We invite students – those majoring in our department as well as non-majors looking for interesting courses – to explore our offerings for Spring 2021. As always, we provide a wide variety of culture and language courses focused on Eastern Europe.
Below is a sampling of our classes.
The greatest influx of Jewish immigrants to the United States (1880-1924) came from the Russian empire and that part of the empire that emerged as the sovereign state of Poland in 1918; many immigrants maintained contact with family members remaining in Europe until 90% of Poland’s Jewish population were murdered in the Shoah. Our course examines a relatively new phenomenon: the growing number of these Jewish immigrants’ descendants (usually third or fourth generation) now venturing on Jewish heritage tours or seeking contact with surviving relatives or ancestral towns in Poland; they hope to recover family histories and connections that seemed forever destroyed by the Shoah. Our study of this phenomenon draws on historical scholarship, documentaries, memoirs, recorded interviews, and materials and critiques pertaining to the “Jewish tourism” industry. No prerequisites.
This course examines the major thematic focus of East European filmmakers in the 21st century: their efforts to reconstruct and reassess the experience of the Cold War (1945-1989) and the Yugoslav wars (1991-1995). These films from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Croatia, and Serbia include ironic/sentimental tales of Cold War childhood, thrillers about sleeping with the enemy (political informers), and psychological dramas centering on political trauma, resistance, and compromise. All films shown with English subtitles. No prerequisites.
The history, development, and shifts of Russian short fiction in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Authors include Dostoevsky, Vovchok, Leskov, Chekhov, Gippius, and Zoshchenko. Topics include gender, genre, and national identity in historical/cultural context. Taught in English.
Reading Russian literature through the lens of economics. Money as a driving plot principle in fiction from the 1600s to the present day. The profit motive underlying Russian artistic depictions of criminality. Gamblers, rogues, smugglers, thieves, tycoons, oligarchs, and "New Russian" entrepreneurs as protagonists. Swindling and black marketeering as the underside of an economic system that condemns capitalism and the "middleman." Financial dealings as a battlefield between Russian and Western cultural values. Students are encouraged to do course projects applying economic analytical models to literary texts and films.
Russian imperial history from Peter the Great to Bolshevik Revolution: 1700-1917. Focus on formation and governance of multiethnic and multiconfessional Russian empire. Traces expansion of land-locked city state (Muscovy) into world power ruling from Eastern Europe to Alaska. Questions implications of Russia's world-power status. Examines institutions of governance that created this empire and held its various ethnic, religious and ideological groups together for centuries. Readings of English translations of works of Russian literature and historiographic analyses aimed at developing a sound grounding in Russian imperial history and culture.
For over a thousand years, the lands between Moscow. Beijing, and Delhi have been one of the most contested arenas of political rivalry, commercial exchange, cultural cross-fertilization, intellectual and artistic creativity, ethnic and religious diversity, and long-distance travel. In this seminar, we will reconstruct the breathtaking experience of these lands between Europe and Asia through a critical reading of eyewitness narratives that range from the travels of a Taoist master summoned by Chingis Khan in the 1210s to the memoirs of a Chechen surgeon struggling to save lives under fire as the Russian government bombed Grozny in the 1990s.