Mathematics 39A, Section 1

Russian Poetry in English (2 units, P/NP) SEATS AVAILABLE

Professor Alexander Givental
Thursday 2:00-4:00, 89 Dwinelle Hall, Class number: 41599

This seminar is for you if you are open-minded, and don't read Russian. Lovers of English poetry are also welcome (though might end up disappointed). Most of the time we will be learning to enjoy the sound of Russian poetry in verse English translation. The plan is to start with a brief acquaintance with eleven great Russian poets, mapped against the two-century-long historical timeline. Then we will focus more deeply on some translations from Pushkin, Brodsky, Akhmadulina, Tsvetaeva (a lot), Tarkovsky, and the Bards (at which point guitar-playing skills may come handy). We will also have opportunities to theorize and debate on the general nature of poetry, prosody, translation, and to practice writing (or translating) Russian poetry in(to) English. The seminar can be also viewed as an experiment on interlingual hybridization with the students and the instructor in the role of guinea pigs. Participation will be the measure of success.

Instructor Bio

1987 PhD in Mathematics from Moscow State University

At UC Berkeley since 1990.

In 2013, published (jointly with Elysée Wilson-Egolf) a book of verse English translations of Russian poetry

Faculty web site:


Discussion will be in English with thick Russian accent.