Russian poets: Anna Akhmatova and Osip Mandelstam

Course Dates: 23/01/22 - 30/01/22
Time: 10:30 - 13:00
Location: Online
An evaluation, through close reading and discussion, of some of the most celebrated verse of the Silver Age, the Soviet Revolutionary period and the decades of Stalinism. What is it about the individual poems that cast a spell over so many of their contemporaries and the generations that followed? What do they tell us about the human spirit and the value of art in a time of catastrophic upheaval?
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Book your place
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Full fee £59.00 Senior fee £47.00 Concession £36.00

Course Code: HLT135

Sun, day, 23 Jan - 30 Jan '22

Duration: 2 sessions (over 2 weeks)

Or call to enrol:020 7831 7831

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

The first morning of this online literature course will be spent exploring selected poems from Akhmatova’s early collections, ‘Evening’, ‘Rosary’, and ‘Plantain’ (the lyric persona), before tracing her slow transformation through the 1920s and 1930s in face of the advancing Terror, in preparation for our main focus: the epic voice of witnessing, compassion and survival in the long, dramatic works from her final decades including ‘Requiem’, and especially ‘Poem Without a Hero’.

The second morning will be devoted to Mandelstam, beginning with the encircling harmonies of ‘Stone’ (1913) and ending with the ‘Moscow Notebooks’ and ‘Voronezh Notebooks’ written during the 1930s in conditions of worsening deprivation, exile, and death. Here too our concern will be on sharing our responses to a limited number of selected poems, in order to fully explore Mandelstam’s complex, often elusive modernist aesthetic, at once Jewish, Russian and pan-European.

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

It would be hard to find two more contrasting personalities or literary styles than those of Akhmatova and Mandelstam. Yet each evinced profound respect for the other’s poetry and, indeed, moral integrity. We will discuss the autobiographical, self-mythologising impulse in Akhmatova, which she never relinquished, her directness of address and clarion calls to an embattled society; and place these alongside Mandelstam’s constant flight from uprootedness and search for identity, in poems of extraordinary compression, restless intellectual energy, and – even at the very end – ironic gaiety.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

• Discuss the poems studied with some critical and technical sophistication
• Connect them to key stages in the backdrop of 20th century Russian history
• Identify some of the defining characteristics that inform each poet’s work as a whole
• Turn with confidence to other major Russian poets of the same period such as Tsvetaeva, Pasternak, Mayakovsky, Blok.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

No previous knowledge is required. Anyone who enjoys close reading of poems and is willing to take part in discussion is welcome.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

There will be a variety of teaching methods, including direct tutor input, power point and group discussion, with opportunities to express why individually we are participating on the course and what we hope to take away from it. No work outside class apart from the reading to do before each session.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

The tutor will supply digital copies of the most essential poems. However, you may wish to buy The Complete Akhmatova [Canongate 2000, a simply wonderful volume], Mandelstam’s Stone [Harvill 2009] and the Voronezh Notebooks [NYRB Poets 2016].

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Please see other poetry courses on the web at under History, Culture and Writing/Literature/Poetry.

Stephen Winfield

Stephen Winfield has lectured in English for over thirty years. He taught Language and Literature at Richmond upon Thames College in Twickenham from 1989 to 2017, and was Coordinator of the International Baccalaureate there from 2004 to 2016. He has also lectured in English Literature at the University of Katowice in Poland and taught Business English in Paris. He has taught a range of EFL courses at Richmond College, for the Bell School of Languages, the Sinoscope Project at Kings College London and the BBC Summer School. He has taught classes in English, American and International Literature at City Lit since 2014.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.