I Love Russian Literature. But I’m Afraid of My Lit Class.

We will be reading Red Cavalry later in the semester, unfortunately not in the original Russian.

I debated about whether to post this or not and eventually decided to take the plunge. I don’t usually like to write about my time in high school because it was an extremely unhappy period for me. But here goes…

I had my first classes last week, one of which is a Russian literature class that I probably should have taken a while ago. I have been avoiding taking a literature class – this is the first and only one I have taken at university – because of a rather horrid experience I had in a senior-year English class back in high school. This is one of the reasons why I am glad I blog rather anonymously, because that allows me to write about this anecdote.

The teacher of the aforementioned class did not like me. Yes, I know that is a very common and overdone complaint from students, but in my case it was true. I’ll be honest: I was not a student whom teachers disliked, as I always did well, but this teacher and I did not get along. She was unfairly biased against me, and though I realized this at the time, it has become more clear with hindsight. (Imagine my surprise when I read in Elif Batuman’s The Possessed about a published scholar’s argument that advanced an argument about Dostoevsky that I wrote in an essay on Crime and Punishment. I received a B on the paper; I deserved an A- at the very least.) I barely managed to scrape by with a decent grade and at the end of the year, I was so disgusted with the experience that I vowed to abandon the study of literature forever.

I have not taken a single literature class since, but last semester I found out that I would need a Russian literature class for my degree. I signed up for a rather broad survey course (okay, it does have an underlying theme, but I can’t tell you the title of the course because that would give away all my secrets, you know?) So far, I am really liking the class – I think the professor really likes what I have to say, which is so unlike my high school experience with the literature course.

Anyway, hopefully everything will work out. At the very least, I will have read loads of Russian literature by the end of this semester.

(Random note: we are reading Isaac Babel’s Red Cavalry. The title in Russian is Конармия [konarmiya]. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t that simply mean cavalry, not red cavalry? Ah, the great mysteries of life!)

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2 thoughts on “I Love Russian Literature. But I’m Afraid of My Lit Class.

    1. But the question is, where does the word “red” come from? It’s always called Red Cavalry in English, but I think it should simply be called Cavalry, as that is a better translation of the Russian title, if I am not mistaken 🙂

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