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Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students
Socialism vs. Capitalism: Russian and American Writers’ Responses
The turn of the 20th century was marked with turbulent political events and heated discussions about the future of Russian and American societies. Many writers and intellectuals responded to the burning issues of social justice, inequality, egalitarianism, and exploitation. Through close reading, critical thinking, and analytical writing, we will engage in the critical discussions of class struggle, individual interest versus communal common good, race, gender, and social equality, and identify points of convergence and divergence between the two systems. To what extent was the opposition between capitalism and socialism fueled by the artistic vision of the great Russian and American writers? What were these thinkers' ideal of society and what impact did it have on shaping emerging socialism? How did the writers respond to the Russian revolution and crisis of capitalism in the early 20th century? The instructional materials for the class include fictional works and essays by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Jack London, Mark Twain, W.E.B. Du Bois, Sholem Aleichem, John Steinbeck, as well as travelogues, posters, and films of the period.