency levels; less proficient students can write the speech in advance and then retell it, while more proficient ones can simply look at the “frame” and improvise the speech. Note that in some chapters, assignment 13 is a “frame” for official letters (e.g., an official letter of complaint, or a report of a missing person), in which case it is not intended for oral production. The official letters appear in a simplified form: for authentic official letter samples, see Rozental (2005) or Kolesova and Kharitonov (2011).

    Assignment 14 is an improvised one-minute speech, a method originally suggested to me by Anna Kudyma. Students can pretend they are a character trying to tell the story from their point of view, or a character trying to prove or disprove a certain point, or justify their actions; or they can pretend they are writers responding to accusations against them.

    Assignment 15 involves a discussion that typically concludes the class. The questions are of various difficulty levels, the most linguistically complex ones being marked with a star. The assignment gives students an opportunity to discuss issues important to literary theory; this is the section where some questions are based on the work of prominent literary scholars, such as M. Chudakova, K. Clark, M. Gorham, M. Iampolskii, E. Makeenko, M. Mikheev, M. Odesski and D. Feldman, Iu. Shcheglov, and A. Zholkovsky (e.g., what do going to the bathhouse and going to the theater have in common? why is Ostap Bender’s clothing strange, and what does it tell us about his past? etc.). Some questions invite students to envision what a character’s worldview might have been like had they lived in the United States; this provides students with a meaningful opportunity to practice cultural comparing and contrasting.

    Assignments 16–19 are optional. This is a chance for students to select a presentation topic (e.g., to give a virtual tour of Bulgakov’s Moscow or Babel’s Odessa, or retell the contents of Shcheglov’s research on The Twelve Chairs) or an essay topic that interests them; to compare the text of a book to its film adaptation; to watch and discuss TV programs about the authors’ biographies, or relevant films from the period, or films with plots similar to what they have read. These assignments afford the opportunity to place an issue discussed in the texts into an American context; or even write a parody of a scene from a famous American film about gangsters (e.g., The Godfather) using stylistic features of Russian writers who treat the same subject (e.g., Isaak Babel). For institutions like Portland State University that operate on a ten-week quarter system with three sixty- five-minute classes per week, there would be little time for the optional assignments, but institutions operating on a semester system could use them extensively. Note that the suggested essay topics, too, are informed by the work of literary critics. For example, in the chapter on The Twelve Chairs, students are asked to write an essay and explain whether they agree with M. Odesski and D. Feldman’s claim that The Twelve Chairs is a “Soviet anti-Soviet novel.” The latter is most suited for Advanced-level students, while Intermediate High students could write, for instance, a continuation of the chapter they had read, practicing the use of the future tense to describe the fate of the various characters.

    The optional video assignments include questions about various films from that era, like Tret’ia meshchanskaia (Bed and Sofa), Evreiskoe shchast’e (Jewish Luck), and Putevka v zhizn’ (The Road to Life).

    Each text included in the textbook is accompanied by posters or screenshots of films made in the 1920s; these images were selected for their ability to highlight or portray the concepts, events, or characters described in the texts themselves. The goal was to make students familiar not only with 1920s plots and writers, but also with the names of film directors (e.g. Dziga Vertov), actors (e.g., Solomon Mikhoels), or film titles (e.g., Tret’ia meshchanskaia). Some optional assignments refer to modern programs and documentaries, such as the “Finding Babel” documentary, the “Ostrova” program on Platonov from the Russian “Kul’tura” channel, and so on.

    The specific editions used in this textbook are listed in the Bibliography. For Heart of a Dog, the textbook reproduces the following edition, with several omitted chapters and sections of the text mentioned in the footnotes:

    Bulgakov, M. A. (1989). Sobach’e serdtse [The heart of a dog]. In: Sobranie sochinenii v piati tomakh. Tom 2 [Collected works in five volumes. Vol. 2]. Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura.

    For the chapters on The Twelve Chairs, the standard or “classic” rather than full edition is used, since it is this “classic” edition that will most likely be quoted and referenced by Russian speakers who grew up in the Soviet era:

    Il’f, I., and Petrov, E. (1995a). “Glava V. Velikii kombinator” [Chapter V. The great wheeler-dealer]. In I. Il’f and E. Petrov, Dvenadtsat’ stul’ev [The twelve chairs] (pp.130–37). Moscow: Panorama.

    Il’f, I., and Petrov, E. (1995b). “Glava VI. Brilliantovyi dym” [Chapter VI. Diamond smoke]. In I. Il’f and E. Petrov, Dvenadtsat’ stul’ev [The twelve chairs] (pp. 137–42). Moscow: Panorama

    1.2: Structure of the Book is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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