Devil in Their Midst: Bulgakov and his "Master and Margarita"

"Master and Margarita" is a masterpiece. It is a thriller, a love story, a philosophical work, and a bitter satire of the society that claimed to represent a perfect new order. The Devil appears in the Moscow of the Twenties posing as a foreign consultant checking on the virtues of New Soviet Man. Only the Devil’s powers can restore morality and justice to this society of greed, envy, fear, conceit and selfishness. The history of the book’s creation is also dramatic, giving us insight into the era of its writing.

A $50 discount will be applied automatically for adults 55+.

Currently not available for registration.

Schedule clarification: This is a four-week online course. It runs from Monday, January 11 to Friday, February 5. Each week, all week, you can study that week’s material, post and respond to messages, and engage in course activities. You will participate in live videoconferencing sessions each Wednesday from 1–2:30 p.m. PT.

Learning objectives

By the end of the course, you should be able to do the following:

  • Discuss the aesthetic pleasure that great literature can give us (that tingle in the spine mentioned by Nabokov)
  • Discuss how careful, detailed reading will enhance our understanding and therefore pleasure
  • Give examples of insights into the workings of the first Communist state on earth
  • Describe the innovative novel structure and writing methods Bulgakov used to achieve his goal

Learning methods

Your online learning will include the following methods:

  • Reading course materials, including Master and Margarita
  • Participation in written discussions with other students
  • Participation in videoconference seminars

For Liberal Arts for 55+ Certificate students: you will write a reflective essay.


Week 1: Bulgakov's life under Stalin and the drama of the creation of Master and Margarita

“In the broad field of Russian letters in the USSR I was the one and only literary wolf. I was advised to dye my fur. Absurd advice” (Bulgakov). Forced into silence by Stalin's ideologues, Bulgakov burnt his manuscript. It took him 12 years to restore the novel, still unfinished by the time of his death at the age of 49. Russian “literary widows”: the remarkable Elena Bulgakova and her role in safeguarding and publishing the novel after her husband's death. 

Week Two: Chapters 1 – 10

Faith versus atheism, reality perceived and real. The book’s unusual structure, linking Moscow of 1920s and Judea of Christ's time. Two narrative modes: satire and historical drama.

Week Three: Chapters 11 – 21

The relationship between the artist and political power. Fear versus courage, betrayal and its punishment. The role of a heroine who saves the timid Master through personal courage.

Week Four: Chapters 27 – 32

Can justice be restored in the fallen world? Deciphering the meaning of “Satan's Ball.”

Books, materials and resources

You may purchase the required book from your preferred local or online bookstore.

  • Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov (any translation)

All other reading materials will be available using SFU's online course management system, Canvas.

Technical requirements

This course is delivered using SFU's online learning system, Canvas. You can check if your browser is compatible with Canvas here.  

To get the most out of this online course, you should be comfortable doing the following:

  • Using everyday software such as browsers, email and social media
  • Navigating a website by clicking on links and finding pages in a menu
  • Downloading and opening PDF documents
  • Posting, replying and uploading images to a discussion board
  • Participating in videoconferencing sessions

You will be participating in videoconferencing using Zoom Meetings. For this, your computer needs to have a camera, microphone and speakers or headphones. Your computer software should be up to date with the latest available operating system and browser versions.

Accessing your course

  • A few days before the course starts, we will email you more information about the course and how you'll access it. You will also receive an email inviting you to access the Canvas learning platform (click on the link in the invitation to join the course). Once you’ve accessed Canvas, you can begin exploring the platform on your own. The full course will be accessible on its start date.
  • We’ll also host a virtual drop-in time on Zoom Meetings a few days before the course starts. This will give you a chance to check that you can access Zoom Meetings, and that your computer’s camera and microphone and speakers are working properly.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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