Slavic Languages and Lit

  • Literature and Medicine

    This course will examine themes that are paramount in our lives as individuals, communities, and societies' illness and healing, caregiving, epidemics, the distinction between normal and pathological. Our reflections on ethics will feature stories and storytelling as an entry point. Why do doctors and patients need stories? How does storytelling illuminate medicine as a system of representation? What rhetorical devices are embedded in the way we conceive of sickness, well-being, and the medical institutions?
  • Selected Topics in Russian Literature and Culture: Crosscultural Links between Russian and American Literature & Culture

    Major American cultural figures have found inspiration in Russian literary masterpieces. The course explores connections between (1) three Russian writers - Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, & Chekhov -. & (2) the multiplicity of ways in which twentieth and twenty-first-century Americans, in their own works, have incorporated, responded to, & reimagined these Russian creations. The main focus is on prose. Some attention to film and drama.
  • Photographic Modernisms: Russia and the West

    This course traces the history of the photographic medium from the introduction of the daguerreotype in 1839 to socially engaged documentary photography of the 1930s and beyond, questioning the notion of photography as a modernist artistic and documentary medium in Russia and the West. Central issues in the course are the role of authorship in photography and in the hybrid photo-textual spaces of print media, photography's politicization and instrumentation, and photography as a reflection of a shifting modernist vision.
  • History of Emotions: Russia and the West

    Do feelings have history? How do they influence history? Do "natural" emotions exist? How do political regimes control the emotional sincerity of their subjects? What is the role of literature in cultivating certain emotional modes? How do people interpret and express their emotions in different periods? In this course, we apply these and similar questions to the emotional history of Russian culture considered within western contexts and theoretical frameworks offered by scholars of emotions.
  • Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace: Writing as Fighting

    We start with Tolstoy's artistic stimuli and narrative strategies, explore the author's provocative visions of war, gender, sex, art, social institutions, death, and religion. The emphasis is placed here on the role of a written word in Tolstoy's search for truth and power. The main part is a close reading of his masterwork The War and Peace (1863-68) - a quintessence of both his artistic method and philosophical insights. Each student will be assigned to keep a "hero's diary" and speak on behalf of one or two major heroes of the epic (including the Spirit of History).
  • Communist Modernity: The Politics and Culture of Soviet Utopia

    Communism is long gone but its legacy continues to reverberate. And not only because of Cuba, China or North Korea. Inspired by utopian ideas of equality and universal brotherhood, communism was originally conceived as an ideological, socio-political, economic and cultural alternative to capitalism's crises. The attempt to build a new utopian world was costly and brutal: equality was quickly transformed into uniformity; brotherhood evolved into the Big Brother.
  • Seminar on Andrei Bitov

    Analysis of works of one of Russia's most important contemporary writers. Focus on major novels, including "Pushkin House," the 1st Russian postmodernist novel. We explore his wide-ranging concerns, such as psychology; philosophy; science; other arts (including jazz & cinema); people's relationship to other biological species; integrity & societal and psychological obstacles to it. We examine him as a Petersburg writer. Focus also on his relationship to time, history, & other writers; his place in Russian & Soviet literature & culture.
  • Language & Subjectivity: Theories of Formation

    The purpose of the course is to examine key texts of the twentieth century that established the fundamental connection between language structures and practices on the one hand, and the formation of selfhood and subjectivity, on the other. In particular, the course focuses on theories that emphasize the role of formal elements in producing meaningful discursive and social effects. Works of Russian formalists and French (post)-structuralists are discussed in connection with psychoanalytic and anthropological theories of formation.
  • East European Literature and Politics

    This seminar will examine 20th-century Eastern European history through literary works from a number of countries in the region, from the Austro-Hungarian Empire to present-day Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Belarus, and the Balkans. Readings will generally consist of one novel per week, but we will also look at a number of other genres, including the short story, poetry, drama, the journal, and reportage.

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