Russian Language Journal


Russian literature, Mikhail Bulgakov, study guides


Although Mikhail Bulgakov’s classic The Master and Margarita has become an inevitable fixture of Russian literature survey courses, it can nevertheless present a challenge even for seasoned instructors. As the text repeatedly slips between locales, historical periods, and narrative voices, Bulgakov’s novel seems more and more like a world unto itself. In my experience, there always proves to be something in this world—rewritten Gospels, a moving romance, the gun-toting cat—that will draw undergraduates in. And yet, when a tight syllabus gives me but four classes to tackle the novel’s elaborate system of leitmotifs, allusions, and historical realia, I feel like I fail to do the work justice.