Russ 321
Final exam essay question

Can one argue that in the period between the tenth and the end of the seventeenth century Russia developed a "national" culture?

It is worth keeping in mind that most peoples define themselves as a nation only as part of the process of interacting with peoples whose culture may be different from their own. That is, one's self-definition may in part be a matter of "what we are" but also may be a matter of "what we are not." The subject here is not simply what we 21st-century observers might define as "Russian national culture" (or its absence), but in the first instance what we think the creators and representatives of that culture perceived and practiced. It may be, of course, that to a considerable degree the concept will appear to have been very far from the minds of the writers and artists with whose work we have dealt this quarter, although it would be a surprise to discover that the picture is a static one. Furthermore, it is essential to realize that written and artistic evidence by no means exhaust the possibilities for defining culture-common practice or formal ritual may embody important cultural norms whether or not those who engage in the practice or preside over the ritual ever specifically articulate why the practice is important. Shapers and practitioners of culturally signficant activity may lack formal literacy to be able to comment on it.

To answer this question, you will need:

*to decide on a good definition for key terms "national" and "culture";
*to keep in mind territorial and political changes over time;
*to keep in mind issues of social, educational, regional and ethnic differentiation;
*to consider carefully such issues as the role of "cultural borrowing" and the degree to which borrowings spread and were assimilated;
*to analyze specific works of literature and art selected across the whole chronological period encompassed by the course. Your analysis of those works should in the first instance demonstrate your first-hand acquaintance with them (texts or images) and not be based primarily on the comments about them by modern scholars.
*to take into account not just "formal culture" as defined by writings and works of art but also "popular culture" which may be manifested in practice (for this you will need to rely largely on the evidence discussed by several of the secondary authors whom you have read).

A good essay has a clear argument, a structured analysis of specific evidence, and a conclusion. While you are welcome to consult material beyond the assigned readings, in the first instance you are expected to base your essays on the course assignments. Obviously the question is too large for you to expect to incorporate into your essay everything you have been assigned during the quarter. What we are looking for here is evidence that you have read, looked, listened, absorbed, and then have been able to select that which will shape a coherent and persuasive response. In short, this assignment will demonstrate not simply what you know but how well you think. You need to do a lot of brainstorming and sketching of ideas before getting down to serious writing. Many different approaches to good answers may be possible; quite different examples might be used to argue the same thing.

You are encouraged to post comments, ideas etc. regarding the essay to EPost during the last week of classes, but do not expect that in response someone is going to do your thinking for you.

Exam essays should be 6-8 pp. in length, double-spaced, with normal (approx. 1-inch) margins. A list of all sources consulted should be included, and quotations must be identified as such and their precise sources indicated.

The exam essays are due no later than 5 PM on Monday, December 13. You should submit them either to your section instructor personally or place them in the instructor's mailbox (Schuckman in Slavic Dept.; Waugh in History Dept.). Do not slide essays under locked doors in the hopes that they may be found. No late exams will be accepted without a documented medical excuse. Be sure to keep a copy of your essay. Should you wish to receive the essay back along with any other work not previously returned, be sure to attach a stamped, self-addressed large envelope. Attach enough postage. Essays will be kept (probably in the Slavic Dept. office) through next quarter if you wish to pick them up after the new term begins.