For all writers.
If you love to read or write, there’s a place for you at hugo house..
Hugo House isn’t just a place. It’s a community.
Hugo House is a nonprofit literary arts organization that aims to make writing accessible. Everyone has a story to tell. Whether you’re a new writer wanting to learn, an experienced author seeking a supportive environment to share your work, or a reader looking for new books to love—at Hugo House, you’ll find ways to explore your creativity, whatever your interest or budget.
Registration is now open for fall classes!
Explore our class catalog
Learn with us.
Whether you’re struggling to write your first poem or have a few novels under your belt, Hugo House offers classes, workshops, and other programs to help you achieve your writing goals. Our classes are taught by published writers who are also stellar teachers. Our students come from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences. What they all have in common: a love of words.
Writing with Folklore & Myth: Resilience, Community, & Grief
Instructor: Christie Valentin-Bati. This generative course examines the use of myth and folklore, including African folk hero and voodoo, as a tool of resilience, community, and grief.
Gravity From the Moon: A Night of Native Voices | A Hugo Literary Series and Snoqualmie Casino Partnership
Works in progress (virtual), works in progress (in-person).
News & Insights
Announcing the 2023-24 Hugo Fellows
New Teacher Feature: Christie Valentin-Bati Explores Folklore & Mythology
New Teacher Feature: Miriam Tobin and the Basics of Playwriting
New Teacher Feature: Cara Stoddard and Inspiration from the Natural World
Hugo House Instructors Books Round-Up
Featured free resource, drop-in writing circles.
Hugo House drop-in writing circles are free and open to all! Come on in, get inspired, and meet other writers. Bring something you’re working on, or just come ready to write. You will have the opportunity to share your work and get feedback—but only if you want to (no pressure). You can also use this time to explore your current work in progress, surrounded by fellow writers.
Our members make our world go round.
Our supporters are why Hugo House can continue to offer amazing free resources to the community. In addition to supporting the literary arts, our members get discounts on event tickets and at local bookstores!
Join our email list for regular updates
© 2022 Hugo House
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Learn about The Writer's Center
America's oldest poetry magazine
The Writer’s Center offers hundreds of writing workshops and classes every year. Workshops cover all genres and all experience levels. Join us in-person and online.
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Event views navigation, november 2023, introduction to writing for film & tv.
Learn the fundamentals of screenwriting from a screenwriter & producer. This hands-on workshop will guide beginning and intermediate screenwriters through the process of what it takes to craft a professional […]
Using Setting for Structure and Impact
This setting intensive will enhance your fiction and memoir. In this workshop we will learn to use setting as a map, as a structure for storytelling. Setting can be a […]
Your First (or Next) Novel
Get inspired and dive right into the novel of your dreams! Writing a novel takes commitment, but it doesn’t need to be daunting. Learn how to generate a handful of […]
New Fictions: Hybrid and Experimental Narrative Forms
Break out of traditional, realist narrative norms and workshop models, and experiment with new fiction tools including language, perspective, voice, and structure. In each session, one instructor will share a […]
Persona Poem Crash Course
“I” does not always mean “me.” In the Persona Poem, or Dramatic Monologue, the poet writes in the voice of another real or imagined person—or even an inanimate object. Guided […]
Creative Recovery and Self-Care for Writers
Learn how to navigate all phases of the creative process without burning out. As writers, it’s vital that we nurture our creativity through self-care so we can work with our […]
Syntax as Strategy
Coleridge defined poetry as “The best words in the best order.” How a poet handles syntax–the order of words in a sentence–is crucial to everything from establishing the voice of […]
UnClogging Your Brain
Learn to use improvisational technique as a tool for writing. Improvisation puts you directly into the action and heart of the moment. Allow your creative genius to ‘script’ on the […]
Writing Picture Books II
Learn how to polish your picture book manuscript before submitting to an agent or editor. You’ve drafted your picture book, what’s the next step? Learn to revise and polish your […]
How to Tell Your Story
Join us for an hour as we discuss and learn different effective methods towards building and developing your story. This workshop is intended to help with all creative projects and […]
Creating Conflict & Tension
Every great story has conflict — grab yours! Strengthening the conflict in any type of fiction will bump up the tension and turn limp, ordinary fiction into an extraordinary tale […]
Write Better Poetry Titles
Expand your poem’s meaning and grab readers’ attention with stronger titles. Titles are one of the most important spots in a poem, but what makes a good title? How can […]
Nature Writing: To a Tree
Trees make our planet habitable for humans and other creatures. They can live for thousands of years. As children we climb them and play in the shade they give. As […]
Freedom With Forms
Have you discovered the freedom of writing in forms? Here’s an opportunity to shed any misconception that received forms are constricting. Inspired by Richard Moore’s “The Rule That Liberates,” we […]
Plotting Your Novel
In this workshop, participants will study the architecture of a novel and devise plans for plotting their novels. Whether you are an organized planner or a writer who flies by […]
Book Promotion Through Podcasting
Podcasting is one of the easiest ways to get your book and your voice out there, and we’ll not only be looking at how to find good podcasts and get […]
Finish your novel.
Learn how to push through writer roadblocks so you can finally finish that novel! Have you been working and reworking the beginning of your novel but can’t seem to push […]
How to Write a Lot
Create, track, and maximize your writing time to finish projects sooner and with less stress! You may think you don’t have the time, energy, or inspiration to write because of […]
Creative Spirit: Infusing Your Writing with Energy
Use spirituality to strengthen and freshen your creativity. You will learn to facilitate a concentrated focus and tap into a higher source of inspiration, whether viewed as the highest self, […]
Write Like the News
Become concise as news, precise as law. Lead with the future — not background — for lead-ership, especially in a crisis. That’s the most important of eight journalism skills that […]
Show and Tell Intensive
Learn the single most important skill any writer, of any genre can possess. A dynamic workshop on the single most important skill any writer can have. Skilled writers make readers […]
Humor in Poetry
Does a good poem have to take itself seriously? Many poets today suffer from “humor anxiety”—the fear that trying to be funny will damage their reputations. But the success of […]
Troubleshooting Your Fiction
Learn to spot the red flags in your fiction that may cause your story to be rejected by literary agents or publishers! Revision is a dirty word to some writers. […]
Sonnet Crash Course
What’s special about the sonnet? Guided by a prize-winning and internationally published author of sonnets, villanelles, and other metrical poems, you’ll first read time-honored sonnets to see how and why […]
Fables for the Present Day
Learn how to incorporate techniques from past myth and fable storytelling traditions to create contemporary work that feels both timeless and fresh! Fables, myths, and tales! What is it about […]
Personal essays from start to finish: 10 essays in 5 months.
Inspiration, accountability, and the tools you need to get your essays out into the world! Join us for five months of craft lessons, workshops, editor visits, and personal editorial feedback! […]
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Breaking Storytelling Norms with Symbiotic Forms: A Generative Workshop with Sarah Cypher
Once a week Mondays, 7:00 pm EST - 9:00 pm EST November 13 to December 4, 2023
Loosen up and get inspired by using outside texts as access points for new work or as fresh angles for revision.
Writing Everyday Life with Bruna Dantas Lobato
Once a week Tuesdays, 7:00 pm EST - 9:00 pm EST November 14 to December 19, 2023
Discover how to amplify the mundane by identifying our surroundings and the forces that drive us in order to craft a successful “quiet story.”
1000 Words : A Communal Writing Event with Jami Attenberg and Hannah Tinti
Wednesday, 6:00 pm EST January 10, 2024
In the spring of 2018, New York Times bestselling author Jami Attenberg faced a looming deadline
We can only offer full refunds if you cancel one week prior to the start of class. After that, before the start date of class, we can offer a 50% refund. We cannot refund day-of cancellations or refund or partially refund the fee once the class has begun.
Creative Writing Workshops
Whether you are just curious about writing poems or stories, or are an experienced writer seeking serious critique, the Downtown Writers Center has programs for you. Each year, we offer over 70 workshops and courses for writers of all experience levels: poetry, fiction, non-fiction, drama, screenwriting, songwriting, and more. And if you're a YMCA of Central New York member, you can take a class for free each season! All courses are taught by professional writers who are ready lead you on your creative journey.
"They say writing is a solitary pursuit—and yet I shudder to imagine attempting it without the essential support of my friends and mentors at the DWC. It is there that I find the necessary criticism to do it better and the generous encouragement to do it again."
-- Michael Petrosillo, DWC PRO fiction student and published fiction author
"When I joined the Y several years ago, I was happy to discover all of the other activities available besides a workout, like walking clubs, field trips, and picnics. Then a friend suggested taking classes at the DWC. At the beginning I took fiction classes, and now I take poetry classes. I have taken a class every session since I started. It has been a wonderful opportunity to make new friends, expand my interests, and broaden my writing skills. One of the best parts is there is no pressure. If you want to publish, you will receive more support than you can possibly imagine from others who are already published. Or you can take the classes for fun. Every instructor has been amazing, and I've learned different things from each of them."
-- Debbie Panebianco
"At the beginning every time we workshopped my work, after hearing all those beautiful pieces, I wished the ground would swallow me up. Instead, I decided to buckle up, and take the embarrassment as an integral part of the learning process. Boy was it worth it. I still feel I need to catch up with my language skills. Nevertheless, I still manage, somehow, to keep myself in the game, coming up with new ideas, and enjoying every minute of it!"
-- Benedetta Pallante
"Being part of the DWC community has changed my life. It has provided me a purpose for each day. Writing turned out to be a blessing for me. Without it I would be lost."
-- Morris Torres
"I have been a student since 2002 and have found every instructor I've encountered to be knowledgeable, professional, and motivating. I moved to Seattle in 2018 and thought I had to leave the Center behind. The silver lining amid all the COVID concerns is the shift to offer DWC courses online. What a gift. I can now take classes remotely and enjoy this wonderful community again. Whether you are a writer of fiction, poetry, or non-fiction this is the place to hone your skills."
-- Susan Burgess
For more information, please contact: Tim Carter Arts Branch Program Director
A haven for writers of all genres and ambitions, the Writer’s Studio offers engaging courses taught by eminent practitioners.
Hone your craft. Tell your story.
The Writer’s Studio at the University of Chicago is home to a community of writers and instructors passionate about the written word. Through classes, events, and workshops, the Studio connects writers of all genres and ability levels in creative writing.
- Creative writing courses include fiction, memoir, playwriting, poetry, short story, prose, novel-writing, and more. Introductory courses and advanced courses are labeled so that students can select the courses that are right for them and their writing goals.
Classes are designed to support, inspire, and challenge writers across experience levels. Whether you are a new or veteran writer, the Writer's Studio will help you take your craft to the next level.
Courses in the Writer’s Studio are offered in a mix of online and in-person formats. All courses are capped at 14 students to promote deeper conversation and provide ample time for review of written work.
Our methodology is inspired by more than 130 years of leadership at the University of Chicago in the craft of writing.
The Writer’s Studio community is comprised of students, alumni, distinguished authors, and eminent instructors. In addition to our courses, we also offer ongoing events to encourage new relationships and sustained learning. Students and alumni of the Writer’s Studio are also warmly welcomed into larger Graham School community events and opportunities.
View All Articles
The Adopted Writer
A search to find her biological parents – and a learning journey at the Writer’s Studio fuel Julie Ryan McGue’s unexpected literary career.
August 7, 2023
The Tales of Two Writers
Ignited by passion and propelled by courses at the Writer’s Studio, Monique Demery and Deborah Keene enter the ranks of published authors.
May 24, 2023
Writing from Life: Poetry as Story
In a new writing workshop designed to elevate diverse voices, Writer’s Studio instructor Dr. Dipika Mukherjee champions poetry and the too often discounted value of personal experiences.
March 2, 2023
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Start writing fiction
Course content, course reviews.
Have you always wanted to write, but never quite had the courage to start? This free course, Start writing fiction, will give you an insight into how authors create their characters and setting s. You will also be able to look at the different genre s for fiction.
Course learning outcomes
After studying this course, you should be able to:
- identify strengths and weaknesses as a writer of fiction
- demonstrate a general awareness of fiction writing
- discuss fiction using basic vocabulary.
First Published: 09/08/2012
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Writing Classes Near Me
Find & compare hands-on Writing courses near you or live online. We’ve chosen over 200 of the best Writing courses from the top training providers to help you find the perfect fit.
Top Writing Courses
Gotham writers workshop fiction writing intensive.
This course offers participants an opportunity to develop their fiction writing skills. Throughout the class, writers will learn techniques for creating compelling characters, shaping effective plotlines, and developing unique settings and storylines. Participants can explore different fiction writing genres during the class and receive feedback from a professional instructor.
- See provider
The Brick No Wrong Way to Begin A Play
This course will help budding playwrights jump-start their creativity with various prompts and exercises. Through this workshop, participants can find their unique voice as a writer, learning the basics of playwriting, including plot structure, character development, and craftsmanship. This course is perfect for anyone ready to take their creativity to the next level.
- 4 Weeks, 3 hr/wk
Quality & Productivity Solutions, Inc Advanced Writing Skills
This advanced writing skills course prepares you to take your business writing skills to the next level. You will learn the techniques to craft effective reports, persuasive messages, and presentations to ensure effective communication. Additionally, you will learn the fundamentals for mastering grammar, punctuation, and mechanics.
Gotham Writers Workshop Fiction Writing Level 1: 10 Week Workshop
This creative writing course provides an introduction to the art of fiction writing. Participants will develop their storytelling skills by exploring writing exercises, creative prompts, and practical techniques, leading to a stronger understanding of plot, character, and structure. It is the perfect course for aspiring fiction writers looking to hone their craft.
- 10 Weeks, 3 hr/wk
The Writers Studio Workshop in Fiction and Poetry (Level 1)
This one-day workshop is for those who want to explore fiction and poetry writing basics. Participation in discussions and exercises will help participants benefit from friendly feedback to hone their craft. With this workshop, participants will gain an understanding of the elements of creative writing, as well as hands-on practice to get them started.
- 8 Weeks, 2 hr/wk
NYC Career Centers Grammar Essentials
This 7-hour hands-on Grammar Essentials course is designed for individuals who need to brush up on their grammar to improve their business writing skills. This course covers all the fundamentals in proper English grammar, including parts of speech (nouns, verbs, etc.), identifying rules, proper punctuation, how to identify and correct run-on sentences, improving word choice, and how to write and edit effectively. This course also offers a free retake within six months of completion to allow students to review any concepts and walk away with a much stronger grasp of the material.
- Live Online
- Weekdays, Evenings, or Weekends
- Free Retake
NYC Career Centers Effective Business Writing
In the digital era, being a strong writer is more important than ever. This 7-hour hands-on Business Writing course is designed to help business professionals write more professional and more engaging documents, emails, and social media posts that drive more business. The course reviews several business writing best practices, including organizing content and crafting great sentences, writing emails and other electronic forms of communication, how to write common business documents, and how to write both business letters and proposals. This course also offers a free retake within six months of completion to allow students to review any concepts and walk away with a much stronger grasp of the material.
NYC Career Centers Advanced Business Writing
In the digital era, being a strong writer is more important than ever. This 7-hour hands-on Advanced Business Writing course is designed to help individuals craft more professional and more engaging documents to reach your target audience successfully. The course teaches students how to focus the content of a document so that it resonates with the intended audience, how to plan for a successful writing project, and how to incorporate a variety of persuasive techniques to win trust with your audience. This course also offers a free retake within six months of completion to allow students to review any concepts and walk away with a much stronger grasp of the material.
NYC Career Centers Business Writing Bootcamp
In the digital era, being a strong writer is more important than ever. This 18-hour hands-on bootcamp is designed to help individuals write professional and engaging documents to reach the target audience successfully. The bootcamp consists of three sections: Grammar Essentials, Effective Business Writing, and Advanced Business Writing. Grammar Essentials will help students gain mastery over English grammar as well as avoiding common errors and misspellings. The two business writing courses aim to provide students with the fundamental and advanced skills needed to craft professional emails and other documents. This course also offers a free retake within six months of completion to allow students to review any concepts and walk away with a much stronger grasp of the material.
92nd Street Y Humor-writing: An Online Workshop
Humor Writing with Elissa Bassist is an online course which helps refine your comedy-writing skills and develop a standup act. Guided by award-winning writer Elissa Bassist, participants learn to take a humorous approach to personal experiences and get tips on writing for comedy publications. Aspiring comedians also receive feedback on their standup material.
- 4 Weeks, 2 hr/wk
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Business writing classes teach you to effectively communicate in a professional setting, with an emphasis on writing clear and concise emails, memos, reports, and other business-related documents.
Screenwriting classes teach you the fundamentals of storytelling, character development, and dialogue to craft compelling scripts for film and television.
Creative writing classes give you the opportunity to develop your writing skills, explore your creativity, and learn techniques and styles to craft compelling and expressive pieces of writing.
Grammar classes teach you the rules and principles of grammar to improve your writing skills and enhance your overall language proficiency.
Comedy writing classes teach you the principles and techniques needed to write humorous and comedic content, focusing on developing your skills in crafting jokes, humorous stories, sketches, and scripts.
Writing Courses by School
Here are some of the top schools offering Writing training, including Gotham Writers Workshop (40 courses), Writing Pad (28 courses), and The Writers Studio (12 courses).
Gotham Writers Workshop
Gotham Writers Workshop is a New York-based school offering a range of creative writing classes suited for all levels. Courses are offered in a variety of formats, such as online and in-person classes, workshops, and seminars covering genres such as fiction, poetry, and more. With its expert instructors and extensive library of resources, Gotham Writers Workshop is an ideal environment for budding writers to hone their craft.
Gotham Writers Workshop’s Top Writing Courses
Fiction writing intensive, fiction writing level 1: 10 week workshop, memoir writing level 1: 10-week workshop.
This course provides a comprehensive overview of the memoir-writing process, with a focus on developing an engaging voice, narrative, and structure. Participants will be guided through the creation of personal essays or memoir pieces, alongside constructive critiques from peers. The course will also cover the nuances of publication, allowing individuals to better grasp opportunities and demands in the writing industry.
- 6 Weeks, 3 hr/wk
This comprehensive workshop is designed for individuals who wish to enhance their writing skills. Participants will develop writing techniques and methods through a series of exercises and assignments, with valuable feedback and constructive critique provided throughout the session. Emphasizing creativity and inspiration facilitates overcoming writer’s block to produce compelling content.
The Brick is a theater and art school in New York City that offers courses in such disciplines as stage acting, commercial acting, voice-over, playwriting, and singing. The school's curriculum is designed to educate and give students the skills necessary to build a successful career in a creative field and give them the confidence to tackle any creative pursuit both in public and in private. The experienced instructors at The Brick are also committed to helping students develop artistically and professionally, being involved at almost every step to help students succeed.
The Brick’s Top Writing Courses
No wrong way to begin a play, quality & productivity solutions, inc.
Quality & Productivity Solutions, Inc. is an educational institution dedicated to helping individuals and organizations achieve better results through improved efficiency and quality. Their course offerings range from foundational topics such as employee motivation, problem-solving, and team building to program-specific topics like Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, and ISO Certification. They also provide tailored solutions to companies looking for customized courses focused on their specific needs.
Quality & Productivity Solutions, Inc’s Top Writing Courses
Advanced writing skills, the writers studio.
The Writers Studio is a renowned school in New York dedicated to creative writing. From individual courses to 12-week programs, they offer classes in fiction, memoir, personal narrative, poetry, and more. Through their unique approach, students are taught the skills needed to become better writers and discover their true writing style.
The Writers Studio’s Top Writing Courses
Workshop in fiction and poetry (level 1), online art speaks to art.
- 6 Weeks, 2 hr/wk
This online class will provide participants with a range of writing skills and techniques to provide meaningful insights into fine art from a curator's perspective. Through a series of lectures, activities, and tasks, learners will gain an understanding of the contemporary and classical art world and ways to articulate the nuances of art. Participants will gain an appreciation for the written commentary within the art world.
Online Essays and the Persona Narrator
This online course explores the art of essay writing from the perspective of developing and crafting a narrative persona. It covers techniques such as creating essential voices for writing powerful personal essays. Participants will gain greater insight into using techniques to connect their stories to others.
Online Level 1 Intro to Fiction and Poetry
This course offers an introductory exploration of fiction and poetry writing for those who want to expand their creative writing skill sets. Through a combination of hands-on activities and interactive discussion, participants will learn the basics of developing plots, building characters, connecting narrative elements, and exploring poetic techniques and forms. They will also work toward defining their writing style and enriching their understanding of the literary landscape.
NYC Career Centers
Career Centers offers intensive business courses and corporate training in the heart of New York City and remotely online. They offer courses in Microsoft Excel, finance & accounting, data analytics, Microsoft Office, and design.
Career Centers’s Top Writing Courses
Grammar essentials, effective business writing, advanced business writing, business writing bootcamp, 92nd street y.
92Y is a world-class cultural and community center in New York City. Founded in 1874, it is located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and offers a wide range of classes and programs in the arts, entertainment, and conversation. With over 4,000 classes and programs each year taught by some of the most talented professionals in the world, 92Y is a great place to learn new skills, meet new people, and explore your interests. It is a non-profit organization committed to enriching the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds.
92nd Street Y’s Top Writing Courses
Humor-writing: an online workshop, poetry with wo chan.
This online course offers an in-depth exploration of poetry under the guidance of the experienced instructor, Wo Chan. Participants will benefit from intimate class settings, and the opportunity to investigate various styles of writing and performance. The course will emphasize the importance of authentic self-expression and creativity in crafting unique poetic compositions.
Reading to Write with Myla Goldberg
- 4 Weeks, 1 hr/wk
This "Reading to Write with Myla Goldberg" course enables participants to become more comfortable reading and writing creative poetry. Through this unique online offering, students will be introduced to an array of poetic forms and learn the basics of craft such as rhyme, rhythm, tone, and metaphor. Participants will also explore the power of their inspiration and create thought-provoking poetry that speaks to their individual experiences.
NYIM Training offers results-oriented business courses and corporate training online and in New York. With hands-on courses and certifications in data analytics, design, programming, office productivity, and finance, its extensive offering provides flexible training solutions for professionals and businesses.
NYIM’s Top Writing Courses
In this course, participants will learn how to improve and sharpen their writing skills to achieve strong and effective writing that is clear, powerful, and professional. Students will review the core elements of effective writing, from determining the goal, analyzing the audience, and organizing their thoughts through. The course will cover various types of business communications, including email, announcements, proposals, executive summaries, and more. Tuition includes hands-on training, a free retake, and a course manual. The course offers flexible scheduling and is available online or in NYC.
In this course, participants will learn how to improve and sharpen their writing skills to achieve strong and effective writing that is clear, powerful, and professional. Students will review the core elements of effective writing, from determining the goal, analyzing the audience, and organizing their thoughts through writing strong sentences and solid business communications. Topics will cover various types of business communications, including email, announcements, proposals, executive summaries, and more. Tuition includes hands-on training, a free retake, and a course manual. The course offers flexible scheduling and is available online or in NYC.
In this advanced writing course, participants with a solid grasp of effective business writing will learn how to prepare complex business documents and master their use of informative and persuasive techniques to bring their writing to the next level. They will learn to outline and format an array of different business documents, including schedules, project plans, contracts, and other multi-page business documents. Tuition includes hands-on training, a free retake, and a course manual. The course offers flexible scheduling and is available online or in NYC. Business writing proficiency equivalent to an intermediate level is required, including knowledge of basic grammar and essential business writing skills such as writing topic sentences, emails, or policy announcements.
In this comprehensive 3-day bootcamp, students will learn the core concepts of powerful business writing from basic grammar skills to preparing complex multi-page business documents. With a focus on writing that is clear, concise, powerful, and professional, students will begin with a practical review of grammar fundamentals and move through fundamentals of business writing. These include determining the writing goal, defining and targeting the audience, and organizing the data. Participants will gain practical advice and strategies for editing, co-writing, and collaboration, leaving students ready to tackle any writing project with new confidence. Tuition includes hands-on training, a free retake, and a course manual. The course offers flexible scheduling and is available online or in NYC.
Irish Arts Center
Irish Arts Center is a renowned performing arts school in New York City, offering an array of classes and workshops in dance, drama, music, literature, and folklore. Established in 1972, the Irish Arts Center continues to introduce, focus on, and preserve the evolving expressions of Irish culture in a forum for dialogue and exchange. With a team of highly professional instructors, this innovative and accessible arts organization helps to nurture, inspire and engage artists and audiences alike.
Irish Arts Center’s Top Writing Courses
Writing speculative fiction for children master class.
This course offers aspiring authors a chance to delve into the realm of speculative fiction for children, fostering their creativity and storytelling skills. Covering elements like world-building, character creation, and plot development, it provides a robust understanding of the genre's specifics. Students will gain the knowledge to create compelling narratives that will captivate young readers' imagination and interest.
American Management Association
- Washington, D.C.
- San Francisco
American Management Association (AMA) is a professional development organization that offers a variety of courses and certificates for business professionals. Founded in 1913, AMA is committed to providing high-quality educational experiences that help professionals achieve their career goals. The organization's courses are taught by experienced business professionals who are passionate about teaching and helping professionals develop their skills.
American Management Association’s Top Writing Courses
Effective technical writing.
This course provides an intensive learning experience for those interested in enhancing their technical writing skills. Participants will learn how to communicate technical information effectively, with a focus on organizing, designing, and editing documents for clear and convincing presentation. The course caters to a variety of professional contexts, including the corporate, government, or nonprofit sectors.
This course offers professionals in the Washington, D.C. area an opportunity to acquire proficiency in technical writing. Participants can learn to write, edit, and proofread materials that explain technical information clearly and effectively. The course also covers aspects like maintaining consistency and minimizing issues related to jargon and wordiness.
This online professional course provides instruction on effective technical writing, highlighting the importance of clarity, conciseness, and accuracy. Participants will learn to create well-structured technical documents and reports while also improving their editing and proofreading skills. Emphasis is placed on real work applications, with practical exercises to apply these new skills immediately.
AMA's Business Grammar Workshop
This course will help participants improve their knowledge of business grammar. They will gain an understanding of the essential components of business language, such as idioms and grammar structures, and learn how to apply these in a professional context. In the workshop, topics such as active and passive language will be discussed.
ArtWorks at West Side YMCA
ArtWorks at West Side YMCA is a New York City art school offering classes for artists of all ages and levels. They offer a variety of classes such as drawing & painting, printmaking & book arts, and clay workshops. Their classes are taught by experienced professionals eager to provide instruction designed for both novice and expert artists.
ArtWorks at West Side YMCA’s Top Writing Courses
Writing poetry for everyone.
This course provides an inclusive and inspiring environment to build poetry writing skills, regardless of one's experience level. Participants will learn essential techniques, from crafting a single line to forming an entire poem, fostering their unique voice and style. Industry-focused feedback will also be provided to enhance the skillset and confidence of budding poets.
Writing for Stage and Screen
- 7 Weeks, 2 hr/wk
This course provides extensive knowledge of the art of writing for both stage and screen. Participants will learn how to construct compelling narratives, develop unique characters, and use dialogues effectively. It offers an opportunity to expand and refine their creative skills in both theater and cinema storytelling.
showing 10 of 58 schools
Writing Corporate & Onsite Training Noble Desktop
Upskill or reskill your workforce with our industry-leading corporate and onsite Writing training programs. Conduct the training onsite at your location or live online from anywhere. You can also purchase vouchers for our public enrollment Writing courses.
Writing Training Map & Top Locations
Find the perfect in-person Writing class near you by searching for your address, city, or zip code. You can also browse the best live online Writing courses and learn from the convenience of your home or office with real-time, instructor-led training.
147 Courses Available Live Online
39 courses available in nyc, 19 courses available in los angeles, 6 courses available in chicago, learn more about writing training, which writing class is right for me.
You have several options when it comes to learning Writing, so we’ve chosen 220 of the best courses from the top 58 training providers to help you make your decision. But even so, with the variety of considerations including cost, duration, course format, starting level, and more, choosing the perfect course still isn’t that easy.
Here are the key questions you should ask yourself before enrolling in a Writing course. We hope you’ll find the best option based on your learning preferences and goals.
What level should I start at?
Enrolling in the right skill level is pivotal. Skipping over prerequisites can leave you confused, while choosing a course too easy will waste your time and tuition dollars.
If you’re new to Writing, there’s no need to fear. We’ve found 74 beginner courses, with costs ranging from $29 to $2,990. The top options open to beginners include:
- Grammar Essentials @ NYIM Training ($325 | 6 Hours) In NYC or live online
- Effective Business Writing @ NYIM Training ($325 | 6 Hours) In NYC or live online
- Business Writing Bootcamp @ NYIM Training ($695 | 18 Hours) In NYC or live online
- Business Writing @ AcademyX ($475 | 6 Hours) In 5 locations
- Grammar Essentials @ NYC Career Centers ($325 | 6 Hours) In NYC or live online
Note that beginner courses still typically assume basic proficiency with computers.
Intermediate & Advanced Courses
Already comfortable with the basics of Writing and feel ready to move to an intermediate or advanced class? Consider the following courses which all require some prerequisite knowledge:
- Advanced Business Writing @ NYIM Training ($325 | 6 Hours) In NYC or live online
- Advanced Business Writing @ NYC Career Centers ($325 | 6 Hours) In NYC or live online
- English Essentials: Expand Your Vocabulary @ Human Resources Institute ($435 | 1 Day) In Washington, D.C.
- Report Writing @ Human Resources Institute ($795 | 2 Days) In Washington, D.C.
- Advanced Writing Skills @ Quality & Productivity Solutions, Inc ($1,095 | 9 Hours) In Boston
Which class format (in-person or live online) works best for me?
You can choose to attend Writing courses in-person or live online.
If you prefer to learn Writing face-to-face with your instructor, you have fifty-eight schools to choose from:
- Gotham Writers Workshop (NYC and Live Online) offers forty Writing courses with prices ranging from $190 to $515 and class duration ranging from 6 hours to 12 weeks.
- The Brick (NYC) offers one Writing courses with prices ranging from $300 and class duration ranging from 4 weeks.
- Quality & Productivity Solutions, Inc (Boston) offers one Writing courses with prices ranging from $1,095 and class duration ranging from 9 hours.
- The Writers Studio (NYC and Live Online) offers twelve Writing courses with prices ranging from $375 to $435 and class duration ranging from 6 weeks to 8 weeks.
- NYC Career Centers (NYC and Live Online) offers four Writing courses with prices ranging from $325 to $695 and class duration ranging from 6 hours to 18 hours.
- 92nd Street Y (NYC and Live Online) offers three Writing courses with prices ranging from $185 to $400 and class duration ranging from 4 weeks.
Please note that due to COVID-19 some providers are temporarily offering online training only. Check with each provider for the latest status on a school’s in-person reopening plans.
Live Online Training from Anywhere
Live Online training is synchronous training where participants and the instructor attend remotely. Participants learn and interact with the instructor in real-time and can ask questions and receive feedback throughout the course. Instructors can remote into students’ computers (with prior permission) to assist with class exercises and any technical issues. The courses are hands-on and interactive like in-person training.
You can attend the course from your own home or office. This option works best for those without easy access to a nearby facility, and it has become increasingly popular during COVID-19. Here are 7 of the best live online Writing classes we found:
- Grammar Essentials @ NYIM Training ($325 | 6 Hours | beginner)
- Effective Business Writing @ NYIM Training ($325 | 6 Hours | beginner)
- Advanced Business Writing @ NYIM Training ($325 | 6 Hours | intermediate)
- Business Writing Bootcamp @ NYIM Training ($695 | 18 Hours | beginner)
- Grammar Essentials @ NYC Career Centers ($325 | 6 Hours | beginner)
- Effective Business Writing @ NYC Career Centers ($325 | 6 Hours | beginner)
- Advanced Business Writing @ NYC Career Centers ($325 | 6 Hours | intermediate)
When are Writing classes available?
It’s crucial to find a course that fits your schedule. For Writing training, we’ve found flexible scheduling options, including weekday, evening, and weekend courses.
Courses with multiple scheduling options include:
- Grammar Essentials @ NYIM Training ($325 | 6 Hours | NYC or live online) is available weekdays, evenings, or weekends
- Effective Business Writing @ NYIM Training ($325 | 6 Hours | NYC or live online) is available weekdays, evenings, or weekends
- Grammar Essentials @ NYC Career Centers ($325 | 6 Hours | NYC or live online) is available weekdays, evenings, or weekends
- Effective Business Writing @ NYC Career Centers ($325 | 6 Hours | NYC or live online) is available weekdays, evenings, or weekends
Courses available weekdays only include:
- Advanced Business Writing @ NYIM Training ($325 | 6 Hours | NYC or live online)
- Business Writing Bootcamp @ NYIM Training ($695 | 18 Hours | NYC or live online)
- Advanced Business Writing @ NYC Career Centers ($325 | 6 Hours | NYC or live online)
- Business Writing Bootcamp @ NYC Career Centers ($695 | 18 Hours | NYC or live online)
- How to Write Brilliant Creative Briefs @ School of Visual Concepts ($425 | 6 Hours | Seattle )
Due to changing schedules and uncertainty during COVID-19, we recommend that prospective students confirm course availability directly with the school.
What should I learn in Writing?
With Writing encompassing so many verticals and subtopics, it could be challenging to find what you’re looking for. We’ll help you break down the subcategories and related topics (see the Writing topics section ) to focus directly on one of the subcategories.
When learning Writing, you can attend a course or program that dives comprehensively into Writing or focuses on a particular topic, including Business Writing, Screenwriting, or Creative Writing.
Focus on a Specific Subtopic within Writing
Within Writing, you can focus your learning on a specific topic, including Business Writing, Screenwriting, Creative Writing, Grammar, and Comedy Writing. Each one of these topics will directly enhance, supplement, or support your learning in Writing. To see how each topic relates to Writing and to focus your learning on any subcategory, see the subtopics section above.
For a quick overview, here are some popular classes:
- Learn Business Writing with Grammar Essentials @ NYIM Training. The course costs $325 and is available in NYC or live online.
- Learn Screenwriting with Building A Strong Structure @ New York International Screenplay Awards. The course costs $200 and is available in NYC .
- Learn Creative Writing with Creative Writing Weekly via Zoom @ The Writing Studio. The course costs $200 and is available in or live online.
- Learn Grammar with Grammar for Speaking (Monterey Park) @ American English College. The course costs $265 and is available in Los Angeles .
- Learn Comedy Writing with Writing Your Comedy Pilot @ Brooklyn Comedy Collective. The course costs $350 and is available in NYC .
What type of learner am I?
When learning Writing, there are a variety of learning goals you can achieve, including learning Writing comprehensively, getting started, or adding to existing skills.
To find the perfect fit for you, it’s important to determine what your training goals are. Here is a breakdown of the variety of courses and learners.
For those who are committed to comprehensively understand Writing and ready to spend 18 hours to 3 days to master Writing, these classes will help achieve that goal. With prices ranging from $695 to $1,095, there is a financial commitment, but learning these skills can have a tremendous impact on job performance and earnings potential.
- Business Writing Bootcamp @ NYIM Training ($695 | 18 Hours) available in NYC or live online
- Business Writing Bootcamp @ NYC Career Centers ($695 | 18 Hours) available in NYC or live online
- English Essentials: A Comprehensive Review @ Human Resources Institute ($1,095 | 3 Days) available in Washington, D.C.
Committed to Getting Started
If you know you need to get started in Writing but you’re not quite committed to learning it comprehensively, these courses will get you started with hands-on skills you can use right away. Many schools offer the ability to continue learning with intermediate-to-advanced courses, and some offer package discounts. All these courses are open to beginners.
- Grammar Essentials @ NYIM Training ($325 | 6 Hours) available in NYC or live online
- Effective Business Writing @ NYIM Training ($325 | 6 Hours) available in NYC or live online
- Business Writing @ AcademyX ($475 | 6 Hours) available in 5 locations
- Grammar Essentials @ NYC Career Centers ($325 | 6 Hours) available in NYC or live online
- Effective Business Writing @ NYC Career Centers ($325 | 6 Hours) available in NYC or live online
- How to Write Brilliant Creative Briefs @ School of Visual Concepts ($425 | 6 Hours) available in Seattle
For those with some familiarity with Writing looking to advance or add to their skills, these courses provide those with experience the perfect opportunity to skill-up. All these courses require prerequisite knowledge, and we’ve included a brief note for many of them, but you should check with the school for more details on the entry requirements.
- Advanced Business Writing @ NYIM Training ($325 | 6 Hours) available in NYC or live online
- Advanced Business Writing @ NYC Career Centers ($325 | 6 Hours) available in NYC or live online
- English Essentials: Expand Your Vocabulary @ Human Resources Institute ($435 | 1 Day) available in Washington, D.C.
- Report Writing @ Human Resources Institute ($795 | 2 Days) available in Washington, D.C.
- Proofreading: Efficient Editing in the Digital Office @ B.itmap Akademie ($500 | 1 Day) available in or live online
For registration assistance and a list of partners and affiliate schools, see the Partners Page . Neither Classes Near Me (“CNM”) nor Noble Desktop is affiliated with any schools other than those listed on the Partners Page. The information provided on CNM for all schools is intended to provide information so that you may compare schools and determine which best suits your needs. The information provided is not updated regularly, so you should go to the schools website directly to verify their continued offerings. Neither CNM nor Noble Desktop can assist with registration for non-partner schools.
- Novel Writing Classes
UPCOMING NOVEL WRITING CLASSES
Advanced Novel Writing Class
Intermediate novel writing class, introduction to novel writing class.
You are about to embark on an exciting, rewarding and challenging adventure. Everyone says that they want to write a novel, but only a tiny fraction of folks have the drive, talent and discipline to accomplish it. You’ll take an important step in that direction by enrolling in this sequence of novel writing classes, which will teach you essential fiction writing skills as well as helping you get your book finished.
In this novel writing class, you’ll learn the forms of realistic fiction and how to adapt them to a novel. You’ll explore techniques like dramatic scene, character sketches, dialogue and scene by scene construction–the building blocks of all novels. The goal of the novel writing class is to introduce these techniques and get you started on your novel in the process. The great adventure is about to begin!
In addition to focusing on these techniques, we will discuss larger, structural issues, how to put all of these elements together into a dramatic and compelling chapter. It’s a bit like building a cathedral; you don’t start by piling up bricks. First you learn to fashion stone. You learn how it fit it together. You study the principles of constructing arches, whether Gothic, Romanesque or another. You choose the arch that best suits your design. You integrate all of these elements into the final edifice. Only after you have learned to do all of these things will you be able to proceed further.
In the same way, it makes little sense to start writing a novel without first mastering the underlying forms of fiction. Start with the simple ones first, then move to the longer and more complex. By proceeding in this way, the novel writing class will help you envision the larger arc of your story. Structure usually proves the most difficult aspect of novel writing for most students. Fitting these individual elements into the grand architecture of a novel is the primary focus of this sequence of novel writing classes.
Finally, we’ll talk about publishing, and how you can get your finished novel into the hands of an appropriate editor. I’ll also give you some suggestions about where to go after you’ve finished the novel writing class.
Instructor: Jana Harris
One false word, one extra word…
The difference between the right word and the almost right word…
For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth.
…with luck and if you stated it purely enough, always.
There are only two or three human stories.
Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you.
Just follow your hero.
It is wrong to have an ideal view of the world.
Writing a novel is a terrible experience.
Get it down. Take chances.
Pleasure in a good novel…
The forms of things unknown and the the poet’s pen…
Literature is nothing but carpentry.
- Narrative Writing Classes
- Travel Writing Classes
- Online Writing Classes
- Fiction Writing Classes
- Young Adult Writing Classes
- Scriptwriting Classes – NEW!
- Nature Writing Classes
- Poetry Writing Classes
- Certificate Program
- Nicholas O’Connell
- Teaching Philosophy
- News for The Writer’s Workshop
- Narrative Writing Techniques
- Student Success
- Faculty for The Writer’s Workshop
- Founder’s Publications
- Writer’s Interview
- Further Reading
- Book Review
Writing Fiction: An Introductory Guide: Writing Classes & Critique Groups
- Recommended Reading
- National Organizations
Writing Classes & Critique Groups
- Blogs & Websites
- Tools of the Trade
- Reader Services at the Central Library
- Introduction to Writing Classes & Critique Groups
- Take a Writing Class
- Choose the Right Critique Group for You
- Join a Critique Group
- Start Your Own Critique Group
So you'd like to take a class to learn more about writing, or you'd like to get feedback from others to improve your work. Critique groups and classes offer support, feedback, accountability, and encouragement. You also stand a good chance of making life-long friends who also love the same thing you do: writing.
Writing Classes & Critique Groups contents
Take a Writing Class - This is a list of classes that are online and/or in the Boston area.
Choose the Right Critique Group for You - What should you consider when choosing a group? Find out here!
Join a Critique Group - This is a list of existing groups that are online and/or in the Boston area.
Start Your Own Critique Group - Tips for starting your own writing group!
Free vs cost & local vs online
- The Join a Critique Group tab has been split into two lists: Local first and online second.
- In the Take a Writing Class tab, each listing will say either "Local" or "Online" in parenthesis.
- Some of these groups and classes will be free, while others will have a cost associated with the group or individual classes. These have been noted for each listing as either "Cost" or "Free". Please check the individual websites for specific costs and possible discounts.
A note on critique groups
You will see in Choosing the Right Critique Group For You a list of various types of groups, from writing to critique and social to accountability. For simplification, and because the most popular group among them is the critique group, this guide uses the term "critique" in a general sense to mean any of those types of groups.
Angela James' Classes - (Cost & Free/Online) Join editor Angela James as she teaches you how to edit your novel and learn the ins and outs of publishing .
The Writer's Roadmap – (Cost/Online) A free email course by author, Tomi Adeyemi. Her website also includes downloadable writing tools including structure and character worksheets, back story templates and planners, writing prompts, and more.
Gotham Writers - (Cost/Online) A creative home in New York City and online where writers develop their craft and come together in the spirit of discovery and fellowship. We’ve been teaching creative writing and business writing since 1993.
GrubStreet - (Cost/Local & Online) By rigorously developing voices of every type and talent and by removing barriers to entry, GrubStreet fosters the creation of meaningful stories and ensures that excellent writing remains vital and relevant. Includes w orkshops, online classes, intensives, a Young Adult Writers Program, Consulting, and more.
GrubStreet's Neighborhood Classes - (Free/Local) Write Down the Street has a special focus on making creative writing workshops more accessible to those who have been underrepresented due to cost, racism, immigration status, language access, lack of access to transportation, and other barriers. These are drop-in and multi-week classes offered by Grubstreet at your Boston Public Library neighborhood branches !
Holly Lisle's Writing Classes - (Cost & free/Online) Here you’ll find writing classes, lively discussions in forums filled with writers who WRITE, and the answer to "How do I do that?" The classes are available in ebook formats (Kindle/ePub) and printable PDFs.
LitReactor - ( Cost/Online ) We bring in veteran authors and industry professionals to host classes covering a wide range of topics (from the writing craft to finding an agent) in an online environment that’s interactive and flexible. You get detailed feedback on your work and take part in discussions in a judgement-free zone.
Master Class - (Cost/Online) Take video-based writing classes with best-selling authors like James Patterson, Judy Blume, R.L. Stine, Margaret Atwood, and others.
Peer 2 Peer University - (Free/Local) P2PU is a non-profit organization that helps get free online classes into the classroom setting. These are known as Learning Circles, where a facilitator helps students learn a specific topic, such as creative writing or computer coding. Check the class listings to see what is on offer or tell your community center or library that you're interested in a class.
Skillshare - (Cost & Free Trial/Online) These classes cover a wide variety of topics such as character driven stories and steps to a successful writing habit. They are also taught by published authors such as Roxane Gay, Simon Van Booy, Daniel Jose Older, and Yiyun Li.
Writer’s Digest University - (Cost/Online) Whether you’re writing for publication, extra money, or to tell personal stories, Writer’s Digest University can help you get your writing career underway. Our expert instructors will provide advice, specific instruction, real-world experience, expertise, and the motivation and drive to help you achieve your goals.
The Writers’ Loft - (Cost/Local) The Writers’ Loft is a non-profit community which helps local writers foster their creativity, strengthen their spirit and grow professionally by providing them with quiet writing space, educational programs, opportunities to connect with supportive colleagues, and access to industry experts, as well as opportunities to give back to the greater writing community.
Reasons to join a critique group
- You're looking for feedback in order to improve your work and possibly get published
- Share support, motivation, and a passion for writing with a long-term working group
- Discuss pitching, querying, and publishing insights
- Having a group at your back with deadlines helps to keep you accountable
- Meet and work with writers who share a love of your genre
Know the types of groups first
There are four major types of groups, but they do not have to be exclusive of each other, as some groups may want to combine elements of two or more.
Writing groups - A writing group is traditionally a group of people who get together to write in the same space at the same time, and in general, keep each other motivated to get words down on paper. Keep in mind that many times a group labeled as a writing group could very well be a critique group as well.
Critique Groups - A critique group will usually do their writing on their own time and then come together to read what they've worked on and offer advice and critique the work.
Social Groups - These groups exist for writers to get together and talk about writing, whether it's about their own work, the way a publishing trend is going, how to market their upcoming book release, or anything in between.
Accountability Groups - Members will write on their own time and use the meetings as a deadline. The group is used to keep writers motivated and accountable for their work. They will check in with other group members to see where everyone is in writing and whether they're reaching their goals or are falling behind. Members can also read their work at meetings or use the time for other discussions on writing.
What to consider when looking for a group
- Do you need motivation to keep writing or are you looking for feedback on your work?
- This is often based on where you feel you are with your writing and how much help you need to improve your work.
- Where do you think you will be in the future, in terms of how much work and effort you're willing to put in. Will you still need a group in six months? Will you quit once your book is published? Or do you have another book idea waiting in the wings? Or are you just starting your book journey?
- Always err on the conservative side, because life happens, and sometimes the muse won't talk to you.
- Remember that if you join a group, you will be expected to read and critique others' work on your own time, while also carving out time to write your own book.
- Do you live or work near the meeting location?
- Does your free time line up with meeting dates and times?
- An In-person group , where you're in the same room with everyone, or an online group , where you submit your work to the group and get it back electronically?
- It helps to know what you're writing. If you're not sure of your genre, or age range, or if you like to read a wide variety of things, try a general group. Keep in mind that in a general group, they may not know the intricacies of your genre if you're the only one who writes in that genre.
- An open group where new members are always welcome or a closed group where you're working with the same people at every meeting?
Asian American Resource Workshop Writers Group – (Cost) A hub for both accomplished writers as well as budding writers alike as a safe space to refine their craft. Members come together on a regular basis to share and discuss writings & ideas, get and provide support, and practice exercises to keep writing skills fresh.
Cambridge Writers’ Workshop – (Cost/Local & Online) All writers from novices to professionals, who are looking for a serious writing community, are welcome to join the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, which includes online creative writing courses and writing retreats.
Writing Meetups in Boston - (Free & Cost) Many local writing groups use meetup.com to get together. Use this link to find writing groups not seen on this list, from casual writers to more serious critique groups, in and around Boston.
Warrior Writers – (Free) Warrior Writers is a national non-profit. Our mission is to create a culture that articulates veterans’ experiences, build a collaborative community for artistic expression, and bear witness to war and the full range of military experiences. Check the Events page for Boston area programs.
The Writers’ Loft - (Cost) The Writers’ Loft is a non-profit community which helps local writers foster their creativity, strengthen their spirit and grow professionally by providing them with a quiet writing space, educational programs, opportunities to connect with supportive colleagues, and access to industry experts, as well as opportunities to give back to the greater writing community.
Writers Room of Boston – (Cost) Founded in 1988, the Writers' Room of Boston is a nonprofit organization that functions as an urban writers' retreat committed to providing a quiet, affordable, and secure workspace for emerging and established writers. Members can choose to meet regularly for readings, community gatherings and events. Periodic readings of the members' work are organized and open to the public.
Writers Rumpus – (Free) A critique group in Andover, MA and blog for children’s, middle grade, and young adult authors.
Writers Without Margins – (Free) Our mission is to expand access to the literary arts for unheard and under-resourced communities in Greater Boston — including those isolated by the challenges of addiction recovery, trauma, poverty, disability, and mental illness — through free, collaborative, writing workshops, public readings, and publication opportunities intended to empower community, amplify the voices of individuals, and to share stories with the world.
Critique.org - (Free) Workshops focus on in-depth critiques of your works, a process which helps both the recipient and the reviewer to grow. In addition to depth of analysis, much of critique.org's secret is our emphasis on respectful and diplomatic critiques.
Critique Circle - ( Free & Cost ) Critique and be critiqued online. By critiquing work by others, you earn credits which allow you to post your own work for critique.
Facebook - (Free) There are many writing groups on Facebook, for all of your whims and desires.
Goodreads - (Free) It's easy talk about books on Goodreads in their Groups area, whether you wrote them or you've just read them and want to recommend them to others.
Google Groups - (Free) Allows you to create and participate in online forums and email- based groups with a rich experience for community conversations.
Groups.io - (Free trial & Cost) Email Groups. Supercharged. A modern platform for serious communities. Powerful management tools. Mobile ready. No ads, no tracking.
Inked Voices - (Free) A platform for writing groups and an online space for writers.
Scribophile - (Free & Cost Accounts) A respectful online writing workshop and writer's community where writers of all skill levels join to improve each other's work with thoughtful critiques and by sharing their writing experience.
Writer'sCafe - (Free) Post your poetry, short stories, novels, scripts, and screenplays. Get reviews and advice from thousands of other writers, enter hundreds of free writing contests, join writing groups or start your own, take and subscribe to free online writing courses, and more.
Writing.com - (Free & Cost) W elcomes writers of all interests and skill levels. Whether you're a writer looking for the perfect place to store and display your poetry, stories and other writing or a reader willing to offer feedback for our writers and their writings, this is the website for you. Meet and bond with fresh creative minds!
Reasons to start your own group
It may be that there isn't a writing group in your area or that the groups near you don't meet your needs. But you need to be interested in helping other writers improve their work just as much as you're interested in having others help you improve yours. This should always be your top reason to start your own group. No writing group exists to help only one person.
If you don't have the time to help others right now, but still want feedback on your work, consider hiring an editor or find some beta readers. See the Finding an Editor tab under Publishing , for more information.
Tips for starting a local group that meets in-person
- Make sure you have the time to run a group, write your own work, and read & critique everyone else's work. If time is an issue, joining an existing group might be better for you.
- Will your group meet online or in-person?
- If in-person, choose a location that everyone can get to easily by car or public transportation. Make sure it will work for any members who are handicapped. And if it's a restaurant, make sure it can handle everyone's dietary needs, if you know these things in advance.
- Also keep your decibel level in mind. You'd be surprised, but a group of writers, when they get excited about their work and discussing the craft of writing, can get pretty loud. Make sure you choose a place that will be okay with however loud you end up.
- If you are interested in space at the Boston Public Library, you will find room use guidelines, forms to fill out, and contact information for our Events department on our website here: Reservable Community Spaces . Please note that these rooms are not intended for use as your organization's primary meeting place.
- Choose a date and time that will work for everyone, and that you can keep consistent.
- How often will you meet? Once a week? Once a month? Choose something that will work with everyone's schedules.
- Write a mission statement that addresses the purpose and parameters of the group that everyone can agree on.
- Do you want to talk about writing, have time to write in a group setting, critique each other's work, or something else?
- Will you concentrate on a specific genre or topic?
- Some examples of language are: to support & encourage writing, guiding writers on the path to publication, to become stronger writers and editors, with an atmosphere of trust and caring writers can work to improve their manuscripts, to discuss the craft of writing...
- This will help attract members you want and get you off to a good start.
- Determine who you want to join your group, such as already published authors, or maybe you want to be open to everyone, regardless of where they are in their writing career.
- To find new members, if you don't have anyone in mind already, you can use social media, an ad in the local paper, blog about it, post it on Meetup or Eventbrite , post fliers around town, or anything else you can think of.
- Make sure you determine ahead of time how many members you want so you don't end up accepting more than you are comfortable working with. Remember, you'll need to read all of their work! But also remember that in the beginning days of your group there may be a high turnover rate as people determine if the group is a good fit for them.
- Keep in mind if you keep membership open all the time, any time new members join you'll need to brief them on everyone's projects, which can get time consuming if new members don't stick around and more new members keep joining.
- Your membership might be open to a select group of people if you only discuss science fiction, or if your group is for people who have taken a specific class (so you guarantee everyone has had the same experience), or if members have to be nominated by a current member. This allows for an open membership, where there won't be as many people coming and going.
- The group leadership role usually becomes a facilitator role once the group gets going.
- As a leader, remember to keep to your commitments or explain to the group when something prevents you from doing so. This will inspire other group members to do the same and will help to keep everyone accountable.
- If group participation starts to drop, speak up and ask the group, either privately or all together, if they're still interested. It might be that life is getting in the way, but they are still interested in being a member and speaking up about the lagging participation will inspire people to become active members again. It might be that you need to change the format of the group or the number of meetings you hold. But if you don't say anything, the problem will persist.
- The leader may have to cut members loose if it's not working out for that person and the group. It's not fun, but someone has to do it, if it becomes necessary.
- How much of their work should writers submit for critique at one time? (1-2 chapters, 5-10 pages, or by word limit?) Keeping the amount the same for everyone keeps members from dominating the group's time if they submit ten pages while everyone else has submitted only two.
- To get good feedback, it is helpful for writers to ask for what they need based on where they are in their project. And it's helpful to add this to the document when submitting it. For example, if you are just starting your novel you may want to ask people to be on the lookout for plot holes, or weak characterization. If you're just starting the editing phase, you may ask people to look out for smaller things like continuity issues, or even smaller things like grammar and spelling mistakes.
- Determine whether you will read your work at the group meetings for the first time, or if members need to email their work to each other ahead of time by a specific date, say one week before the meeting, to give others a chance to read and review it.
- Will there be a trial period for new members where they will be required to only review others' works for a time before they can submit their own? This is a great way for everyone to determine if the new member is a good fit without the new person just getting the feedback they need on their own work and not sticking around.
- If the work is shared during the meeting for the first time, everyone should get a printed copy. Then someone will either read it aloud, or everyone will read silently. The copies will get marked up and returned to the author, and verbal comments will also be made.
- If the work is shared ahead of time, reviewers can email a marked up copy back to the author or bring a marked up printed copy to give them in-person. The meeting time is then used for discussion and critique of the work.
- How many writers will critique at the meeting? Will everyone get a chance at every meeting or will it rotate between members?
- Will critique happen one-on-one with the group pairing up and rotating during the meeting or as one large group?
- How long will the meeting last?
- Having a set format makes critiques feel like less of an attack on the writer when they know what to expect. See the two articles linked below for more critique guidelines.
- Will reviewers be allowed a specific amount of time to talk? Two minutes, as an example, cuts down on long winded diatribes.
- Some groups refuse to let the writer talk while the work is being critiqued so that they can't defend it and make excuses for decisions they've made. Once the critique is over then the writer can ask clarifying questions or respond however they need to. This can help keep things civil as well as keep the meeting to the desired length and flow without awkwardness.
- Will reviewers need to comment on something they liked as well as something they didn't, or will that not matter?
- Remember that if time limits are used, someone will need to keep track of the time during meetings.
- How will you communicate with each other outside of the meeting? Via email? A Yahoo! Group? Facebook? Goodreads?
- Remember that as groups grow and develop, things may change and you may need to revisit these steps.
- It will also take a while, perhaps even up to a year, for your group to settle into itself with a core group of regulars that are comfortable working with each other. Patience is key.
Other things your group can do once you're set up:
- Write a blog
- Bring in speakers
- Schedule an open mic night at a local coffee house to share your work
- Celebrate members' successes
Online places to start your own group
See the Join a Critique Group tab, for websites that can host your group online as well as this list, which may overlap.
Discord - Create a free chat space, known as a "server", where you can have multiple channels to discuss different topics as well as video and audio channels.
Facebook Groups - There are many book groups on Facebook, and it's easy to start your own here as well.
Goodreads - It's easy talk about books on Goodreads in their Groups area, and they have a poll feature that makes voting on your next read super easy!
Google Groups - If you're comfortable connecting via email, try searching Google for online groups.
Groups.io - (Free trial & cost) Email Groups. Supercharged. A modern platform for serious communities. Powerful management tools. Mobile ready. No ads, no tracking.
Google Meet - Free video chat meeting space. It's easy to start a video and invite others to join or schedule something in advance!
Inked Voices - (Free trial & Cost) A platform specifically geared for small writing groups and workshops to collaborate intimately despite distance and strange schedules.
Jitsi Meet - A free, open source video chat platform. Simply type in the title of your meeting and you'll have an everygreen link you can keep forever!
Proboards - A free forum hosting service, where you can create your own forum and keep your discussions organized.
Slack - This app works on iOS, Android, PC, and MAC and is a free forum where you can set up discussion threads, add photos and documents and easily set up meetings and decide what you're reading next!
Zoom - This is a video chat platform that lets you have meetings up to 40 minutes for free.
Ways to critique
Here are a couple of articles on how to write a critique that you may find helpful for your group.
Writing Groups: How to Write a Constructive Critique by Mandy Wallace
Thoughts on Writing #12: Good Critique, Bad Critique by Seanan McGuire
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Marxism and problems of linguistics.
First Published: Published in the June 20, July 4, and August 2, 1950 issues of Pravda Source: Marxism and Problems of Linguistics , by J.V. Stalin, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow Transcription/HTML Markup: M. and Charles Farrell Online Version: Stalin Reference Archive (marxists.org) 2000
A group of younger comrades have asked me to give my opinion in the press on problems relating to linguistics, particularly in reference to Marxism in linguistics. I am not a linguistic expert and, of course, cannot fully satisfy the request of the comrades. As to Marxism in linguistics, as in other social sciences, this is something directly in my field. I have therefore consented to answer a number of questions put by the comrades.
QUESTION : Is it true that language is a superstructure on the base?
ANSWER : No, it is not true.
The base is the economic structure of society at the given stage of its development. The superstructure is the political, legal, religious, artistic, philosophical views of society and the political, legal and other institutions corresponding to them.
Every base has its own corresponding superstructure. The base of the feudal system has its superstructure, its political, legal and other views, and the corresponding institutions; the capitalist base has its own superstructure, so has the socialist base. If the base changes or is eliminated, then, following this, its superstructure changes or is eliminated; if a new base arises, then, following this, a superstructure arises corresponding to it.
In this respect language radically differs from the superstructure. Take, for example, Russian society and the Russian language. In the course of the past thirty years the old, capitalist base has been eliminated in Russia and a new, socialist base has been built. Correspondingly, the superstructure on the capitalist base has been eliminated and a new superstructure created corresponding to the socialist base. The old political, legal and other institutions, consequently, have been supplanted by new, socialist institutions. But in spite of this the Russian language has remained basically what it was before the October Revolution.
What has changed in the Russian language in this period? To a certain extent the vocabulary of the Russian language has changed, in the sense that it has been replenished with a considerable number of new words and expressions, which have arisen in connection with the rise of the new socialist production, the appearance of a new state, a new socialist culture, new social relations and morals, and, lastly, in connection with the development of technology and science; a number of words and expressions have changed their meaning, have acquired a new signification; a number of obsolete words have dropped out of the vocabulary. As to the basic stock of words and the grammatical system of the Russian language, which constitute the foundation of a language, they, after the elimination of the capitalist base, far from having been eliminated and supplanted by a new basic word stock and a new grammatical system of the language, have been preserved in their entirety and have not undergone any serious changes -- they have been preserved precisely as the foundation of the modern Russian language.
Further, the superstructure is a product of the base, but this by no means implies that it merely reflects the base, that it is passive, neutral, indifferent to the fate of its base, to the fate of the classes, to the character of the system. On the contrary, having come into being, it becomes an exceedingly active force, actively assisting its base to take shape and consolidate itself, and doing its utmost to help the new system to finish off and eliminate the old base and the old classes.
It cannot be otherwise. The superstructure is created by the base precisely in order to serve it, to actively help it to take shape and consolidate itself, to actively fight for the elimination of the old, moribund base together with its old superstructure. The superstructure has only to renounce this role of auxiliary, it has only to pass from a position of active defense of its base to one of indifference towards it, to adopt an equal attitude to all classes, and it loses its virtue and ceases to be a superstructure.
In this respect language radically differs from the superstructure. Language is not a product of one or another base, old or new, within the given society, but of the whole course of the history of the society and of the history of the bases for many centuries. It was created not by some one class, but by the entire society, by all the classes of the society, by the efforts of hundreds of generations. It was created for the satisfaction of the needs not of one particular class, but of the entire society, of all the classes of the society. Precisely for this reason it was created as a single language for the society, common to all members of that society, as the common language of the whole people. Hence the functional role of language, as a means of intercourse between people, consists not in serving one class to the detriment of other classes, but in equally serving the entire society, all the classes of society. This in fact explains why a language may equally serve both the old, moribund system and the new, rising system; both the old base and the new base; both the exploiters and the exploited.
It is no secret to anyone that the Russian language served Russian capitalism and Russian bourgeois culture before the October Revolution just as well as it now serves the socialist system and socialist culture of Russian society.
The same must be said of the Ukrainian, Byelorussian, Uzbek, Kazakh, Georgian, Armenian, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Moldavian, Tatar, Azerbaijanian, Bashkirian, Turkmenian and other languages of the Soviet nations; they served the old, bourgeois system of these nations just as well as they serve the new, socialist system.
It cannot be otherwise. Language exists, language has been created precisely in order to serve society as a whole, as a means of intercourse between people, in order to be common to the members of society and constitute the single language of society, serving members of society equally, irrespective of their class status. A language has only to depart from this position of being a language common to the whole people, it has only to give preference and support to some one social group to the detriment of other social groups of the society, and it loses its virtue, ceases to be a means of intercourse between the people of the society, and becomes the jargon of some social group, degenerates and is doomed to disappear.
In this respect, while it differs in principle from the superstructure, language does not differ from instruments of production, from machines, let us say, which are as indifferent to classes as is language and may, like it, equally serve a capitalist system and a socialist system.
Further, the superstructure is the product of one epoch, the epoch in which the given economic base exists and operates. The superstructure is therefore short-lived; it is eliminated and disappears with the elimination and disappearance of the given base.
Language, on the contrary, is the product of a whole number of epochs, in the course of which it takes shape, is enriched, develops and is smoothened. A language therefore lives immeasurably longer than any base or any superstructure. This in fact explains why the rise and elimination not only of one base and its superstructure, but of several bases and their corresponding superstructures, have not led in history to the elimination of a given language, to the elimination of its structure and the rise of a new language with a new stock of words and a new grammatical system.
It is more than a hundred years since Pushkin died. In this period the feudal system and the capitalist system were eliminated in Russia, and a third, a socialist system has arisen. Hence two bases, with their superstructures, were eliminated, and a new, socialist base has arisen, with its new superstructure. Yet, if we take the Russian language, for example, it has not in this long span of time undergone any fundamental change, and the modern Russian language differs very little in structure from the language of Pushkin.
What has changed in the Russian language in this period? The Russian vocabulary has in this period been greatly replenished; a large number of obsolete words have dropped out of the vocabulary; the meaning of a great many words has changed; the grammatical system of the language has improved. As to the structure of Pushkin's language, with its grammatical system and its basic stock of words, in all essentials it has remained as the basis of modern Russian.
And this is quite understandable. Indeed, what necessity is there, after every revolution, for the existing structure of the language, its grammatical system and basic stock of words to be destroyed and supplanted by new ones, as is usually the case with the superstructure? What object would there be in calling "water," "earth," "mountain," "forest," "fish," "man," "to walk," "to do," "to produce," "to trade," etc., not water, earth, mountain, etc., but something else? What object would there be in having the modification of words in a language and the combination of words in sentences follow not the existing grammar, but some entirely different grammar? What would the revolution gain from such an upheaval in language? History in general never does anything of any importance without some special necessity for it. What, one asks, can be the necessity for such a linguistic revolution, if it has been demonstrated that the existing language and its structure are fundamentally quite suited to the needs of the new system? The old superstructure can and should be destroyed and replaced by a new one in the course of a few years, in order to give free scope for the development of the productive forces of society; but how can an existing language be destroyed and a new one built in its place in the course of a few years without causing anarchy in social life and without creating the threat of the disintegration of society? Who but a Don Quixote could set himself such a task?
Lastly, one other radical distinction between the superstructure and language. The superstructure is not directly connected with production, with man's productive activity. It is connected with production only indirectly, through the economy, through the base. The superstructure therefore reflects changes in the level of development of the productive forces not immediately and not directly, but only after changes in the base, through the prism of the changes wrought in the base by the changes in production. This means that the sphere of action of the superstructure is narrow and restricted.
Language, on the contrary, is connected with man's productive activity directly, and not only with man's productive activity, but with all his other activity in all his spheres of work, from production to the base, and from the base to the superstructure. For this reason language reflects changes in production immediately and directly, without waiting for changes in the base. For this reason the sphere of action of language, which embraces all fields of man's activity, is far broader and more comprehensive than the sphere of action of the superstructure. More, it is practically unlimited.
It is this that primarily explains why language, or rather its vocabulary, is in a state of almost constant change. The continuous development of industry and agriculture, of trade and transport, of technology and science, demands that language should replenish its vocabulary with new words and expressions needed for their functioning. And language, directly reflecting these needs, does replenish its vocabulary with new words, and perfects its grammatical system.
a) A Marxist cannot regard language as a superstructure on the base; b) To confuse language and superstructure is to commit a serious error.
QUESTION : Is it true that language always was and is class language, that there is no such thing as language which is the single and common language of a society, a non-class language common to the whole people.
It is not difficult to understand that in a society which has no classes there can be no such thing as a class language. There were no classes in the primitive communal clan system, and consequently there could be no class language -- the language was then the single and common language of the whole community. The objection that the concept class should be taken as covering every human community, including the primitive communal community, is not an objection but a playing with words that is not worth refuting.
As to the subsequent development from clan languages to tribal languages, from tribal languages to the languages of nationalities, and from the languages of nationalities to national languages -- everywhere and at all stages of development, language, as a means of intercourse between the people of a society, was the common and single language of that society, serving its members equally, irrespective of their social status.
I am not referring here to the empires of the slave and mediaeval periods, the empires of Cyrus or Alexander the Great, let us say, or of Caesar or Charles the Great, which had no economic foundations of their own and were transient and unstable military and administrative associations. Not only did these empires not have, they could not have had a single language common to the whole empire and understood by all the members of the empire. They were conglomerations of tribes and nationalities, each of which lived its own life and had its own language. Consequently, it is not these or similar empires I have in mind, but the tribes and nationalities composing them, which had their own economic foundations and their own languages, evolved in the distant past. History tells us that the languages of these tribes and nationalities were not class languages, but languages common to the whole of a tribe or nationality, and understood by all its people.
Side by side with this, there were, of course, dialects, local vernaculars, but they were dominated by and subordinated to the single and common language of the tribe or nationality.
Later, with the appearance of capitalism, the elimination of feudal division and the formation of national markets, nationalities developed into nations, and the languages of nationalities into national languages. History shows that national languages are not class, but common languages, common to all the members of each nation and constituting the single language of that nation.
It has been said above that language, as a means of intercourse between the people of a society, serves all classes of society equally, and in this respect displays what may be called an indifference to classes. But people, the various social groups, the classes, are far from being indifferent to language. They strive to utilize the language in their own interests, to impose their own special lingo, their own special terms, their own special expressions upon it. The upper strata of the propertied classes, who have divorced themselves from and detest the people -- the aristocratic nobility, the upper strata of the bourgeoisie -- particularly distinguish themselves in this respect. "Class" dialects, jargons, high-society "languages" are created. These dialects and jargons are often incorrectly referred to in literature as languages -- the "aristocratic language" or the "bourgeois language" in contradistinction to the "proletarian language" or the "peasant language." For this reason, strange as it may seem, some of our comrades have come to the conclusion that national language is a fiction, and that only class languages exist in reality.
There is nothing, I think, more erroneous than this conclusion. Can These dialects and jargons be regarded as languages? Certainly not. They cannot, firstly, because these dialects and jargons have no grammatical systems or basic word stocks of their own -- they borrow them from the national language. They cannot, secondly, because these dialects and jargons are confined to a narrow sphere, are current only among the upper strata of a given class and are entirely unsuitable as a means of human intercourse for society as a whole. What, then, have they? They have a collection of specific words reflecting the specific tastes of the aristocracy or the upper strata of the bourgeoisie; a certain number of expressions and turns of phrase distinguished by refinement and gallantry and free of the "coarse" expressions and turns of phrase of the national language; lastly, a certain number of foreign words. But all the fundamentals, that is, the overwhelming majority of the words and the grammatical system, are borrowed from the common, national language. Dialects and jargons are therefore offshoots of the common national language, devoid of all linguistic independence and doomed to stagnation. To believe that dialects and jargons can develop into independent languages capable of ousting and supplanting the national language means losing one's sense of historical perspective and abandoning the Marxist position.
References are made to Marx, and the passage from his article St. Max is quoted which says that the bourgeois have "their own language," that this language "is a product of the bourgeoisie"  that it is permeated with the spirit of mercantilism and huckstering. Certain comrades cite this passage with the idea of proving that Marx believed in the "class character" of language and denied the existence of a single national language. If these comrades were impartial, they should have cited another passage from this same article St. Max, where Marx, touching on the ways single national languages arose, speaks of "the concentration of dialects into a single national language resulting from economic and political concentration." 
Marx, consequently, did recognize the necessity of a single national language, as a higher form, to which dialects, as lower forms, are subordinate.
What, then, can this bourgeois language be which Marx says "is a product of the bourgeoisie"? Did Marx consider it as much a language as the national language, with a specific linguistic structure of its own? Could he have considered it such a language? Of course, not. Marx merely wanted to say that the bourgeois had polluted the single national language with their hucksters' lingo, that the bourgeois, in other words, have their hucksters' jargon.
It thus appears that these comrades have misrepresented Marx. And they misrepresented him because they quoted Marx not like Marxists but like dogmatists, without delving into the essence of the matter.
References arc made to Engels, and the words from his The Condition of the Working Class in England are cited where he says that in Britain "...the working class has gradually become a race wholly apart from the English bourgeoisie," that "the workers speak other dialects, have other thoughts and ideals, other customs and moral principles, a different religion and other politics than those of the bourgeoisie."  Certain comrades conclude from this passage that Engels denied the necessity of a common, national language, that he believed, consequently, in the "class character" of language. True, Engels speaks here of dialects, not languages, fully realizing that, being an offshoot of the national language, a dialect cannot supplant the national language. But apparently, These comrades regard the existence of a difference between a language and a dialect with no particular enthusiasm.
It is obvious that the quotation is inappropriate, because Engels here speaks not of "class languages" but chiefly of class thoughts, ideals, customs, moral principles, religion, politics. It is perfectly true that the thoughts, ideals, customs, moral principles, religion and politics of bourgeois and proletarians are directly antithetical. But what has this to do with national language, or the "class character" of language? Can the existence of class antagonisms in society serve as an argument in favor of the "class character" of language, or against the necessity of a single national language? Marxism says that a common language is one of the cardinal earmarks of a nation, although knowing very well that there are class antagonisms within the nation. Do the comrades referred to recognize this Marxist thesis?
References are made to Lafargue,  and it is said that in his pamphlet The French Language Before and After the Revolution he recognizes the "class character" of language and denies the necessity of a national language common to the whole people. That is not true. Lafargue does indeed speak of a "noble" or "aristocratic language" and of the "jargons" of various strata of society. But these comrades forget that Lafargue, who was not interested in the difference between languages and jargons and referred to dialects now as "artificial languages," now as "jargons," definitely says in this pamphlet that "the artificial language which distinguished the aristocracy . . . arose out of the language common to the whole people, which was spoken both by bourgeois and artisan, by town and country."
Consequently, Lafargue recognizes the existence and necessity of a common language of the whole people, and fully realizes that the "aristocratic language" and other dialects and jargons are subordinate to and dependent on the language common to the whole people.
It follows that the reference to Lafargue is wide of the mark.
References are made to the fact that at one time in England the feudal lords spoke "for centuries" in French, while the English people spoke English, and this is alleged to be an argument in favor of the "class character" of language and against the necessity of a language common to the whole people. But this is not an argument, it is rather an anecdote. Firstly, not all the feudal lords spoke French at that time, but only a small upper stratum of English feudal lords attached to the court and at county seats. Secondly, it was not some "class language" they spoke, but the ordinary language common to all the French people. Thirdly, we know that in the course of time this French language fad disappeared without a trace, yielding place to the English language common to the whole people. Do these comrades think that the English feudal lords "for centuries" held intercourse with the English people through interpreters, that they did not use the English language, that there was no language common to all the English at that time, and that the French language in England was then anything more than the language of high society, current only in the restricted circle of the upper English aristocracy? How can one possibly deny the existence and the necessity of a language common to the whole people on the basis of anecdote "arguments" like these?
There was a time when Russian aristocrats at the tsar's court and in high society also made a fad of the French language. They prided themselves on the fact that when they spoke Russian they often lapsed into French, that they could only speak Russian with a French accent. Does this mean that there was no Russian language common to the whole people at that time in Russia, that a language common to the whole people was a fiction, and "class languages" a reality?
Our comrades are here committing at least two mistakes.
The first mistake is that they confuse language with superstructure. They think that since the superstructure has a class character, language too must be a class language, and not a language common to the whole people. But I have already said that language and superstructure are two different concepts, and that a Marxist must not confuse them.
The second mistake of these comrades is that they conceive the opposition of interests of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, the fierce class struggle between them, as meaning the disintegration of society, as a break of all ties between the hostile classes. They believe that, since society has disintegrated and there is no longer a single society, but only classes, a single language of society, a national language, is unnecessary. If society has disintegrated and there is no longer a language common to the whole people, a national language, what remains? There remain classes and "class languages." Naturally, every "class language" will have its "class" grammar -- a "proletarian" grammar or a "bourgeois" grammar. True, such grammars do not exist anywhere. But that does not worry these comrades: they believe that such grammars will appear in due course.
At one time there were "Marxists" in our country who asserted that the railways left to us after the October Revolution were bourgeois railways, that it would be unseemly for us Marxists to use them, that they should be torn up and new, "proletarian" railways built. For this they were nicknamed "troglodytes".
It goes without saying that such a primitive-anarchist view of society, of classes, of language has nothing in common with Marxism. But it undoubtedly exists and continues to prevail in the minds of certain of our muddled comrades.
It is of course wrong to say that, because of the existence of a fierce class struggle, society has split up into classes which are no longer economically connected with one another in one society. On the contrary, as long as capitalism exists, the bourgeois and the proletarians will be bound together by every economic thread as parts of a single capitalist society. The bourgeois cannot live and enrich themselves unless they have wage-laborers at their command; the proletarians cannot survive unless they hire themselves to the capitalists. If all economic ties between them were to cease, it would mean the cessation of all production, and the cessation of all production would mean the doom of society, the doom of the classes themselves. Naturally, no class wants to incur self-destruction. Consequently, however sharp the class struggle may be, it cannot lead to the disintegration of society. Only ignorance of Marxism and complete failure to understand the nature of language could have suggested to some of our comrades the fairy-tale about the disintegration of society, about "class" languages, and "class" grammars.
Reference is further made to Lenin, and it is pointed out that Lenin recognized the existence of two cultures under capitalism -- bourgeois and proletarian -- and that the slogan of national culture under capitalism is a nationalist slogan. All this is true and Lenin is absolutely right here. But what has this to do with the "class character" of language? When these comrades refer to what Lenin said about two cultures under capitalism, it is evidently with the idea of suggesting to the reader that the existence of two cultures, bourgeois and proletarian, in society means that there must also be two languages, inasmuch as language is linked with culture -- and, consequently, that Lenin denies the necessity of a single national language, and, consequently, that Lenin believes in "class" languages. The mistake these comrades make here is that they identify and confuse language with culture. But culture and language are two different things. Culture may be bourgeois or socialist, but language, as a means of intercourse, is always a language common to the whole people and can serve both bourgeois and socialist culture. Is it not a fact that the Russian, the Ukrainian, the Uzbek languages are now serving the socialist culture of these nations just as well as they served their bourgeois cultures before the October Revolution? Consequently, these comrades are profoundly mistaken when they assert that the existence of two different cultures leads to the formation of two different languages and to the negation of the necessity of a single language.
When Lenin spoke of two cultures, he proceeded precisely from the thesis that the existence of two cultures cannot lend to the negation of a single language and to the formation of two languages, that there must be a single language. When the Bundists  accused Lenin of denying the necessity of a national language and of regarding culture as "non-national," Lenin, as we know, vigorously protested and declared that he was fighting against bourgeois culture, and not against national languages, the necessity of which he regarded as indisputable. It is strange that some of our comrades should be trailing in the footsteps of the Bundists.
As to a single language, the necessity of which Lenin is alleged to deny, it would be well to pay heed to the following words of Lenin:
"Language is the most important means of human intercourse. Unity of language and its unimpeded development form one of the most important conditions for genuinely free and extensive commercial intercourse appropriate to modern capitalism, for a free and broad grouping of the population in all its separate classes." 
It follows that our highly respected comrades have misrepresented the views of Lenin.
Reference, lastly, is made to Stalin. The passage from Stalin is quoted which says that "the bourgeoisie and its nationalist parties were and remain in this period the chief directing force of such nations." 8 This is all true. The bourgeoisie and its nationalist party really do direct bourgeois culture, just as the proletariat and its internationalist party direct proletarian culture. But what has this to do with the "class character" of language? Do not these comrades know that national language is a form of national culture, that a national language may serve both bourgeois and socialist culture? Are our comrades unaware of the well-known formula of the Marxists that the present Russian, Ukrainian, Byelorussian and other cultures arc socialist in content and national in form, i.e., in language? Do they agree with this Marxist formula?
The mistake our comrades commit here is that they do not see the difference between culture and language, and do not understand that culture changes in content with every new period in the development of society, whereas language remains basically the same through a number of periods, equally serving both the new culture and the old.
a) Language, as a means of intercourse, always was and remains the single language of a society, common to all its members; b) The existence of dialects and jargons does not negate but confirms the existence of a language common to the whole of the given people, of which they are offshoots and to which they are subordinate; c) The "class character" of language formula is erroneous and non-Marxist.
QUESTION : What are the characteristic features of language?
ANSWER : Language is one of those social phenomena which operate throughout the existence of a society. It arises and develops with the rise and development of a society. It dies when the society dies. Apart from society there is no language. Accordingly, language and its laws of development can be understood only if studied in inseparable connection with the history of society, with the history of the people to whom the language under study belongs, and who are its creators and repositories.
Language is a medium, an instrument with the help of which people communicate with one another, exchange thoughts and understand each other. Being directly connected with thinking, language registers and fixes in words, and in words combined into sentences, the results of the process of thinking and achievements of man's cognitive activity, and thus makes possible the exchange of thoughts in human society.
Exchange of thoughts is a constant and vital necessity, for without it, it is impossible to co-ordinate the joint actions of people in the struggle against the forces of nature, in the struggle to produce the necessary material values; without it, it is impossible to ensure the success of society's productive activity, and, hence, the very existence of social production becomes impossible. Consequently, without a language understood by a society and common to all its members, that society must cease to produce, must disintegrate and cease to exist as a society. In this sense, language, while it is a medium of intercourse, is at the same time an instrument of struggle and development of society.
As we know, all the words in a language taken together constitute what is known as its vocabulary. The chief thing in the vocabulary of a language is its basic stock of words, which includes also all the root words, as its kernel. It is far less extensive than the language's vocabulary, but it persists for a very long time, for centuries, and provides the language with a basis for the formation of new words. The vocabulary reflects the state of the language: the richer and more diversified the vocabulary, the richer and more developed the language.
However, by itself, the vocabulary does not constitute the language -- it is rather the building material of the language. Just as in construction work the building materials do not constitute the building, although the latter cannot be constructed without them, so too the vocabulary of a language does not constitute the language itself, although no language is conceivable without it. But the vocabulary of a language assumes tremendous importance when it comes under the control of grammar, which defines the rules governing the modification of words and the combination of words into sentences, and thus makes the language a coherent and significant function. Grammar (morphology, syntax) is the collection of rules governing the modification of words and their combination into sentences. It is therefore thanks to grammar that it becomes possible for language to invest man's thoughts in a material linguistic integument.
The distinguishing feature of grammar is that it gives rules for the modification of words not in reference to concrete words, but to words in general, not taken concretely; that it gives rules for the formation of sentences not in reference to particular concrete sentences -- with, let us say, a concrete subject, a concrete predicate, etc. -- but to all sentences in general, irrespective of the concrete form of any sentence in particular. Hence, abstracting itself, as regards both words and sentences, from the particular and concrete, grammar takes that which is common and basic in the modification of words and their combination into sentences and builds it into grammatical rules, grammatical laws. Grammar is the outcome of a process of abstraction performed by the human mind over a long period of time; it is an indication of the tremendous achievement of thought.
In this respect grammar resembles geometry, which in giving its laws abstracts itself from concrete objects, regarding objects as bodies devoid of concreteness, and defining the relations between them not as the concrete relations of concrete objects but as the relations of bodies in general, devoid of all concreteness.
Unlike the superstructure, which is connected with production not directly, but through the economy, language is directly connected with man's productive activity, as well as with all his other activity in all his spheres of work without exception. That is why the vocabulary of a language, being the most sensitive to change, is in a state of almost constant change, and, unlike the superstructure, language does not have to wait until the base is eliminated, but makes changes in its vocabulary before the base is eliminated and irrespective of the state of the base.
However, the vocabulary of a language does not change in the way the superstructure does, that is, by abolishing the old and building something new, but by replenishing the existing vocabulary with new words which arise with changes in the social system, with the development of production, of culture, science, etc. Moreover, although a certain number of obsolete words usually drop out of the vocabulary of a language, a far larger number of new words are added. As to the basic word stock, it is preserved in all its fundamentals and is used as the basis for the vocabulary of the language.
This is quite understandable. There is no necessity to destroy the basic word stock when it can be effectively used through the course of several historical periods; not to speak of the fact that, it being impossible to create a new basic word stock in a short time, the destruction of the basic word stock accumulated in the course of centuries would result in paralysis of the language, in the complete disruption of intercourse between people.
The grammatical system of a language changes even more slowly than its basic word stock. Elaborated in the course of epochs, and having become part of the flesh and blood or the language, the grammatical system changes still more slowly than the basic word stock. With the lapse of time it, of course, undergoes changes, becomes more perfected, improves its rules, makes them more specific and acquires new rules; but the fundamentals of the grammatical system are preserved for a very long time, since, as history shows, they are able to serve society effectively through a succession of epochs.
Hence, grammatical system and basic word stock constitute the foundation of language, the essence of its specific character.
History shows that languages possess great stability and a tremendous power of resistance to forcible assimilation. Some historians, instead of explaining this phenomenon, confine themselves to expressing their surprise at it. But there is no reason for surprise whatsoever. Languages owe their stability to the stability of their grammatical systems and basic word stocks. The Turkish assimilators strove for hundreds of years to mutilate, shatter and destroy the languages of the Balkan peoples. During this period the vocabulary of the Balkan languages underwent considerable change; quite a few Turkish words and expressions were absorbed; there were "convergencies" and "divergencies." Nevertheless, the Balkan languages held their own and survived. Why? Because their grammatical systems and basic word stocks were in the main preserved.
It follows from all this that a language, its structure, cannot be regarded as the product of some one epoch. The structure of a language, its grammatical system and basic word stock, is the product of a number of epochs.
We may assume that the rudiments of modern language already existed in hoary antiquity, before the epoch of slavery. It was a rather simple language, with a very meager stock of words, but with a grammatical system of its own -- true, a primitive one, but a grammatical system nonetheless.
The further development of production, the appearance of classes, the introduction of writing, the rise of the state, which needed a more or less well-regulated correspondence for its administration, the development of trade, which needed a well-regulated correspondence still more, the appearance of the printing press, the development of literature -- all this caused big changes in the development of language. During this time, tribes and nationalities broke up and scattered, intermingled and intercrossed; later there arose national languages and states, revolutions took place, and old social systems were replaced by new ones. All this caused even greater changes in language and its development.
However, it would be a profound mistake to think that language developed in the way the superstructure developed -- by the destruction of that which existed and the building of something new. In point of fact, languages did not develop by the destruction of existing languages and the creation of new ones, but by extending and perfecting the basic elements of existing languages. And the transition of the language from one quality to another did not take the form of an explosion, of the destruction at one blow of the old and the creation of the new, but of the gradual and long-continued accumulation of the elements of the new quality, of the new linguistic structure, and the gradual dying away of the elements of the old quality.
It is said that the theory that languages develop by stages is a Marxist theory, since it recognizes the necessity of sudden explosions as a condition for the transition of a language from an old quality to a new. This is of course untrue, for it is difficult to find anything resembling Marxism in this theory.
And if the theory of stages really does recognize sudden explosions in the history of the development of languages, so much the worse for that theory. Marxism does not recognize sudden explosions in the development of languages, the sudden death of an existing language and the sudden erection of a new language. Lafargue was wrong when he spoke of a "sudden linguistic revolution which took place between 1789 and 1794" in France (see Lafargue's pamphlet The French Language Before and After the Revolution). There was no linguistic revolution, let alone a sudden one, in France at that time. True enough, during that period the vocabulary of the French language was replenished with new words and expressions, a certain number of obsolete words dropped out of it, and the meaning of certain words changed -- but that was all. Changes of this nature, however, by no means determine the destiny of a language. The chief thing in a language is its grammatical system and basic word stock. But far from disappearing in the period of the French bourgeois revolution, the grammatical system and basic word stock of the French language were preserved without substantial change, and not only were they preserved, but they continue to exist in the French language of to-day. I need hardly say that five or six years is a ridiculously small period for the elimination of an existing language and the building of a new national language ("a sudden linguistic revolution"!) -- centuries are needed for this.
Marxism holds that the transition of a language from an old quality to a new does not take place by way of an explosion, of the destruction of an existing language and the creation of a new one, but by the gradual accumulation of the elements of the new quality, and hence by the gradual dying away of the elements of the old quality.
It should be said in general for the benefit of comrades who have an infatuation for explosions that the law of transition from an old quality to a new by means of an explosion is inapplicable not only to the history of the development of languages; it is not always applicable to other social phenomena of a basis or superstructural character. It applies of necessity to a society divided into hostile classes. But it does not necessarily apply to a society which has no hostile classes. In a period of eight to ten years we effected a transition in the agriculture of our country from the bourgeois, individual-peasant system to the socialist, collective-farm system. This was a revolution which eliminated the old bourgeois economic system in the countryside and created a new, socialist system. But that revolution did not take place by means of an explosion, that is, by the overthrow of the existing government power and the creation of a new power, but by a gradual transition from the old bourgeois system in the countryside to a new system. And it was possible to do that because it was a revolution from above, because the revolution was accomplished on the initiative of the existing power with the support of the bulk of the peasantry.
It is said that the numerous instances of linguistic crossing in past history furnish reason to believe that when languages cross a new language is formed by means of an explosion, by a sudden transition from an old quality to a new. This is quite wrong.
Linguistic crossing cannot be regarded as the single impact of a decisive blow which produces its results within a few years. Linguistic crossing is a prolonged process which continues for hundreds of years. There can therefore be no question of explosion here.
Further, it would be quite wrong to think that the crossing of, say, two languages results in a new, third language which does not resemble either of the languages crossed and differs qualitatively from both of them. As a matter of fact one of the languages usually emerges victorious from the cross retains its grammatical system and its basic word stock and continues to develop in accordance with its inherent laws of development, while the other language gradually loses its quality and gradually dies away.
Consequently, a cross does not result in some new, third language; one of the languages persists, retains its grammatical system and basic word stock and is able to develop in accordance with its inherent laws of development.
True, in the process the vocabulary of the victorious language is somewhat enriched from the vanquished language, but this strengthens rather than weakens it.
Such was the case, for instance, with the Russian language, with which, in the course of historical development, the languages of a number of other peoples crossed and which always emerged the victor.
Of course, in the process the vocabulary of the Russian language was enlarged at the expense of the vocabularies of the other languages, but far from weakening, this enriched and strengthened the Russian language.
As to the specific national individuality of the Russian language, it did not suffer in the slightest, because the Russian language preserved its grammatical system and basic word stock and continued to advance and perfect itself in accordance with its inherent laws of development.
There can be no doubt that the crossing theory has little or no value for Soviet linguistics. If it is true that the chief task of linguistics is to study the inherent laws of language development, it has to be admitted that the crossing theory does not even set itself this task, let alone accomplish it -- it simply does not notice it, or does not understand it.
QUESTION : Did Pravda act rightly in starting an open discussion on problems of linguistics?
ANSWER : Yes, it did.
Along what lines the problems of linguistics will be settled, will become clear at the conclusion of the discussion. But it may be said already that the discussion has been very useful.
It has brought out, in the first place, that in linguistic bodies both in the center and in the republics a regime has prevailed which is alien to science and men of science. The slightest criticism of the state of affairs in Soviet linguistics, even the most timid attempt to criticize the so-called "new doctrine" in linguistics, was persecuted and suppressed by the leading linguistic circles. Valuable workers and researchers in linguistics were dismissed from their posts or demoted for being critical of N. Y. Marr's heritage or expressing the slightest disapproval of his teachings. Linguistic scholars were appointed to leading posts not on their merits, but because of their unqualified acceptance of N. Y. Marr's theories.
It is generally recognized that no science can develop and flourish without a battle of opinions, without freedom of criticism. But this generally recognized rule was ignored and flouted in the most unceremonious fashion. There arose a close group of infallible leaders, who, having secured themselves against any possible criticism, became a law unto themselves and did whatever they pleased.
To give one example: the so-called "Baku Course" (lectures delivered by N. Y. Marr in Baku), which the author himself had rejected and forbidden to be republished, was republished nevertheless by order of this leading caste (Comrade Meshchaninov calls them "disciples" of N. Y. Marr) and included without any reservations in the list of text-books recommended to students. This means that the students were deceived a rejected "Course" being suggested to them as a sound textbook. If I were not convinced of the integrity of Comrade Meshchaninov and the other linguistic leaders, I would say that such conduct is tantamount to sabotage.
How could this have happened? It happened because the Arakcheyev regime  established in linguistics cultivates irresponsibility and encourages such arbitrary actions.
The discussion has proved to be very useful first of all because it brought this Arakcheyev regime into the light of day and smashed it to smithereens.
But the usefulness of the discussion does not end there. It not only smashed the old regime in linguistics but also brought out the incredible confusion of ideas on cardinal questions of linguistics which prevails among the leading circles in this branch of science. Until the discussion began the "disciples" of N. Y. Marr kept silence and glossed over the unsatisfactory state of affairs in linguistics. But when the discussion started silence became impossible, and they were compelled to express their opinion in the press. And what did we find? It turned out that in N. Y. Marr's teachings there are a whole number of defects, errors, ill-defined problems and sketchy propositions. Why, one asks, have N. Y. Marr's "disciples" begun to talk about this only now, after the discussion opened? Why did they not see to it before? Why did they not speak about it in due time openly and honestly, as befits scientists?
Having admitted "some" errors of N. Y. Marr, his "disciples," it appears, think that Soviet linguistics can only be advanced on the basis of a "rectified" version of N. Y. Marr's theory, which they consider a Marxist one. No, save us from N. Y. Marr's "Marxism"! N. Y. Marr did indeed want to be, and endeavored to be, a Marxist, but he failed to become one. He was nothing but a simplifier and vulgarizer of Marxism, similar to the "proletcultists" or the "Rappists."
N. Y. Marr introduced into linguistics the incorrect, non-Marxist formula that language is a superstructure, and got himself into a muddle and put linguistics into a muddle. Soviet linguistics cannot be advanced on the basis of an incorrect formula.
N. Y. Marr introduced into linguistics another and also incorrect and non-Marxist formula, regarding the "class character" of language, and got himself into a muddle and put linguistics into a muddle. Soviet linguistics cannot be advanced on the basis of an incorrect formula which is contrary to the whole course of the history of peoples and languages.
N. Y. Marr introduced into linguistics an immodest, boastful, arrogant tone alien to Marxism and tending towards a bald and off-hand negation of everything done in linguistics prior to N. Y. Marr.
N. Y. Marr shrilly abused the comparative-historical method as "idealistic." Yet it must be said that, despite its serious shortcomings, the comparative-historical method is nevertheless better than N. Y. Marr's really idealistic four-element analysis,  because the former gives a stimulus to work, to a study of languages, while the latter only gives a stimulus to loll in one's arm-chair and tell fortunes in the tea-cup of the celebrated four elements.
N. Y. Marr haughtily discountenanced every attempt to study groups (families) of languages on the grounds that it was a manifestation of the "proto-language" theory.  Yet it cannot be denied that the linguistic affinity of nations like the Slav nations, say, is beyond question, and that a study of the linguistic affinity of these nations might be of great value to linguistics in the study of the laws of language development. The "proto-language" theory, I need hardly say, has nothing to do with it.
To listen to N. Y. Marr, and especially to his "disciples," one might think that prior to N. Y. Marr there was no such thing as the science of language, that the science of language appeared with the "new doctrine" of N. Y. Marr. Marx and Engels were much more modest: they held that their dialectical materialism was a product of the development of the sciences, including philosophy, in earlier periods.
Thus, the discussion was useful also because it brought to light ideological shortcomings in Soviet linguistics.
I think that the sooner our linguistics rids itself of N. Y. Marr's errors, the sooner will it be possible to extricate it from its present crisis.
Elimination of the Arakcheyev regime in linguistics, rejection of N. Y. Marr's errors, and the introduction of Marxism into linguistics -- that, in my opinion, is the way in which Soviet linguistics could be put on a sound basis.
Pravda, June 20, 1950
I am answering your questions.
QUESTION : Your article convincingly shows that language is neither the base nor the superstructure. Would it be right to regard language as a phenomenon characteristic of both the base and the superstructure, or would it be more correct to regard language as an intermediate phenomenon?
ANSWER : Of course, characteristic of language, as a social phenomenon, is that common feature which is inherent in all social phenomena, including the base and the superstructure, namely: it serves society just as society is served by all other social phenomena, including the base and the superstructure. But this, properly speaking, exhausts that common feature which is inherent in all social phenomena. Beyond this, important distinctions begin between social phenomena.
The point is that social phenomena have, in addition to this common feature, their own specific features which distinguish them from each other and which are of primary importance for science. The specific features of the base consist in that it serves society economically. The specific features of the superstructure consist in that it serves society by means of political, legal, aesthetic and other ideas and provides society with corresponding political, legal and other institutions. What then are the specific features of language, distinguishing it from other social phenomena? They consist in that language serves society as a means of intercourse between people, as a means for exchanging thoughts in society, as a means enabling people to understand one another and to co-ordinate joint work in all spheres of human activity, both in the sphere of production and in the sphere of economic relations, both in the sphere of politics and in the sphere of culture, both in social life and in everyday life. These specific features are characteristic only of language, and precisely because they are characteristic only of language, language is the object of study by an independent science -- linguistics. If there were no such specific features of language, linguistics would lose its right to independent existence.
In brief: language cannot be included either in the category of bases or in the category of superstructures.
Nor can it be included in the category of "intermediate" phenomena between the base and the superstructure, for such "intermediate" phenomena do not exist.
But perhaps language could be included in the category of the productive forces of society, in the category, say, of instruments of production? Indeed, there does exist a certain analogy between language and instruments of production: instruments of production manifest, just as language does, a kind of indifference towards classes and can serve equally different classes of society, both old and new. Does this circumstance provide ground for including language in the category of instruments of production? No, it does not.
At one time, N. Y. Marr, seeing that his formula -- "language is a superstructure on the base" -- encountered objections, decided to "reshape" it and announced that "language is an instrument of production." Was N. Y. Marr right in including language in the category of instruments of production? No, he certainly was not.
The point is that the similarity between language and instruments of production ends with the analogy I have just mentioned. But, on the other hand, there is a radical difference between language and instruments of production. This difference lies in the fact that whereas instruments of production produce material wealth, language produces nothing or "produces" words only. To put it more plainly, people possessing instruments of production can produce material wealth, but those very same people, if they possess a language but not instruments of production, cannot produce material wealth. It is not difficult to see that were language capable of producing material wealth, wind-bags would be the richest men on earth.
QUESTION : Marx and Engels define language as "the immediate reality of thought," as "practical,... actual consciousness.''  "Ideas," Marx says, "do not exist divorced from language." In what measure, in your opinion, should linguistics occupy itself with the semantic aspect of language, semantics, historical semasiology, and stylistics, or should form alone be the subject of linguistics?
ANSWER : Semantics (semasiology) is one of the important branches of linguistics. The semantic aspect of words and expressions is of serious importance in the study of language. Hence, semantics (semasiology) must be assured its due place in linguistics.
However, in working on problems of semantics and in utilizing its data, its significance must in no way be overestimated, and still less must it be abused. I have in mind certain philologists who, having an excessive passion for semantics, disregard language as "the immediate reality of thought" inseparably connected with thinking, divorce thinking from language and maintain that language is outliving its age and that it is possible to do without language.
Listen to what N. Y. Marr says:
"Language exists only inasmuch as it is expressed in sounds; the action of thinking occurs also without being expressed.... Language (spoken) has already begun to surrender its functions to the latest inventions which are unreservedly conquering space, while thinking is on the up-grade, departing from its unutilized accumulations in the past and its new acquisitions, and is to oust and fully replace language. The language of the future is thinking which will be developing in technique free of natural matter. No language, even the spoken language, which is all the same connected with the standards of nature, will be able to withstand it" (see Selected Works by N. Y. Marr).
If we interpret this "labor-magic" gibberish into simple human language, the conclusion may be drawn that:
a) N. Y. Marr divorces thinking from language; b) N. Y. Marr considers that communication between people can be realized without language, with the help of thinking itself, which is free of the "natural matter" of language, free of the "standards of nature"; c) divorcing thinking from language and "having freed" it from the "natural matter,' of language, N. Y. Marr lands into the swamp of idealism.
It is said that thoughts arise in the mind of man prior to their being expressed in speech, that they arise without linguistic material, without linguistic integument, in, so to say, a naked form. But that is absolutely wrong. Whatever thoughts arise in the human mind and at whatever moment, they can arise and exist only on the basis of the linguistic material, on the basis of language terms and phrases. Bare thoughts, free of the linguistic material, free of the "natural matter" of language, do not exist. "Language is the immediate reality of thought" (Marx). The reality of thought is manifested in language. Only idealists can speak of thinking not being connected with "the natural matter" of language, of thinking without language.
In brief: over-estimation of semantics and abuse of it led N. Y. Marr to idealism.
Consequently, if semantics (semasiology) is safeguarded against exaggerations and abuses of the kind committed by N. Y. Marr and some of his "disciples," semantics can be of great benefit to linguistics.
QUESTION : You quite justly say that the ideas, concepts, customs and moral principles of the bourgeoisie and those of the proletariat are directly antithetical. The class character of these phenomena is certainly reflected in the semantic aspect of language (and sometimes in its form -- in the vocabulary -- as is correctly pointed out in your article). In analyzing concrete linguistic material and, in the first place, the semantic aspect of language, can we speak of the class essence of the concepts expressed by language, particularly in those cases when language expresses not only the thought of man but also his attitude towards reality, where his class affinity manifests itself with especial clarity?
ANSWER : Putting it more briefly, you want to know whether classes influence language, whether they introduce into language their specific words and expressions, whether there are cases when people attach a different meaning to one and the same word or expression depending on their class affinity?
Yes, classes influence language, introduce into the language their own specific words and expressions and sometimes understand one and the same word or expression differently. There is no doubt about that.
However, it does not follow that specific words and expressions, as well as difference in semantics, can be of serious importance for the development of a single language common to the whole people, that they are capable of detracting from its significance or of changing its character.
Firstly, such specific words and expressions, as well as cases of difference in semantics, are so few in language that they hardly make up even one per cent of the entire linguistic material. Consequently, all the remaining overwhelming mass of words and expressions, as well as their semantics, are common to all classes of society.
Secondly, specific words and expressions with a class tinge are used in speech not according to rules of some sort of "class" grammar, which does not exist, but according to the grammatical rules of the existing language common to the whole people.
Hence, the existence of specific words and expressions and the facts of differences in the semantics of language do not refute, but, on the contrary, confirm the existence and necessity of a single language common to the whole people.
QUESTION : In your article you quite correctly appraise Marr as a vulgarizer of Marxism. Does this mean that the linguists, including us, the young linguists, should reject the whole linguistic heritage of Marr, who all the same has to his credit a number of valuable linguistic researches (Comrades Chikobava, Sanzheyev and others wrote about them during the discussion)? Approaching Marr critically, cannot we take from him what is useful and valuable?
ANSWER : Of course, the works of N. Y. Marr do not consist solely of errors. N. Y. Marr made very gross mistakes when he introduced into linguistics elements of Marxism in a distorted form, when he tried to create an independent theory of language. But N. Y. Marr has certain good and ably written works, in which he, forgetting his theoretical claims, conscientiously and, one must say, skillfully investigates individual languages. In these works one can find not a little that is valuable and instructive. Clearly, these valuable and instructive things should be taken from N. Y. Marr and utilized.
QUESTION : Many linguists consider formalism one of the main causes of the stagnation in Soviet linguistics. We should very much like to know your opinion as to what formalism in linguistics consists in and how it should be overcome.
ANSWER : N. Y. Marr and his "disciples" accuse of "formalism" all linguists who do not accept the "new doctrine" of N. Y. Marr. This of course is not serious or clever.
N. Y. Marr considered that grammar is an empty "formality," and that people who regard the grammatical system as the foundation of language are formalists. This is altogether foolish.
I think that ''formalism'' was invented by the authors of the "new doctrine" to facilitate their struggle against their opponents in linguistics.
The cause of the stagnation in Soviet linguistics is not the "formalism" invented by N. Y. Marr and his "disciples," but the Arakcheyev regime and the theoretical gaps in linguistics. The Arakcheyev regime was set up by the "disciples" of N. Y. Marr. Theoretical confusion was brought into linguistics by N. Y. Marr and his closest colleagues. To put an end to stagnation, both the one and the other must be eliminated. The removal of these plague spots will put Soviet linguistics on a sound basis, will lead it out on to the broad highway and enable Soviet linguistics to occupy first place in world linguistics.
Pravda, July 4, 1950
Esteemed Comrade Sanzheyev,
I am replying to your letter with considerable delay, for it was only yesterday forwarded to me from the apparatus of the Central Committee.
Your interpretation of my standpoint on the question of dialects is absolutely correct.
"Class" dialects, which it would be more correct to call jargons, do not serve the mass of the people, but a narrow social upper crust. Moreover, they do not have a grammatical system or basic word stock of their own. In view of this, they cannot possibly develop into independent languages.
Local ("territorial") dialects, on the other hand, serve the mass of the people and have a grammatical system and basic word stock of their own. In view of this, some local dialects, in the process of formation of nations, may become the basis of national languages and develop into independent national languages. This was the case, for instance, with the Kursk-Orel dialect (the Kursk-Orel "speech") of the Russian language, which formed the basis of the Russian national language. The same must be said of the Poltava-Kiev dialect of the Ukrainian language, which formed the basis of the Ukrainian national language. As for the other dialects of such languages, they lose their originality, merge with those languages and disappear in them.
Reverse processes also occur, when the single language of a nationality, which has not yet become a nation owing to the absence of the necessary economic conditions of development, collapses as a result of the disintegration of the state of that nationality, and the local dialects, which have not yet had time to be fully uniformized in the single language, revive and give rise to the formation of separate independent languages. Possibly, this was the case, for example, with the single Mongolian language.
Pravda, August 2, 1950
I have received your letters.
Your mistake is that you have confused two different things and substituted another subject for that examined in my reply to Comrade Krasheninnikova.
In that reply I criticized N. Y. Marr who, dealing with language (spoken) and thought, divorces language from thought and thus lapses into idealism. Therefore, I referred in my reply to normal human beings possessing the faculty of speech. I maintained, moreover, that with such human beings thoughts can arise only on the basis of linguistic material, that bare thoughts unconnected with linguistic material do not exist among people, who possess the faculty of speech.
Instead of accepting or rejecting this thesis, you introduce anomalous human beings, people without language, deaf-mutes, who have no language at their disposal and whose thoughts, of course, cannot arise on the basis of linguistic material. As you see, this is an entirely different subject which I did not touch upon and could not have touched upon, since linguistics concerns itself with normal human beings possessing the faculty of speech and not with anomalous deaf-mutes who do not possess the faculty of speech.
You have substituted for the subject under discussion another subject that was not discussed.
From Comrade Belkin's letter it is evident that he places on a par the "language of words" (spoken language) and "gesture language" ("hand" language, according to N. Y. Marr). He seems to think that gesture language and the language of words are of equal significance, that at one time human society had no language of words, that "hand" language at that time played the part of the language of words which appeared later.
But if Comrade Belkin really thinks so, he is committing a serious error. Spoken language or the language of words has always been the sole language of human society capable of serving as an adequate means of intercourse between people. History does not know of a single human society, be it the most backward, that did not have its own spoken language. Ethnography does not know of a single backward tribe, be it as primitive or even more primitive than, say, the Australians or the Tierra del Fuegans of the last century, which did not have its own spoken language. In the history of mankind, spoken language has been one of the forces which helped human beings to emerge from the animal world, unite into communities, develop their faculty of thinking, organize social production, wage a successful struggle against the forces of nature and attain the stage of progress we have to-day.
In this respect, the significance of the so-called gesture language, in view of its extreme poverty and limitations, is negligible. Properly speaking, this is not a language, and not even a linguistic substitute that could in one way or another replace spoken language, but an auxiliary means of extremely limited possibilities to which man sometimes resorts to emphasize this or that point in his speech. Gesture language and spoken language are just as incomparable as are the primitive wooden hoe and the modern caterpillar tractor with its five-furrow plow or tractor row drill.
Apparently, you are primarily interested in the deaf-mutes, and only secondarily in problems of linguistics. Evidently, it was precisely this circumstance that prompted you to put a number of questions to me. Well, if you insist, I am not averse to granting your request. How do matters stand with regard to deaf-mutes? Do they possess the faculty of thinking? Do thoughts arise with them? Yes, they possess the faculty of thinking and thoughts arise with them. Clearly, since deaf-mutes are deprived of the faculty of speech, their thoughts cannot arise on the basis of linguistic material. Can this be taken to mean that the thoughts of deaf-mutes are naked, are not connected with the "standards of nature" (N. Y. Marr's expression)? No, it cannot. The thoughts of deaf-mutes arise and can exist only on the basis of the images, sensations and conceptions they form in every-day life on the objects of the outside world and their relations among themselves, thanks to the senses of sight, of touch, taste, and smell. Apart from these images, sensations and conceptions, thought is empty, is deprived of all content, that is, it does not exist.
I have received your letter.
Pressure of work has somewhat delayed my reply.
Your letter tacitly proceeds from two premises: from the premise that it is permissible to quote the work of this or that author apart from the historical period of which the quotation treats, and secondly, from the premise that this or that conclusion or formula of Marxism, derived as a result of studying one of the periods of historical development, holds good for all periods of development and therefore must remain invariable.
I must say that both these premises are deeply mistaken.
A few examples.
In the forties of the past century when there was no monopoly capitalism as yet, when capitalism was developing more or less smoothly along an ascending line, spreading to new territories it had not yet occupied, and the law of uneven development could not yet fully operate, Marx and Engels concluded that a socialist revolution could not be victorious in one particular country, that it could be victorious only as a result of a joint blow in all, or in most, civilized countries. This conclusion subsequently became a guiding principle for all Marxists.
However, at the beginning of the twentieth century, especially in the period of the first world war, when it became clear to everyone that pre-monopoly capitalism had definitely developed into monopoly capitalism, when rising capitalism had become dying capitalism, when the war had revealed the incurable weaknesses of the world imperialist front, and the law of uneven development predetermined that the proletarian revolution would mature in different countries at different times, Lenin, proceeding from Marxist theory, came to the conclusion that in the new conditions of development, the socialist revolution could fully prove victorious in one country taken separately, that the simultaneous victory of the socialist revolution in all countries, or in a majority of civilized countries, was impossible owing to the uneven maturing of the revolution in those countries, that the old formula of Marx and Engels no longer corresponded to the new historical conditions.
It is evident that here we have two different conclusions on the question of the victory of socialism, which not only contradict, but exclude each other.
Some textualists and Talmudists who quote mechanically without delving into the essence of the matter, and apart from historical conditions, may say that one of these conclusions should be discarded as being absolutely incorrect, while the other conclusion, as the absolutely correct one, should be applied to all periods of development. Marxists, however, cannot but know that the textualists and Talmudists are mistaken, they cannot but know that both of these conclusions are correct, though not absolutely, each being correct for its own time: Marx's and Engels' conclusion -- for the period of pre-monopoly capitalism; and Lenin's conclusion -- for the period of monopoly capitalism.
Engels in his Anti-Dühring said that after the victory of the socialist revolution, the state is bound to wither away. On these grounds, after the victory of the socialist revolution in our country, textualists and Talmudists in our Party began demanding that the Party should take stops to ensure the speedy withering away of our state, to disband state organs, to give up a standing army.
However, the study of the world situation of our time led Soviet Marxists to the conclusion that in the conditions of capitalist encirclement, when the socialist revolution has been victorious only in one country, and capitalism reigns in all other countries, the land of the victorious revolution should not weaken, but in every way strengthen its state, state organs, intelligence organs and army, if that land does not want to be crushed by the capitalist encirclement. Russian Marxists came to the conclusion that Engels' formula has in view the victory of socialism in all, or in most, countries, that it cannot be applied in the case where socialism is victorious in one country taken separately and capitalism reigns in all the other countries.
Evidently, we have here two different formulas regarding the destiny of the socialist state, each formula excluding the other.
The textualists and Talmudists may say that this circumstance creates an intolerable situation, that one of these formulas must he discarded as being absolutely erroneous, and the other -- as the absolutely correct one -- must be applied to all periods of development of the socialist state. Marxists, however, cannot but know that the textualists and Talmudists arc mistaken, for both these formulas are correct though not absolutely, each being correct for its time: the formula of Soviet Marxists -- for the period of the victory of socialism in one or several countries; and the formula of Engels -- for the period when the consecutive victory of socialism in separate countries will lead to the victory of socialism in the majority of countries and when the necessary conditions will thus have been created for the application of Engels' formula.
The number of such examples could be multiplied.
The same must be said of the two different formulas on the question of language, taken from various works of Stalin and cited by Comrade Kholopov in his letter.
Comrade Kholopov refers to Stalin's work Concerning Marxism in Linguistics, where the conclusion is drawn that, as a result of the crossing, say, of two languages, one of them usually emerges victorious, while the other dies away, that, consequently, crossing does not produce some new, third language, but preserves one of the languages. He refers further to another conclusion, taken from Stalin's report to the Sixteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U.(B.), where it is said that in the period of the victory of socialism on a world scale, when socialism is consolidated and becomes part of every-day life, national languages will inevitably merge into one common language which, of course, will be neither Great Russian nor German, but something new. Comparing these two formulas and seeing that, far from coinciding, they exclude each other, Comrade Kholopov falls into despair. "From your article," he writes in his letter, "I understood that the crossing of languages can never produce come new language, whereas prior to your article I was firmly convinced, in conformity with your speech at the Sixteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U.(B.), that under communism, languages would merge into one common language."
Evidently, having discovered a contradiction between these two formulas and being deeply convinced that the contradiction must be removed, Comrade Kholopov considers it necessary to get rid of one of these formulas as incorrect and to clutch at the other as being correct for all periods and countries; but which formula to clutch at -- he does not know. The result is something in the nature of a hopeless situation. Comrade Kholopov does not even suspect that both formulas can be correct -- each for its own time.
That is always the case with textualists and Talmudists who do not delve into the essence of the matter, quote mechanically and irrespective of the historical conditions of which the quotations treat, and invariably find themselves in a hopeless situation.
Yet if one examines the essence of the matter, there are no grounds for considering the situation hopeless. The fact is that Stalin's pamphlet Concerning Marxism in Linguistics, and Stalin's speech at the Sixteenth Party Congress, refer to two entirely different epochs, owing to which the formulas, too, prove to be different.
The formula given by Stalin in his pamphlet, in the part where it speaks of the crossing of languages, refers to the epoch prior to the victory of socialism on a world scale, when the exploiting classes are the dominant power in the world; when national and colonial oppression remains in force; when national isolation and mutual distrust among nations are consolidated by differences between states; when, as yet there is no national equality of rights; when the crossing of languages takes place as a struggle for the domination of one of the languages; when the conditions necessary for the peaceful and friendly co-operation of nations and languages are as yet lacking; when it is not the co-operation and mutual enrichment of languages that are on the order of the day, but the assimilation of some and the victory of other languages. It is clear that in such conditions there can be only victorious and defeated languages. It is precisely these conditions that Stalin's formula has in view when it says that the crossing, say, of two languages, results not in the formation of a new language, but in the victory of one of the languages and the defeat of the other.
As regards the other formula by Stalin, taken from his speech at the Sixteenth Party Congress, in the part that touches on the merging of languages into one common language, it has in view another epoch, namely, the epoch after the victory of socialism on a world scale, when world imperialism no longer exists; when the exploiting classes are overthrown and national and colonial oppression is eradicated; when national isolation and mutual distrust among nations is replaced by mutual confidence and rapprochement between nations; when national equality has been put into practice; when the policy of suppressing and assimilating languages is abolished; when the co-operation of nations has been established, and it is possible for national languages freely to enrich one another through their co-operation. It is clear that in these conditions there can be no question of the suppression and defeat of some languages, and the victory of others. Here we shall have not two languages, one of which is to suffer defeat, while the other is to emerge from the struggle victorious, but hundreds of national languages, out of which, as a result of a prolonged economic, political and cultural co operation of nations, there will first appear most enriched unified zonal languages, and subsequently the zonal languages will merge into a single international language, which, of course, will be neither German, nor Russian, nor English, but a new language that has absorbed the best elements of the national and zonal languages.
Consequently, the two different formulas correspond to two different epochs in the development of society, and precisely because they correspond to them, both formulas are correct -- each for its epoch.
To demand that these formulas should not be at variance with each other, that they should not exclude each other, is just as absurd as it would be to demand that the epoch of the domination of capitalism should not be at variance with the epoch of the domination of socialism, that socialism and capitalism should not exclude each other.
The textualists and Talmudists regard Marxism and separate conclusions and formulas of Marxism as a collection of dogmas, which "never" change, notwithstanding changes in the conditions of the development of society. They believe that if they learn these conclusions and formulas by heart and start citing them at random, they will be able to solve any problem, reckoning that the memorized conclusions and formulas will serve them for all times and countries, for all occasions in life. But this can be the conviction only of people who see the letter of Marxism, but not its essence, who learn by rote the texts of conclusions and formulas of Marxism, but do not understand their meaning.
Marxism is the science of the laws governing the development of nature and society, the science of the revolution of the oppressed and exploited masses, the science of the victory of socialism in all countries, the science of building communist society. As a science, Marxism cannot stand still, it develops and is perfected. In its development, Marxism cannot but be enriched by new experience, new knowledge -- consequently some of its formulas and conclusions cannot but change in the course of time, cannot but be replaced by new formulas and conclusions, corresponding to the new historical tusks. Marxism does not recognize invariable conclusions and formulas, obligatory for all epochs and periods. Marxism is the enemy of all dogmatism.
 Stalin's essay Marxism and Problems of Linguistics was published in Pravda on June 20, 1950. Prior to this, there had already been discussion on Soviet linguistic problems in Pravda. This essay by Comrade Stalin is in reply to questions put to him by a group of Soviet students in connection with the discussion, and to essays published in Pravda's columns. The titles of these latter were "On the Path of Materialist Linguistics" by member of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences Bulakhovsky, "The History of Russian Linguistics and Marr's Theory" by Nikiforov, "On the Problem of the Class Character of Language" by Kudriavtsev and others. p 1.
 Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Works , Ger. ed., Berlin, 1958, Vol. 3, p. 212 p. 13
 Ibid., pp. 411-12. p. 13
 Ibid., 1957, Vol. 2, p. 351. p. 14
 Paul Lafargue (1842-1911), well-known activist of French and international workers' movements, and outstanding Marxist propagandist and publicist. He was one of the founders of the French workers' Party, student and comrade-in-arms of Marx and Engels, and husband of Marx's daughter Laura. p. 14
 Bund, General Jewish workers' Union of Lithuania, Poland and Russia, was a Jewish petty-bourgeois opportunist organization founded at a congress held in Vilna in October, 1897, which worked mainly among Jewish handicraftsmen. At the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party's First Congress in 1898, Bund joined the R.S.D.L.P. as "an independent autonomous organization concerned only with the special problems of the Jewish proletariat." Once it joined the Party, however, it propagated nationalism and separatism in the Russian working-class movement. The Bundist bourgeois-nationalist standpoint was sternly repudiated by Iskra newspaper founded by Lenin. p. 18
 V. I. Lenin, "The Right of Nations to Self-Determination " Selected Works in Two Volumes, Eng. ed., Moscow, 1952, Vol. I, Part 2 pp. 318-19. p. 19
 J. V. Stalin, "The National Question and Leninism," Works , Eng. ed. Moscow, 1954, Vol. 11 p. 353. p. 19
 Arakcheyev regime, named after the reactionary politician Count Arakcheyev, was an unrestrained dictatorial police state, warlord despotism and brutal rule enforced in Russia in the first quarter of the 19th century. Stalin uses the term here to indicate Marr's overriding domination in Soviet linguistic circles. p. 30
 Four-element analysis -- Marr asserted that pronunciation of mankind's primitive language was evolved from the four syllables sal, ber, yon and rosh. P. 31
 "Proto-language" theory -- the doctrine of the Indo-European school which holds that a linguistic family consists of a group of patois (dialects), split from a common primitive "parent language." For example, modern Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian are sister languages derived from Latin, and were originally only different patois. However, as there is no documentary evidence for the existence of a "parent language" of most of the dialects or languages, the Indo-European scholars have worked out a hypothetical "parent language," their main aim being to facilitate explanation of the rules of phonetic changes, but there is no way to prove the extent of the truth. p. 32
 Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Works , Ger. ed., Berlin, 1958, Vol. 3, pp. 432 and 430. p. 35
Works by Decade | J. V. Stalin Archive
10 Moscow Novels That Every Muscovite Initiate Should Read
Moscow’s rich history and innumerable paradoxes has inspired some of the greatest novels in Russian literary history. More than a simple backdrop to these extraordinary narratives, Moscow is an integral character in the stories. From glamorous 19th century ballrooms to desolate suburban apartment blocks, and the metro that runs beneath them, we’ve picked 10 of the top Moscow novels that will give you a literary passport to this extraordinary city.
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Day of the Oprichnik – Vladimir Sorokin
Sorokin’s striking novels have gained him substantial international recognition as an author. His novel Day of the Oprichnik , set in 2028, is both a disconcerting side-step from a recognizable Moscow and potentially more ominously, a nod to it. We experience Sorokin’s dystopian world through the eyes of one of the ‘oprichniks’ (a term dating back to the days Ivan the Terrible), who seek out enemies of the reinstated Tsar, raping and pillaging to keep the population in a state of perpetual control and fear. Sorokin’s rendering of the world is as its darkest, and the carnivalesque prose is packed with pithy comments and oddly archaic statements that strike you in their direct delivery. This is a novel that focuses on the interplay of power and the grotesque normalization of violence in service to a higher ruler.
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The Lady with the Dog – Anton Chekhov
Vladimir Nabokov cited this as one of the greatest shortest stories ever written. Dmitri Gurov, the central character. is a Moscow banker trapped in a loveless marriage. He distracts himself by engaging in frequent adulterous trysts. Whilst holidaying in Yalta, his attention is caught by a lady, Anna Sergeyevna, walking her dog on the sea-front. He resolves to make her acquaintance and a brief love affair ensues before Gurov returns to Moscow, expecting to quickly forgot the event. Astonishingly, he finds himself unable to shake the memory of Anna and comes to the realization that he is falling in love for the first time. This is simple, but beautifully written prose; Chekhov is, after all, the unequivocal master of the short story. His seamless economy of words reaches deep into the inner turmoil of his characters in just a few short pages. Gurov is tangibly bitter towards the Moscow society, its customs and its restrictions. Anna and Yalta, who remain constant in his thoughts provide a reverie from his claustrophobic reality. Although some have voiced their frustrations at a novel focusing so much on the potentially selfish actions of an adulterous middle-aged man, Chekhov reveals, through third-person narrative, the futility of reason and sense of fate in the face of love.
The Time: Night – Lyudmila Petrushevskaya
This novel is a heart wrenching, intimate portrayal of struggle one woman endures as she battles to survive in poverty-stricken circumstances. The Time: Night is a novel framed as the manuscript left behind by Anna, a woman striving to keep her family together whilst latching onto her role as a the self-sacrificing ‘babushka’ to her errant children and her grandson Timur. The novel is set in the bleak post-soviet apartments of Moscow, and the atmosphere is tangibly impregnated with despair. Petrushevskaya’s work is beautifully written, undulating from torrid streams of consciousness to poetic reflection to neurotic panic. Petrushevskaya’s sharp wit and sardonic social commentary help lift the bleak narrative and create a truly unique and insightful perspective on the desperate nature of one family’s existence.
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Anna Karenina – Tolstoy
Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is a novel that delights in contrasting diametric opposites, from Levin and Kitty’s marriage and Anna and Vronsky’s love affair to the spatial opposition of Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Moscow is full of glamorous balls, elegant fashions and handsome officers. Moscow is where Anna and Vronsky see one another for the first time, and Moscow is where the novel ends. The text is ambitious and labyrinthine, creating a rich mosaic of human emotion that defies judgement of human actions. However you feel about Tolstoy’s treatment of his heroine, he does an exceptional job of representing the minutiae of contradictory and complex motivations that govern human behaviour.
The Master and Margarita – Bulgakov
Bulgakov’s masterpiece reaches past the concrete reality of an identifiable Moscow to an evanescent world beyond it. The novel follows a series of inexplicable and utterly hilarious events that ensue when the Devil arrives in fervently atheistic soviet Russia. Bulgakov satirizes the materialistic nature of Muscovite society to gesture to the spiritual void beneath it. Characters include a motley demonic band of individuals, and a droll-humoured cigar-smoking cat, wreaking havoc around town in a series of wickedly funny skits. From a magic show featuring a temporary decapitation, to a magical scene in which the eponymous Margarita flies over Moscow on a broomstick completely naked, there is no end to Bulgakov’s incredible imagination. Those familiar with the opening scene will be delighted when they visit modern day Moscow’s Patriarch Ponds, where a cautionary sign will advise you that it is ‘forbidden to talk to strangers’.
Night Watch – Sergei Lukyanenko
Night Watch was translated into English after the phenomenal success of the films based on Lukyanenko’s pentology of novels. This novel is the first in the series, a gripping sci-fi fantasy that explores the supernatural underworld lurking just beneath the surface of our everyday world. Lukyanenko’s novel reflects a trend for fantastical or allegorical fiction which is currently prevalent in Russia. In Night Watch, a supernatural race of primeval humans must ally either with agents of Dark or Light. The main protagonist, Anton, finds himself caught in the middle of this tumultuous battle and drawn into a world of moral incertitude. This is (in the most non-cliché terms) a really griping page-turner.
Moscow-Petushki – Venedikt Erofeev
This is a slight cheat, as the majority of the narrative takes place during a train journey between Moscow and Petushki, a suburban settlement that appropriates a utopian-like quality in the mind of Venichka, the drunken protagonist. There are many who believe that Erofeev’s work is untranslatable, replete as it is with cultural references to classical poems, the orthodox faith and slurred streams of consciousness. Nevertheless, we believe it would be a pity to miss out on insight into the darkly witty, tremendously sad and sparkling mind of Erofeev. His prose-poem allows us to be simultaneously privy to Venichka’s internal dialogue, the external dialogue of his accompanying passengers and to the author himself. Erofeev plays with all readerly expectations through Venichka, the proverbial holy fool who, through his tangled commentary on everything from Marx to Pushkin to vodka slowly unveils his authenticity as a character.
Red Square – Martin Cruz Smith
This is the third novel in the Investigator Renko series, following on from the incredibly popular Gorky Park and Polar Star . Red Square does not actually refer to the Moscow location but rather a missing avant-garde painting that recently resurfaced in the illegal black-markets of 1990’s Russia. Renko is shown as an individual awash in a sea of corruption, attempting to cling to the law in an atmosphere of rapid and unprecedented change. Red Square provides an in-depth insight into the emerging capitalism taking hold of Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, its setting an interesting comparison of Russia and cultural trends in Munich and Berlin during this tumultuous period. As ever, Cruz Smith’s writing is engaging and darkly funny.
Envy – Yuri Olesha
Olesha’s 1927 novel is a slapstick examination of the tussles between a smug sausage mogul and the drunken no-hope he chances upon in the gutter one day. If that’s not the kind of scenario to secure your interest then be assured that this is a much over-looked, brilliantly-rendered and vigorously delivered poetic feat. Although Olesha only wrote one book, it seems he put all his genius into it. As with Moscow-Petushki , Envy succeeds in being simultaneously lyrical and satirical; Olesha’s wry social commentary bubbles up from the pages with incredible energy. There are some fantastically disgusting descriptions that are utterly absurd and also oddly believable. This novel probably won’t suit every taste but if you have a penchant for the avant-garde then look no further.
Metro 2033 – Dmitry Glukhovsky
This is a must-read for anyone with an interest in the Moscow metro system. The sprawling stations take on ideologies and statehoods of their own after a nuclear disaster above-ground forces survivors into a subterranean world where rifle cartridges are currency and men fight both against intangible threats and one another. Artyom, the young protagonist of the novel, has never experienced fresh air, seen grass or been exposed to natural light. His fellow inhabitants at VDNKh raise anaemic pigs on waste products and grow mushrooms for food, eking out a precarious existence in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. After meeting an enigmatic figure called Hunter, Artyom takes on an epic quest to reach the mythical city of Polis, navigating the various perils that ensue as he traverses the claustrophobic, cramped conditions of life in the metro. Metro 2033 is ultimately a study of the human psyche and man’s irrepressible desire to survive no matter what that means. With this comes a bleak insight into the moral and physical degradation of people when they are pushed to their absolute limits.
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Roads to Moscow
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Novelist and critic David Wingrove has been writing seriously since he was a teenager and now has twenty-six novels to his credit, along with several volumes of non-fiction. His work has often been described as ‘epic’ and with some justification: his first published series Chung Kuo is in excess of two-million words and took almost a decade to conceive, research and plot.
To eradicate the other from history, the two great empires of Germany and Russia wage war across three millennia and seek to change Time itself. But when a German agent falls for a Russian woman, an epic love story underpins each nation’s mighty struggle to prevail.
With Triad bosses and assassins, emperors, whores and visionaries, Chung Kuo is part heroic epic, part technological thriller, part romance - a compelling tale of fallen empires and ordinary people unified only by the dark history of their time.
Myst are worlds of adventure and awe, of mystery and beauty, intrigue and betrayal. Based on the bestselling games, the Myst trilogy pits friend against friend, good against evil and brings a thousand worlds to vivid life. And as the unimaginable comes to pass, only one is left to carry on the legacy.
A range of books drawing on years of experience as a reviewer and critic of science fiction, including source books on fiction and films of the genre, as well as the Hugo Award-winning Trillion Year Spree.
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