Slavic Literatures and Cultures

Red Square in Russia

The Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures studies and teaches the languages, linguistics, literature, film, art, and cultural history of the Slavic world, from the medieval period up through the present. Languages taught include Russian, Czech, Polish, Ukrainian, and Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian. Undergraduates may pursue a Slavic Concentration, Joint Concentration, or Secondary Fields in Central European Studies or Russian Studies.

Director of Undegraduate Studies: Nariman Skakov

Gateway Courses

Spring 2022

SLAVIC 114/TDM 114K: Squaring the Circle: Russia, Art, Revolution
Daria Khitrova

Wherever an avant-garde movement sprang up, its artists would announce they were there to change the world. Nowhere did this promise come closer to fruition than in Russia of the 1920s. This course explores Russian and Soviet avant-garde art and its most radical manifestations in literature and dance, on stage and screen, in visual arts and in the ways of life. We will examine the way art and political revolution impact each other and focus on the many “isms,” avant-garde and otherwise, that shaped society and the arts during a period of rapid modernization and experimentation: Futurism, Suprematism, Constructivism, Productivism and others. We will look at works by Malevich and Meyerhold, Tatlin and Mayakovsky, Rodchenko and Stepanova, Nijinsky and Meyerhold, Vertov and Eisenstein.

SLAVIC 127: Hacking Russia: Technological Dreams and Nightmares of Russian Culture
Nariman Skakov

The course explores the role of technology in constructing the social and ideological fabric, as well as the material reality, of Soviet and Russian society. From the early Soviet period, when technological progress was linked to humanistic utopia, through dystopian critiques of a totalitarian machine of conformity and constraint, we proceed along the assembly line of communist production, avant-garde and constructivist artistic utopia, socialist realism, the space race, and information technology, using examples from Russian literature, film, art, visual arts, performance, and current events. With the media's concern for fake news and Russian hacking today, it is our course's goal to "hack Russia": to understand the politics and technology shaping Russia, and the creative responses that have made its society a site of both dreamlike promise and nightmarish threat, through its history and today. 

SLAVIC 132: Russia's Golden Age: Literature, Arts, and Culture
Julie Buckler

Explores major works of imperial Russian culture (1703-1917), including literature, drama, opera, ballet, music, visual arts, and architecture. At the center of this course stand the works themselves, their original historical and cultural contexts, the intentions of their creators, and the responses of their initial audiences. What mythologies of national identity did these works propose and why were they so compelling to their first audiences? In what ways were these works radical: formally, aesthetically, ideologically? How have these masterworks been variously renewed and reinterpreted since their initial reception, up to the present day? Includes works by Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Chekhov, Musorgsky, Tchaikovsky, and others.

SLAVIC 143: Eastern European Modernism, 1918-1939
Iaroslava Strikha

Although European modernism is often seen as setting up a strict hierarchy between high and low art, the most interesting experiments were happening, as they always do, on the margins, in the shifting borderlands between cultures, languages and ideologies. This course will introduce students to the styles and themes of literary modernism based on novels, short stories, film, and graphic art from the interwar period in Eastern Europe. Bringing together works written in Polish (Bruno Schulz, Witold Gombrowicz), Ukrainian (Mykola Khvylovyi, Oleksandr Dovzhenko), Yiddish (Dovid Bergelson, Moshe Kulbak), Czech (Karel Čapek), Russian (Andrei Platonov) and German (Franz Kafka) – all read in English translation – we will address the key aspects of literary modernism, including its main movements, thematic preoccupations and stylistic experiments, with special attention paid to historical and cultural contexts. We will explore the new, vibrant and often violent cultural landscapes emerging in the wake of World War I and the Russian Revolution, asking how artists engaged with changing political regimes, national borders and competing ideologies. Looking at how artists expressed their growing premonitions of the oncoming storm, we will discover that margins, contact zones and borderlands were the most dangerous place to be, but also, inevitably, the most interesting.