Wellesley College: from Nabokov to the present day

Ajar the door to the Wellesley College

Russian Language Department at Wellesley College, began with Vladimir Nabokov. Behind the door - his books, bath with butterflies and memories of him

In 1941, a year after his arrival in the United States from Europe, Vladimir Nabokov, first began to teach literature, and then the Russian language in one of the most prestigious colleges in the United States.

Founded in 1875 by Wellesley College and to this day remains one of the most famous and prestigious women's colleges of America. Wellesley graduates among the current secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Last taught Russian language at the Department of Russian Language Wellesley. That same department, founded by Vladimir Nabokov.

After nearly 60 years after Nabokov, I visited Wellesley College, to learn who today chooses the Russian language and literature as his specialty. And that future U.S. secretaries of state are aware not only of Russian literature, but also about life in modern Russia.

The peak of popularity was Russian

Nabokov in a sense lucky: in his time, interest in the Russian language in U.S. colleges urged to create a separate language department to prepare specialists in popular destinations.

"The peak of popularity of the Russian language was in the 1960th and 1980th years - tells me David Patton, vice president of the American Council of Teachers of Russian Language and Literature. - Hard to say what it is connected, but usually the interest manifested in the Russian" critical "years:" Star Wars, the Cold War and so on. "

Views of Lake Waban by Wellesley College

On Lake Waban Nabokov caught butterflies after school. From the pulpit to the lake two minutes

"Interest in Russian has increased, for example, after the Russian-Georgian military conflict in 2008, and then gradually slept" - says David Patton.

Russian in various higher educational institutions in the USA are studying about 27 thousand people. In recent years this figure has remained largely unchanged, "says Patton. According to a recent survey of the American Council for International Education, approximately 16,000 students each year as a foreign language choose Russian.

However, the trend in higher education in recent years - is an abbreviation of the Russian Language, or merged with other departments of Slavic languages.

However, Russian - along with Arabic, Farsi and Pashto - is still regarded as "strategically important" language in the classification of the U.S. State Department and CIA in the list.

"Do not accept the ministry, but to serve"

Subtitle - is the motto of Wellesley, who was so fond of Nabokov. In 1948, the writer asked to lead the department of literature in another prestigious American university - at Cornell University. Nabokov decided to accept and leave his beloved Wellesley, including on the basis of material considerations.

Student Anya Cork

Pride Chair - Grandmaster Anya Cork. Just like Madeleine Albright, Anne wants to become a diplomat

However, to this day his name - advertising department of the Russian language Wellesley College.

Wellesley town located a few kilometers away from Boston. College lasts four years and completed a diploma of bachelor. Year of training costs about 40 thousand dollars.

Early in the morning before classes begin lecturer in Russian language and nabokoved Adam Weiner is leading me on the slippery snow-covered road on campus to Lake Waban - one of the favorite places Nabokov.

"After studying the weather is good, he ran away from his net on the lake to catch butterflies," - tells me Adam A., both on the Russian manner call him a student of the department.

"Life is sad, life is beautiful"

Nabokov student, says Weiner, interested not only in his love of butterflies. "One day after his lectures on literature, a girl came up to him and asked what you need to know to pass the exam well. Nabokov answered: there are only two things you should know - life is sad, life is good."

This is Nabokov's expression became winged, not only among students of Wellesley, who to this day before the exams comfort themselves with the fact that life is more than our perception of it.

From the lake to another favorite place of Nabokov - the library that contains over 1.5 million books, two minutes walk away.

"Most of all he liked that in America, coming to the library, do not fill out forms, wait several hours or days when you will be given them, and you can immediately take home any book from the shelf," - said Adam Weiner.

"When he began teaching at Wellesley, this library contains only a translation of" Alice in Wonderland, he was not Nabokov, as we know it today ", - adds Professor Weiner.

Russian roots

After strolling through Nabokov places I go for Russian language lessons, where Adam Weiner tells his female students on the degrees of comparison. Although they admittedly the most difficult to learn Russian - it's Cases.

Despite the difficulty of the Russian language, each year more than a hundred students of Wellesley choose this subject as a major. "Why?" - I'm interested in students who had gathered at the department after school.

Teacher Wellesley Alla Epstein

Alla Epstein: the Russian department of the student come to "craziness"

As it turns out, many of them - Russian roots, and that is what inspires them to study the Russian language and culture. Second year student of Eugene Nizkorodov was born in Novosibirsk, but in Russian said with a slight accent.

"I believe that the language - is an important part of my culture, I want to read in Russian and generally maintain your language skills," - says Eugene choice.

In this case, Eugene does not think that such a profession she has no prospects for good earnings. "Last summer I worked, doing translations, I think knowledge of Russian would help me find a good job."

Elena Mironchuk was born in Moldova, Russia never was, but spoke in Russian better than all the other students in the department. "Despite the protests of parents, I chose my profession Russian language and literature is my passion and my vocation," - says Elena.

Parents wanted her daughter chose a more promising and monetary specialty, but passion is passion. "I would like to teach at Stanford, there is a good Department of Russian Language" - says Elena his plans.

The image of Russia

Of course, in Wellesley at the Department of Russian language study is not only a girl with Russian roots. In the hallway on one of the stands a portrait of Madeleine Albright and the inscription: she taught Russian language - maybe you should try it?

Pride Chair - Grandmaster Anya Cork. As well as Albright, Anne wants to become a diplomat. And despite the fact that the parents of Annie from Hong Kong, in Chinese it says, giving preference to Russian. Anna tells me that is interested in international affairs, and I ask what she knew about the political situation in Russia today.

"My Russian friends tell me that despite all the formalities of a democratic state, so until Russia is not. And it is not clear who rules the country: the president or prime minister," - says Anne his vision of Russia.

Something like a general understanding of a situation, and other Wellesley students. Much more they still know about the past than the present Russia.

In the program, as in Nabokov - primarily the study of the classics of Russian literature. But there is, for example, and a course on Soviet film comedy. His lead lecturer Alla Epstein.

Language as a way to enter into the culture

"All college students are obliged to attend a course of foreign language in the amount two years, but those who choose Russian, is driven by something more than the required set of tests" - sure Alla Epstein.

Wellesley teacher Adam Weiner

Nabokoved Adam Weiner decided to fulfill a prophecy by Vladimir Nabokov

"For them, language - a tool not a goal. This is a way to enter into the Russian culture." Alla Epstein says that not only is Helen, born in Moldavia, had to fight with her parents, convince them that 40 thousand dollars a year will be well spent if they will learn at the Department of Russian Language and Literature.

Some students admitted that their choice fell on this department is largely thanks to its passionate head Professor Tom Hodge. He teaches at Wellesley 18 years.

"How is the curriculum and whether consciously focus on the study of Russia's past?" - I asked Professor Hodge.

"Today, Yeltsin, tomorrow - Putin policies are constantly changing. Pushkin, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky - it is forever, so we teach them," - said in his impeccable Russian Professor Hodge.

This semester, Hodge lectured Siberian writers. This kind of training students for their summer trip in a small village on Lake Baikal. On the day when I was in Wellesley, Professor Hodge led a seminar on "Farewell" Valentin Rasputin.

"Of course, they do not quite understand the context of what is happening, even though many of them were in Russia on an internship, but Rasputin village - this in Moscow and St. Petersburg will not see," - says Tom Hodge.

"But they have great interest in Russian literature, and I try to focus on human motivation in any product."

La porte Nabokov

Adam Weiner concludes the tour of Nabokov's place in one of Wellesley students residences, where the so-called Nabokov door.

This is a long history connected with the fact that once one of the students caught Nabokov at Wellesley small inaccuracies in his biography of Nikolai Gogol.

This book is about the life of Gogol provoked complaints from the publisher, and Nabokov had to make some amendments. One of the actors in the product was a door Elizabeth Browning, English poet of the Victorian era.

Inaccuracy, according to the student, was that her maiden name was Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and not, therefore, the door should wear her maiden name. Nabokov laughed and said: This is nonsense, the main thing that came out of that door a poet. He added: "Someday the door through which I entered today, will be called La porte Nabokov".

Nabokoved Adam Weiner decided to fulfill a prophecy by Vladimir Nabokov, and hung a sign on the door through which a writer comes in to talk with students.

And now all in Wellesley know that La porte Nabokov is here. And every day of it can get a new poet. Or the new secretary of state. Or a new president. And the more valuable it will be a woman.