Russian literature, largely known for lengthy works such as “War and Peace,” is also rich in short fiction. The class “Russia Through the Lens of Short Fiction” will investigate Russian life over a period of one hundred years from the perspective of four short stories. Taught by Mike Hittle, the class will illustrate the artistic variety of Russian fiction and provide a unique insight into the country’s history.
Fe University is offerring this class from 10 a.m. to noon on Mondays, Oct. 14, 21, 28, and Nov. 4 in the Friends’ Room at the Mercer Public Library.
The class will read and discuss “The Overcoat” by Nikolai Gogol, “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” by Nikolai Leskov, “The Peasants” by Anton Chekhov, and “Mahogany” by Boris Pilniak. Each session will focus on a single short story, beginning with a group discussion of the story’s main themes, strengths and weaknesses. Hittle, will provide additional information to enhance appreciation of the story and understanding of its implications for Russian life.
Participants will be asked to read the assigned story prior to class and to come with questions and comments for group discussion. Three of the stories are available online and the link will be provided by the instructor. The short story “Mahogany” is available in paperback from Amazon in the book “Mahogany and Other Stories,” translated by Vera T. Reck and Michael Green. Copies of all readings will also be available at the Mercer Public Library.
The fee for the course is $35 with a $5 discount for those registering and paying by Oct. 1. Class size is limited, so register early. Download registration forms from Fe University’s website www.feuniversity.org or pick up at the Mercer Library or the UW Extension office in the Hurley courthouse. Completed forms may be mailed to Fe University, P.O. Box 63, Hurley, WI 54534 or dropped off at the Mercer Library or Hurley Courthouse. Scholarships available; see registration form for additional information. Visit www.feuniversity.org for class details and registration information, or call 715-588-7464 or 414-828-7218.
Hittle received his B.A. degree in Russian studies from Brown University and his M.A. and Ph.D degrees in history from Harvard University. He taught in the history department at Lawrence University in Appleton from 1966-2001. His research and publications centered on the relationship between the Russian state and the country’s nascent middle class during the 17th and 18th centuries. Since retirement, Hittle has studied local history, especially the history of the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage — about which he published in 2018 “An Accidental Jewel. Wisconsin’s Turtle-Flambeau Flowage.” Although there is more than geographic distance between the flowage’s past and the satire of Nikolai Gogol, he believes a little contrast now and then can make life that much more interesting.
Founded in 2014, Fe University is a non-profit, non-accredited “college” targeted to seniors but open to anyone over 18. Partial funding is provided by the Gogebic Range Health Foundation. Other classes offered this fall include “The Bill of Rights: its Origin and Evolution,” “Antiques,” “Exploring the Legacy and History of Camp Mercer,” and “American Reconstruction After the Civil War.”