Spring 2017 Courses in
East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies
Check out the following list for some exciting courses being offered in the East European, Russian, and Eurasian regions in Spring 2017. The course list will be updated as needed throughout the registration period.
Introduction to the Musical Folklore of Central Asia.
ANTH 25905, EEUR 23400, EEUR 33400,MUSI 23503,MUSI 33503,NEHC 30765,NEHC 20765
This course explores the musical traditions of the peoples of Central Asia, both in terms of historical development and cultural significance. Topics include the music of the epic tradition, the use of music for healing, instrumental genres, and Central Asian folk and classical traditions. Basic field methods for ethnomusicology are also covered. Extensive use is made of recordings of musical performances and of live performances in the area.
The phenomenon of anxiety emerged as one of the leading psychological disorders of the 20th and 21st centuries. Worrying ourselves into the realm of the pathological, we now have a requisite measure of anxiety for every prescribed stage of life. But why are we so anxious? Considering its prevalence in everyday life, the concept and theories of anxiety have been employed surprisingly seldom as a way into film, fiction, and art. In this course we examine the modern origin of contemporary discourses specific to anxiety and their unique manifestation in cultural artifacts. To understand the complex of anxiety in the so-called Western world, we rely on the theories of Søren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, and Alenka Zupančič, fiction by Schnitzler, Kafka, and Sebald, and films by Hitchcock and Lanthimos. We will also have guest speakers from the fields of geriatric medicine and economics.
Tu/Th 1:30 - 2:50pm
In this course, we will investigate the intersection of game playing and cognition in world literature. From the earliest shatranj puzzles of the sixth-century to the chess schools of the Soviet Union, societies across the world have turned to the game for intellectual challenge and to sharpen mental acuity. As the quintessential activity of human reasoning, chess soon became a favorite subject for cognitive science research, yielding insights into search methods, memory, judgment, and problem-solving strategies. In this course, we will read select chess narratives in tandem with supplementary readings on cognition to understand the role of game playing in cultural imagination beyond metaphor. These supplementary readings will explore evaluative judgments, memory processes, and human perception, among other topics. We will examine various works of troubled genius, beginning with Vladimir Nabokov’s 1930 tale of chess and obsession, The Defense. Stefan Zweig’s own contribution in his 1941 Chess Story will round out our exploration of monomania and the tenuous boundaries of reason. Other authors of interest include Edgar Allan Poe, Samuel Beckett, Viktor Shklovskii, Johan Huizinga, Michel Foucault, H.Simon & W.Chase, et al.
Gender and The Body in Yiddish Literature
Anna Elena Torres
Explore Yiddish texts through the lens of critical theory: from the earliest known Yiddish verse to 20th century avant-garde works.
Gombrowicz: The Writer As Philosopher
REES 21000, ISHU 29405, POLI 25301/35301, FNDL 26903
In this course, we will dwell on Witold Gombrowicz the philosopher, exploring the components of his authorial style and content that substantiate his claim to both the literary and the philosophical spheres. Entangled in an ongoing battle with fundamental philosophical tenets and, indeed, with existence itself, this erudite Polish author is a prime example of a 20th century modernist whose philosophical novels explode with uncanny laughter. In contrast to many of his contemporaries, who established their reputation as writers/philosophers, Gombrowicz applied distinctly literary models of his own to the same questions that they explored. Over the next ten weeks, we will investigate these models in depth. We will read Gombrowicz’s novels, lectures on philosophy and some of his autobiographical writings, as well as recent criticism of these primary texts as we will seek answers to the more general question: what makes this author a philosopher?
No prerequisites. All readings are in English.
Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent: (In)Action, Surveillance, Terrorism
REES 21006/31006, ENGL 20116/ENGL 31006, FNDL 21006
This course centers on a close reading of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale (1907). Contemporary critics often consider this novel to be the archetypal fictional work about terrorism, as it is based on the bomb attack that occurred on the Royal Observatory in Greenwich in 1888. The Secret Agent demonstrates, however, much more than its prophetic significance rediscovered after 9/11. Therefore, the course seeks how the novel’s relevance stems in equal measure from Conrad’s interest in a wider political process and his distrust of state power; in particular, the course explores how these forces determine the individual caught in a confining situation. We read The Secret Agent as a political novel, which in its struggle for solutions defies chaos as well as an imposition of a single ideology or one authorial point of view. The novel’s ambiguities and political antinomies reveal its polyphonic structure allowing for interdisciplinary readings that also present an opportunity to critically overview the established approaches to main Conradian themes; for example, in order to destabilize the standard view of the writer as a conservative anti-revolutionary, we consider some biographical connections, such as his family members’ radical (“Red”) social agenda of the abolishment of serfdom. In analyzing the formation of the narrative’s ideology we discuss Conrad’s historical pessimism that demonstrates with sustained irony how capitalism breeds social injustice that, in turn, breeds anarchism. The class also focuses on just how the novel exposes duplicity in staging surveillance, terrorism, as well as adjacent forms of violence or sacrifice. The critical texts include several older but still influential readings (Jameson, Eagleton) of the novel’s political and social dimension, as well as the most recent pronouncements of A Simple Tale’s complexity. All texts are in English.
Narratives of Suspense
REES 2/33137; CMLT 22100; HUMA 2690; CMST 2/35102; ENGL 2/46901
This course examines the nature and creation of suspense in literature and film as an introduction to narrative theory. We will question how and why stories are created, as well as what motivates us to continue to reading, watching, and listening to stories. We will explore how particular genres (such as detective stories and thrillers) and the mediums of literature and film influence our understanding of suspense and narrative more broadly. Close readings of primary sources will be supplemented with critical and theoretical readings. Literary readings will include work by John Buchan, Arthur Conan Doyle, Feodor Dostoevsky, Graham Greene, Bohumil Hrabal, and J.M. Coetzee. We will also explore Alfred Hitchcock’s take on 39 Steps and the Czech New Wave manifesto film, Pearls of the Deep. With theoretical readings by: Roland Barthes, Viktor Shklovsky, Erich Auerbach, Paul Ricoeur, and others.
The Intelligentsia: On Slavic Social Thought
REES 24415 / HIST 29907
Isaiah Berlin purportedly described the notion of the Intelligentsia as “arguably Russia’s greatest contribution to world civilization.” But just how culturally specific—or, alternatively, universal—is that concept? Many of the chief theoretical concerns of the Intelligentsia (the role of the public intellectual in society, the expression of dissidence and the ethics of exile) have preoccupied thinkers since Socrates. What distinguishes the Intelligentsia from other models of public intellectualism? How have various Slavic public intellectuals maintained, or broken with, this tradition?
In order to establish a theoretical vocabulary, the course will begin with an introduction to several classical and contemporary theories of the role of the intellectual in society. We will then ground our inquiry in the historical invention of the Russian Intelligentsia during the mid-19th Century before setting off to analyze its 20th and 21st-century pan-Slavic manifestations. Throughout the course, our main goal will be to examine the ways in which these thinkers conceive of and perform the role of a “public intellectual.” How do they balance the tasks of documenting and participating in the historical events they describe? What strategies do they utilize in order to relay their intellectual activity to a larger public? What do they consider to be the responsibility of intellectuals? Thinkers covered include: Chaadaev, V.G. Belinsky, Alexander Blok, Czesław Miłosz, Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn, Isaiah Berlin, Joseph Brodsky, Julia Kristeva, Milan Kundera, Adam Michnik, Slavoj Žižek and Masha Gessen, among others.
Russian Literature in the Composer's Ear
REES 24416/34416, MUSI 24317/34317
The dialogue between author and composer in Russia is probably without parallel in other national traditions. This course will examine the musical transposition of literary works in Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Shchedrin. While Stravinsky makes use of oral tradition and folk culture, our other examples will be drawn from classic literary works, primarily from the 19th century. We will integrate close textual readings with focused analyses of the musical pieces, while devoting considerable attention to contexts of composition and reception. Throughout, we will be concerned with cultural and socio-political events from the mid-19th century to the fall of Soviet Union—events that colored the performance and interpretation of these works and often set the tone for their composition as well.
Memoir in Modernism
TuTh 1:30 to 2:50
This course serves as an introduction to Russian and European modernism, taking the fictionalized autobiography as its focus. In the early twentieth century the novel-memoir becomes arguably the foremost vehicle for literary modernism. We will examine the literary strategies used to represent the workings of memory and the construction of their autobiographical worlds. What role does tradition play in foregrounding the writers’ approach to their immediate familial and cultural past? How is the experience of time reconfigured by the processes of memory, and what rhetorical techniques are used to effect this in prose narratives? Readings may include James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Andrei Bely’s Kotik Letaev, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, Osip Mandelshtam’s The Noise of Time and Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak, Memory, as well as selections from Boris Pasternak, Marcel Proust, Andrei Platonov, Marina Tsvetaeva and others. Supplementary readings will include texts by Sigmund Freud, Henri Bergson, Gérard Genette and Mikhail Bakhtin. No knowledge of Russian or French is required, but an additional discussion section can be arranged for students with sufficient reading fluency in Russian.
Burden of History: The Nation and Its Lost Paradise
REES 29013/39013, CMLT 2/33401, NEHC 2/30573, HIST 2/34005
How and why do national identities provoke the deep emotional attachments that they do? In this course we try to understand these emotional attachments by examining the narrative of loss and redemption through which most nations in the Balkans retell their Ottoman past. We begin by considering the mythic temporality of the Romantic national narrative while focusing on specific national literary texts where the national past is retold through the formula of original wholeness, foreign invasion, Passion, and Salvation. We then proceed to unpack the structural role of the different elements of that narrative. With the help of Žižek’s theory of the subject as constituted by trauma, we think about the national fixation on the trauma of loss, and the role of trauma in the formation of national consciousness. Specific theme inquiries involve the figure of the Janissary as self and other, brotherhood and fratricide, and the writing of the national trauma on the individual physical body. Special attention is given to the general aesthetic of victimhood, the casting of the victimized national self as the object of the “other’s perverse desire.” With the help of Freud, Žižek and Kant we consider the transformation of national victimhood into the sublimity of the national self. The main primary texts include Petar Njegoš’ Mountain Wreath (Serbia and Montenegro), Ismail Kadare’s The Castle (Albania), Anton Donchev’s Time of Parting (Bulgaria).
Imaginary Worlds: The Fantastic and Magic Realism from Russia and Southeastern Europe
REES 29018; CMLT 27701/37701
In this course, we will ask what constitutes the fantastic and magic realism as literary genres while reading some of the most interesting writings to have come out of Russia and Southeastern Europe. While considering the stylistic and narrative specificities of this narrative mode, we also think about its political functions —from subversive to escapist, to supportive of a nationalist imaginary—in different contexts and at different historic moments in the two regions.
Spring 2017 Language Courses
In the spring quarter of the three-quarter sequence of the First-Year Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (BCS) languages and cultures course, students will continue to concentrate on the language of their interest and choice. They should, however, be able to work with both the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets. The major objective still is to build a solid foundation in all four skills. This is achieved through a communicative situation-based approach, numerous textbook dialogues, reinforcement by the instructor, screenings of short TV announcements, documentaries, commercials, and the like. Once a week conversation sessions with the instructor offer students the opportunity to review and practice materials presented in class. Given the region’s recent history and linguistic controversies surrounding the Wars of Secession, the course continues to include a sociolinguistic component, an essential part of understanding the similarities and differences between the languages. The course is complemented by cultural and historical media from the Balkans, guest speakers, cultural events, and dinner parties.
The spring quarter of the three-quarter sequence of Second-Year Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (BCS) languages and cultures course assumes students completed at least a year of formal study of the target language(s) or the equivalent. The course continues to focus on spoken and written modern BCS, emphasizing communicative practice in authentic cultural contexts. The language(s) are introduced through a series of dialogues gathered from a variety of textbooks published in the region, as well as newspaper articles, short biographies, poems, and song lyrics in both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. A vast amount of audiovisual materials, representing both high and popular culture, constitute an integral part of every unit. Simultaneously, aural comprehension, speaking, grammar, and vocabulary are reinforced and further developed throughout the year with each unit. In addition, throughout the year students work on their essay writing skills by building a writing portfolio and working closely on editing with the instructor during a mandatory one-on-one conversation/consultation sessions, scheduled weekly. The course is complemented with cultural and historical media from the Balkans, guest speakers, cultural events, and dinner parties
(Re)Branding the Balkan City: Contemporary Belgrade, Sarajevo, Zagreb, also Advanced Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian
REES 21300/1, BCSN 31303/1
The course will use an urban studies lens to explore the complex history, infrastructure, and transformations of these cities. Drawing on anthropological theory and ethnography of the city, it will consider processes of urban destruction and renewal, practices of branding spaces and identities, urban life as praxis, art and design movements, and the broader politics of space. The course is taught in English. No knowledge of Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (BCS) is required. However, this module can fulfill a language requirement or simply further the study of BCS with additional weekly sections, materials, discussions, and presentations in the target language.
Elementary Kazakh 3
"Kazak, or Kazakh, is a Central Turkic language spoken natively by 12 million people in the Kazakh Republic, as well as by significant populations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the PRC, in Mongolia, in Uzbekistan, Turkey, Russia, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. One of the Turkic languages in which Turkic heroic epics have been sung for centuries, Kazakh preserves many of the features of the ancient Turkic language of Central Asia. A language wherein eloquence, accuracy and precision are very highly prized, Kazakh is known for its lyrical beauty and its extremely rich oral tradition. Traditional Kazakh culture combines elements of the pre-Islamic Turkic way of life, as well as elements of Islam (specifically Sufism), and themes common to Eurasian nomads from the Urals to the Altai mountains and beyond. While the nomadic horse-riding ancestors of the Kazakhs formed the military and political backbone of several successive Turkic states in Central Asia, modern Kazakhstan is a developed, multi-ethnic, resource-rich (especially oil and gas) and technologically-oriented country, with a literacy rate approaching 100%.
Kazakhstan boasts a blossoming artistic scene, including a refined film industry, a sophisticated literary scene, and well-developed theatre. The Kazakhs visibly value literature and the arts, and almost every Kazakh can recite poetry or play the dombra, the national instrument. During Soviet and post-Soviet times, while the television channels of some other Soviet republics broadcast hour after hour of reports on industrial and agricultural production, Kazakh TV carried on with documentaries about famous literary and artistic figures. The traditional Kazakh dwelling, known as yurt in English and �y in Kazakh, is almost entirely made by women. Made of felt, leather, and wood, it can be set up and broken down in under 45 minutes, is highly portable, and can provide comfortable living for a family year-round, despite the wide temperature extremes that characterize the climate of Central Eurasia. Although most Kazakhs today are apartment dwellers, many maintain yurts for use on important occasions.
The language is taught at the Elementary and Intermediate levels at the University of Chicago, while Advanced Kazakh is available on demand. A knowledge of Kazakh greatly facilitates the acquisition of other related Turkic languages, such as Tatar, Bashkir, Kyrgyz (Kirghiz), or Uzbek. The class is arranged, though in all likelihood it will take place late morning to early afternoon on Wednesdays, once a week. The instructor, Kagan Arik, is a Turkic languages specialist, language pedagogue, and an anthropologist of Central Asia and Turkic-speaking cultures, who has been at the University of Chicago since 2000. He teaches Turkish language and literature, Uzbek, Kazakh, Old Turkic, and courses on the anthropology, folklore and ethnomusicology of Central Asia."
It is eligible for FLAS.
Please direct further inquiries to the Turkic languages coordinator, Dr, Kagan Arik.
First-Year Polish III
Drill sessions to be arranged.
This course teaches students to speak, read, and write in Polish, as well as familiarizes them with Polish culture. It employs the most up-to-date techniques of language teaching (e.g. communicative and accelerated learning, and learning based on students’ native language skills), as well as multileveled target-language exposure. Autumn, Winter, Spring.
Second-Year Polish III
Drill sessions to be arranged.
This course includes instruction in grammar, writing, and translation, as well as watching selected Polish movies. Selected readings are drawn from the course textbook, and students also read Polish short stories and press articles. In addition, the independent reading of students is emphasized and reinforced by class discussions. Work is adjusted to each student’s level of preparation. Autumn, Winter, Spring.
Third-Year Polish I
MWF 12:30pm - 1:20pm
One hour consultations to be arranged.
The process of learning in all three quarters of Third-Year Polish is framed by three themes, which most succinctly but aptly characterize Polish life, culture, and history: in the Autumn Quarter—the noble democracy in the Commonwealth of Both Nations, in the Winter Quarter—the fight for independence, and in the Spring Quarter—the newly independent Poland. During the course of the year, students also improve their knowledge of advanced grammar and stylistics. All work in Polish.
Old Turkic 3
Old Turkic is the language of the Kök Türk Empire, and of the ancient Uyghurs. In this class, which has a prerequisite of one year of Turkish or another Turkic language, we will be reading the Orkhon Monuments from the 8th Century, in the original, with Latin alphabet transcriptions, as well as the original runiform Old Turkic letters. The class is also a good way to explore the diplomatic, political and military history of the relations between the Turkic Khaganate, Sui & Tang Dynasties China, and neighboring states. As a language study, Old Turkic is an interesting foray into the roots of Turkish and other Turkic languages, and helps to add an interesting dimension to one's background in Turkic, which can be helpful for advanced students, as well as those wishing to deepen their understanding of Ottoman, especially in its earlier forms, and of the Chagatai literary language of Central Asia. If you have the time & inclination, this could be an interesting avenue to explore. Lots of in-class reading & discussion, not much homework, but a short (5 pp) paper every quarter are what you would expect.
Elementary Turkish 3
"Turkish is the official language of the Turkish Republic. It is one of 30 Turkic languages, and is spoken by 75 Million people in and near Turkey. Turkish uses a modified Latin alphabet of 32 letters, has a noun case system, no gender, and numerous verbal particles that convey intricate shades of meaning. The word order is opposite that of English. It is closely related to other Turkic languages, and debatably distantly related to Mongolian, Manchu, Korean, and Japanese. Some similarities also exist to Hungarian and Finnish. Though unrelated to any of its linguistic neighbors (Greek, Persian, Arabic, Slavic, Armenian, Georgian…), it has interacted very closely with these languages over the past millennium.
First Year Turkish introduces basic Turkish grammar and brings you to the Intermediate Level. Second Year Turkish emphasizes reading, writing and speaking, introduces Turkish literature, and brings you to the Advanced Level. Further Advanced Turkish reading courses are available during the academic year and also as an intensive class during Summer Session. Students may also study Ottoman Turkish, Old Turkic, and the related Uzbek and Kazak languages. Turkish is eligible for FLAG and FLAS funding, and funded intensive study can be undertaken in the USA or in Turkey over the summer months, as well as during the school year."
In addition to our own CEERES-focused courses, there are other educational opportunities in the Chicago area for individuals interested in CEERES languages and cultures.
Adults - Czech as a foreign language
Monday 5:00 - 6:30 PM Jan Neruda Club (cultural and language class)
Monday 7:00 - 8:30 PM Beginners (language class)
Wednesday 7:00 - 8:30 PM Intermediates (language class)
The tuition is $100 per school year.