Russian Studies Department Goals and ObjectivesWe believe that Russian culture, and particularly Russian literature, is a subject of great value to a liberally educated person, and in this connection we have been offering courses deliberately designed to attract generalists. Our freshman course is a specific example, but in a crucial sense, all of our non-language 100-level courses can be seen as serving this function. In fact we are eager to expand the minds of Vassar students by introducing them to the pleasures and riches of the Russian classics. For what is a liberal education without any knowledge of Tolstoy or Dostoevsky?Our goal for majors is to produce graduates who have developed good linguistic skills, a familiarity with the major Russian literary works of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and an awareness of Russian culture in the broad sense. The goal for correlates is a moderated version of that for majors. Instead of "good" linguistic skills, we expect "fair" achievement in language, and a similarly less comprehensive, but still meaningfully coherent overview of either literature or culture.
In language courses, the sequence of 100-, 200-, and 300-level courses is a direct reflection of the level of difficulty as one moves from the introductory level to more advanced stages of language acquisition. The prerequisite structure is obvious here. In literature, the hierarchy, of courses, is similar. Our 100-level literature courses are all general surveys given in translation; 200-level courses involve a partial component in Russian; and 300-level courses are given exclusively in Russian and include both a considerably greater depth of presentation and a focus on more specific topics. Our culture courses follow the pattern of our literature courses.
The senior thesis is optional, though a requirement for those who wish to be considered for departmental honors. Over the past decade, roughly half of our graduating majors have chosen to write a thesis. By fulfilling the "Requirements for Concentration," together with the "Senior-Year Requirements," as these two obligations are defined in the College catalogue, majors establish their bona fides in our discipline.