Description   |   Syllabus

How To Tell The Story: Chekhov and the Depiction of Reality
UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
Spring 2007

Mark Danner and Robert Hass 
Course Number J251
North Gate Hall B-1
Tuesdays 6-9 p.m.

In the twenty-five years of his writing life Anton Chekhov invented the modern short story and reinvented the form of the stage play, and in so doing chronicled the sweep of pre-revolutionary Russian society in a way that surpassed the achievements of Balzac, Zola and the other great 19th century social novelists. Chekhov was heir to a whole century of the realist enterprise in European writing and he focussed and refined it as perhaps no other writer did. In this seminar, taught by a journalist and a poet, we will examine Chekhov's poetics: the conventions and techniques of a realism able to give us a vivid sense of lived life in a particular time and place. We will examine the arc of the telling of a story that shows us what we need to know about people, their inner lives and their social possibilities, and what we need to know to understand the shape of an event. These techniques made Chekhov, both as playwright and as fiction writer, one of the most influential artists in his time. We will read most of the stories and most of the plays, in chronological order. We will look into the laboratory of his notebooks and letters. We will also read Chekhov's one work of non-fiction, a book-length study of the prison colony of Sakhalin, on an island off the Siberian coast, which will give us a way of comparing the artist and the reporter. The course requires a commitment to come prepared and to participate in discussion. The writing assignments will be developed to reflect the individual interests of the journalism and literature students in the course.

Chekhov: The readings

Texts: Anton Chekhov, Stories, tr. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (PV)
           Anton Chekov, The Short Novels, Pevear and Volokhonsky (SN)
           Anton Chekhov's Short Stories, ed. Ralph Matlaw (M)
           Anton Chekhov, About Love and Other Stories, tr. Rosamund Bartlett (AL)
           Anton Chekhov, The Steppe and Other Stories. tr. Ronald Hingley (H-S)
           Anton Chekhov, The Russian Master and Other Stories, tr. Ronald Hingley (H-R)
           Anton Chekhov, Ward Number Six and Other Stories, tr. Ronald Hingley (H-W)
           Anton Chekhov, The Undiscovered Chekhov, tr. Peter Constantine (UC)
           Anton Chekhov, Selected Plays, tr. Laurence Senelick (SP)
           Anton Chekhov, reader (X)
           Anton Chekhov, The Island of Sakhalin

Requirements. This class is a graduate seminar. There are three requirements. You will be expected to show up, be prepared, and participate in the discussion. You will also be expected to write an essay, which will be due on April 24. We will discuss the possibilities for your written work in class. You should feel free to talk to the instructors about your ideas for writing and we will expect you to submit a few sentences about it on March 20.

1-16    Introductory

1-23    1880-85.  1880: Elements Most Often Found in Novels, Short Stories, etc (UC), 1881:
           Sara Bernhardt Comes to Town (UC), On the Train (UC), The Trial (UC) ; This and That:
           Four Vignettes (UC). 1882: Questions Posed by A Mad Mathematician; 1883 The Cat
           (UC), Rapture (X), The Death of a Clerk (P, X), An Incident at Law (X), Fat and Thin
           (X), The Daughters of Albion (X). 1884: Oysters (M), A Dreadful Night (X), Minds in
           Ferment (X), The Complaints Book (X), The Chameleon (M, X). 1885: Small Fry (P), A
           Living Chronology (M), The Huntsman (P, M), The Malefactor (P), A Man of Ideas (X),
           Sergeant Prishibeyev (X), The Misfortune (X)

1-30  1886-87. 1886: Small Fry (P), Misery, (M), Panikhida (P), The Requiem (M),
         Anyuta (P,M), The Witch (X), The Little Joke (X), Agatha (M), Grisha (M),  Easter Night 
         (P), A Gentleman Friend (M), The Chorus Girl (M), Dreams (M) The Orator (X), The Objet
          d'Art (X), Vanka (P, M), On the Road (AL). 1887: Verochka (X), At Home (M), Typhus
         (X), The Letter (AL), Notes from the Journal of a Quick-Tempered Man (X), The
         Reed-Pipe (X), The Kiss (X), The Siren's Song (M)

2-6     The Bear, 1888 (SP), Ivanov 1887-88 (SP)

2-13   1888. Sleepy (P,M), The Steppe (H-S, SN), An Awkward Business (H-S), The Beauties
          ((H-S), The Party (X), A Nervous Breakdown (X), The Cobbler and the Devil (H-S)

2-20   1889-90. 1889: The Bet (H-S), The Princess (X), A Boring Story (P, H-W as A
          Dreary Story). 1890: Thieves (H-S), Gusev (P,H-S, AL). The Wedding (SP)

2-27   1891-92. 1891: Peasant Women (P, H-S), The Duel (H-R, SN). 1892: My Wife
         (H-R), The Fidget (P; The Grasshopper, M; The Butterfly, H-W), After the Theater (X), In
          Exile (P, M, H-S), Neighbors (H-W), Ward Number Six (P, H-W), Terror (H-R), Fragment
         (H-S), The Story of a Commercial Venture (H-S), From a Retired Teacher's Notebook
         (H-S), A Fishy Affair (H-S, AL as Fish Love). The Celebration (SP)

3-6     The Island of Sakhalin

3-13   1893-94. 1893: An Anonymous Story (H-W), The Two Volodyas (X). 1894:  The Black
          Monk (P, AL), A Woman's Kingdom (X), Rothschild's Fiddle (P, M, H-S, AL), The
          Student (P, M, H-S, AL), The Russian Master ((H-R, M as The Teacher of Literature), At
          a Country House (X), The Head Gardener's Story (H-S)

3-20    The Seagull 1896

4-3     1895-96. 1895: Three Years (SN), His Wife (H-R), Patch (H-S, M as
          Whitebrow), Anna on the Neck (P, M, H-R as The Order of St. Anne), Murder (X),
          Ariadne (H-W). 1896: The Artist's Story (X), My Life (SN), The House with the
          Mezzanine (P, AL, M as The House with the Mansard

4-10    Uncle Vanya 1897

4-17    1897-99. 1897. Peasants ((H-R), The Savage (H-S, M as The Pecheneg), Home
           (X), In the Cart (H-S, AL, M as A Journey by Cart). 1898: A Hard Case (H-R, P as The
           Man in the Case, M as The Man in the Case), Gooseberries (P, M, AL, H-R), About
           Love (M, AL, H-R as Concerning Love), Dr. Startsev (H-W), A Medical Case (P, M as A
           Doctor's Visit), The Darling (P, M, H-R as Angel). 1899: New Villa (H-S), On Official
           Business (P, H-S), The Lady With the Dog (M, AL and P as The Lady With the Little

4-24     Three Sisters 1900-01

5-1       1900-1903. 1900: At Christmastime (P, AL, H-S as At Christmas), In the
            Ravine (P). 1902: The Bishop (P, M, AL). 1903: The Betrothed (M, P as The Fiancée)

5-8        The Cherry Orchard 1903-04



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