Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago and the Politics of Russian Literary Dissent

Adele Barker
Wednesdays 1 PM - 3 PM
November 1, 8, 15, 29, December 6, and 13, 2023
Watch the video to learn more about this course

Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago and the Politics of Russian Literary Dissent

Fall 2023
In Session
1 PM - 3 PM
November 1, 8, 15, 29, December 6, and 13, 2023

Course Format: 



Main Campus



Russia has never gotten Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago out of its system. This course will take us deep into the most controversial novel written during the Soviet era. Tolstoyan in its sweep, Dr. Zhivago is a stunning indictment of the system that attempted to engineer human life and an equally stunning meditation on the power of art to survive turbulent times. Pasternak was, above all, a poet. Dr. Zhivago was the only novel he ever wrote, and as such, we will be reading the prose of a poet. We will look at the poetic tradition to which Pasternak belonged, as well as the Zhivago poems that are key to understanding the philosophical core of the novel. Pasternak called it "a novel about us," yet he could not get Dr. Zhivago published in his own country. The fate of Pasternak's novel tells us much about how literary dissent functioned in the Soviet Union, but what can Pasternak and his novel speak to the world where Russia finds itself today?

Registration Will Open Online:
Monday, August 7, 2023, at 8 AM (AZ Time)

Required Reading: 

Either Edition:

  • Pasternak, Boris. Doctor Zhivago, trans. Max Hayward and Manya Harari (Pantheon, 1958; 1997). *
  • Pasternak, Boris. Doctor Zhivago, trans. Pevear and Volokonsky (Vintage, 2011).*

*Note from Adele: These are the two translations most easily available. You may choose either. I will be working out of the Hayward and Harari, but I will have both translations with me in class so that we can all literally be on the same page.

Recommended Reading: 

  • Finn, Peter and Couvee, Petra. The Zhivago Affair, The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle over a Forbidden Book (Vintage, 2014).

Meet Your Professor

Professor Emerita
Department of Russian and Slavic Studies

ADELE BARKER is professor emerita in the Russian Department and has taught Russian and Soviet literature and film for 35 years. She has lived, studied, and traveled widely throughout Russia and the Soviet Union. She is the author/editor of five books on Russian literature and popular culture and works in creative nonfiction. She has taught seven courses for the Humanities Seminars Program.

  • Ted and Shirley Taubeneck Superior Teaching Award


  • All classes will be delivered on-campus and online via live video streaming. Students will enroll in their preferred format during registration.
  • On-Campus classes will be held in the Rubel Room at the University of Arizona's Poetry Center (1508 E Helen St, Tucson, AZ 85721). Enrollment for in-person classes is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. All students enrolled to attend in person also have complete online access and may choose to attend one or all class sessions remotely if desired.
  • Online students may attend all classes via live video streaming and will be able to participate in all course Q&A sessions with the professor in real-time. A high-speed internet connection and a device capable of running Zoom are required to connect. Online access will be password protected and only available to enrolled students.
  • Class Recordings - All HSP classes are recorded and available for every enrolled student to watch for the duration of the course and one month after the last class session. This option is offered to aid students who cannot attend the live class times but desire to enroll and participate asynchronously. We hope this option also aids students who are traveling or have a necessary appointment that conflicts with a class session to stay connected and engaged with the course material.


Poetry Center
Dorothy Rubel Room
1508 E Helen
Tucson, AZ 85721
United States
Located on the SE corner of Helen Street and Vine Avenue, one block north of Speedway and three blocks west of Campbell Ave.

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