Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Socialism vs. Capitalism: Russian and American Writers’ Responses

SLAVIC 70N

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.

  

Meet the Instructor(s)

Yuliya Ilchuk

"Hello, dear Stanford frosh,

"I am Slavic professor Yuliya Ilchuk who will be teaching the IntroSem, Socialism vs. Capitalism: Russian and American Writers' Responses, in Autumn of 2020. I was born and grew up in the Soviet Ukraine. When I went to school in the 1980s, the answer to the question which system – socialism or capitalism – is better was clear to me. Then came the turbulent 1990s, when my country ceased to exist, and the emerging independent republics of the former Soviet Union rapidly transitioned to the market economy, decentralization, and liberalism. Back in the 1990s, capitalism felt like the best progressive alternative to the failing socio-economical Soviet system. Since 1999, I have lived and worked in the United States. As a student and now as a professor, I had to revise many of my assumptions about the appropriate social and economic organization of society. I hope that in our discussions of Russian and American intellectuals’ ideas of social justice and equality we will clarify that debate and will learn how to understand and appreciate the diversity and complexity of socio-political development of Russia and the United States in the synchronic and diachronic perspectives and in dialogue with each other."