Winter 2017 Courses in East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies

Winter 2017 Courses in

East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies


Nation & Empire: Varieties of National Experience

ANTH 2001

Tu/ Th  3:00-4:20

Susan Gal


Nation and Empire: Varieties of National Experience (This course qualifies as a Discovering Anthropology Selection) The nation remains the most important and ubiquitous form of cultural-political organization in the world today, yet it is a target of sharp critique and under brutal challenge in many regions. This course takes an anthropological perspective on nations, national belonging, and the contradictions, conflicts and tensions that seem to be their unavoidable concomitants. What does it mean to feel loyalty to a nation? How is culture a historical product of nation and a contributor to its maintenance? What does language have to do with it? How have national cultures been invented, commodified, made into museums, tourist destinations and heritage sites. What does "indigeneity" have to do with nationhood? What about empires? Are xenophobia and war the source and unavoidable concomitants of nationalism? How is religion variously related to nation? Participants in the course will read ethnographic and historical works from around the globe in order to take up these questions.


Linguistic Politics: Language Revitalization  

ANTH 27430; LING 27430 

Tu/ Th  10:30-11:50

Susan Gal


Course Type:  SEMINAR

Linguists and the general public have long been alarmed about the number of languages that disappear from use, and so are no longer spoken in the world. Their speakers shift to other languages. As part of the response, social groups have been mobilizing for many decades to prevent such lapses/losses and shifts in use and to document, revitalize, archive and mobilize the resources of communication.


This course takes up the processes by which shift happens, asking what "language" is in these transformations; what and how linguistic forms, cultural values, and social institutions are involved and what social activism can or cannot accomplish in the "saving" of languages.



Politics of Language Shift and/or Sustainability.  

ANTH 37430 (GRAD Course)  

W 3:00-6:00

Susan Gal



There has long been general alarm about the number of languages that disappear from use, and so are no longer spoken in the world. Their speakers shift to other languages. As part of the response, social groups have been mobilizing for many decades to prevent such lapses/losses and shifts in use and to document, revitalize, archive and mobilize the resources of communication. There is much controversy about the advisability of such mobilization; who wants it and why. The role of linguists, missionaries, and politicians has been questioned; the effects of shift on language structure have been closely investigated; ideologies of language "endangerment" "revitalization" and "sustainability" have replaced each other with some regularity. How does one investigate such processes? What are the pitfalls of various methodologies? What theoretical and conceptual materials are available for analysis?

This course asks what "language" is in these transformations; what and how linguistic forms, cultural values, and social institutions are involved and what social activism can or cannot accomplish in the "saving" of languages.

Islams and Modernities

CMLT 25017/35017

Tu/Th 1:30-2:50

Leah Feldman


This course explores the topic of political Islam in Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia through historical, anthropological, and literary works produced both by contemporary scholars of Islam, scholars of Islam in the Russian empire and Soviet Union, alongside primary documents including essays, fiction and political cartoons from the nineteenth and twentieth century. The course focuses on the ways in which these texts problematize the relationship between the representation of ethno-linguistic discourses of Muslim identity (including Pan-Turkism, Pan-Islamism, Jadidism) to national and supranational discourses of modernity and women's rights formulated both during the formation of the Soviet Union and the post-Soviet national republics. The course introduces a comparative approach to secular criticism, or thinking through ways in which religion is rendered legible through discourses of nationalism, colonialism, gender, Marxist-Leninist politics, literarity, and poetics.

Kieślowski’s French Cinema

CMST 24405/34405, CMLT 24405, FNDL 25312, REES 27025/37025

Tu/Th 1:30PM-2:50PM

Screening: F 2:30PM-4:20PM

Bożena Shallcross


Both The Decalogue and the Polish-French movie The Double Life of Veronique catapulted the Polish film director to the international scene. His subsequent three French films turned out to be his last works that altered his image and legacy, as well as affirmed his status as an auteur and a representative of the transnational cinema. His long-lived interest in the enigma of parallel histories and repeated chances, best illustrated by his The Double Life of Veronique, conjoins this film with his subsequent French triptych Blue, White, Red through probing such possibilities as free choice or a second chance. We discuss how in this virtual universe, captured with visually and aurally dazzling artistry, the possibility of reconstituting one’s identity, triggered by tragic loss and betrayal, reveals an ever-ambiguous reality. By focusing on the filmmaker’s dissolution of the material object world, often portrayed on the verge of metaphysics and vague abstraction of (in)audibility or (un)transparency, this course bridges his cinema with the larger concepts of postmodern vision and subjectivity. The course concludes with an analysis of the filmmaker’s contribution to world cinema. All along, we read selections from Kieślowski’s and Piesiewicz’s screen scripts, Kieślowski’s interviews, as well as the abundant criticism of his French movies. All texts are available on Chalk or e-reserve.  Although the course is taught in English and all materials are in English, some reading materials are also available in French and Polish languages for the students who enroll in the Comparative Literatures and Slavic Languages and Literatures sections, respectively.    


Narratives of Assimilation

JWSC 20003, NEHC 20405/30405, REES 27021, SLAV 27000/37000

Bożena Shallcross


Engaging the concept of liminality—of a community at the threshold of radical transformation—the course analyzes how East Central European Jewry, facing economic uncertainties and dangers of modern anti-Semitism, seeks another diasporic space in North America. Projected against the historical backdrop of the end of the nineteenth century and the twentieth century, the immigration narratives are viewed through the lens of assimilation, its trials and failures; in particular, we investigate why efforts of social, cultural and economic inclusion cannot be mistaken with imposing on a given minority the values of majority. One of the main points of interests is the creative self ‘s reaction to the challenges of radical otherness, such as the new environment, its cultural codes and language barriers. We discuss the manifold strategies of artistic (self)-representations of the Jewish writers, many of whom came from East Central European shtetls to be confronted again with economic hardship and assimilation to the American metropolitan space and life style. During this course, we inquire how the condition called assimilation and its attendants—integration, secularization, acculturation, cosmopolitanism, etc.—are adapted or resisted according to the generational differences, a given historical moment or inherited strategies of survival and adaptation. We seek answers to the perennial question why some émigré writers react negatively to the social, moral and cultural values of the host country and others seize them as a creative opportunity. Students are acquainted with problems of cultural and linguistic isolation and/ or integration, hybrid identity formation and cultural transmission through a wide array of artistic genres—a novel, short story, memoir, photography, and illustration. The course draws on the autobiographical writings of Polish-Jewish, Russian-Jewish, and American-Jewish authors such as Mary Antin, Anzia Yezierska, Isaac B. Singer, Eva Hoffman and others; all texts are read in English.



Animal Stories

REES 23203/33203, ENGL 23203/33203, CMLT 23203

Tu/Th 12:00-1:20

Esther Peters


This course will explore the depiction of animals and the broader concept of animality in Central and East European Literature. We begin with an introduction to the history of literary depictions of animals in Aesop’s Fables, Herder’s “On Image, Poetry, and Fable,” and Tolstoy’s “Kholstomer -- The Story of a Horse.” Franz Kafka‘s stories--such as “The Metamorphosis” and  “Report to an Academy”--will provide an introduction to the main issues of animality: animal conflict and violence, as in Karel Čapek’s War with the Newts; animal hybridity or transformation, as in Mikhail Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog; animal engagement in speech and writing, as in Nikolai Gogol’s “Diary of a Madman.”  Other authors include Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Bruno Schulz and Georgi Gospodinov. In addition to exploring the depictions of animals through close readings of the literary texts, the course will also engage with  major philosophical thinkers whose work touches upon animilaty, including: Jacob von Uexküll, Walter Benjamin, Giorgio Agamben, Gilles Deleuze, and Jaques Derrida


Soviet Science Fiction 

REES 24414 


Screening: M Starting at 7 PM

Zdenko Mandusic


In the Soviet Union, science fiction played an integral part in intellectual debates about the best way to engage with the new realities of the twentieth century. This literary and cinematic genre was thought capable of reinventing the lives, realties and even beliefs of the Soviets. This course will study the cultural, historical, and political contexts of science fiction from the Soviet Union through literature such as Evgenii Zamiatin’s dystopian novel We (the inspiration for George Orwell’s 1984), Ivan Efremov’s The Andromeda Nebula (1956), and the work Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, as well as through films such as Iakov Protazanov's Aelita (1924), the first Soviet science fiction film, along with later imaginings of space travel such as Pavel Klushantsev’s Road to the Stars (1957), and Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972)—a mysterious, human drama set in space. The primary goal of the course is to study how Soviet writers and filmmakers utilizes science fiction to interpret and/or comment upon their present historical moment? What alternatives to Soviet reality were proposed through science fiction? Lastly, how did science fiction texts and films relate to scientific research in the Soviet Union, especially the Soviet space program?


Russian Short Fiction: Experiments in Form

REES 25602 HIST 14001

Tu/Th 3:00-4:20

Kaitlyn Tucker


Russian literature is known for the sweeping epics that Henry James once dubbed the “loose baggy monsters.” However, in addition to the famed ‘doorstop novels,’ the Russian literary canon also has a long tradition of innovative short fiction—of short stories and novellas that experiment with forms of storytelling and narration. This course focuses on such works, as well as the narrative strategies and formal devices that allow these short stories and novellas to be both effective and economical. Throughout the quarter, we will read short fiction from a variety of Russian authors and examine the texts that establish the tradition of Russian short fiction as well as those that push its boundaries. This course will serve as a general survey of Russian Literature, as well as a focused introduction to a particular genre in that tradition. Although predominantly discussion-based, the class will also include short lectures by the instructor to introduce students to the broader historical contexts of the course texts, and to sample diverse theoretical approaches to those texts.


Balkan Folklore                                                                                                     

REES 29009/39009, CMLT 23301/33301, NEHC 20568/30568, ANTH 25908/35908

Angelina Ilieva


Vampires, fire-breathing dragons, vengeful mountain nymphs. 7/8 and other uneven dance beats, heart-rending laments and a living epic tradition.


This course is an overview of Balkan folklore from historical, political and anthropological, perspectives. We seek to understand folk tradition as a dynamic process and consider the function of different folklore genres in the imagining and maintenance of community and the socialization of the individual. We also experience this living tradition first-hand through visits of a Chicago-based folk dance ensemble, “Balkan Dance.”


The Shadows of Living Things: the Writings of Mikhail Bulgakov                       

REES 29021/39021, FNDL 29020

Angelina Ilieva


 “What would your good do if evil did not exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows disappeared? After all, shadows are cast by things and people…. Do you want to strip the earth of all the trees and living things just because of your fantasy of enjoying naked light?” asks the Devil.


Mikhail Bulgakov worked on his novel The Master and Margarita throughout most of his writing career, in Stalin’s Moscow. Bulgakov destroyed his manuscript, re-created it from memory, and reworked it feverishly even as his body was failing him in his battle with death.  The result is an intense contemplation on the nature of good and evil, on the role of art and the ethical duty of the artist, but also a dazzling world of magic, witches, and romantic love, and an irresistible seduction into the comedic. Laughter, as shadow and light, as subversive weapon but also as power’s whip, grounds human relation to both good and evil. Brief excursions to other texts that help us better understand Master and Margarita.


Jews and Christians in the Middle East

BPRO 25400 JWSC 26215,NEHC 20585,RLST 20231

M/W 1:30-3:00

O. Bashkin, A. Heo    


Minorities around the world today invite questions about the prospects of pluralism and tolerance in modern societies. This course will explore these long-studied questions by examining the case of Jews and Christians in the Middle East, as well as its tangled histories with Muslims and Jews in Mediterranean Europe. Co-taught by a historian of Jews in Iraq and an anthropologist of Copts in Egypt, we will explore histories and ethnographies to consider the political, social, and religious dimensions of minority communities. Our syllabus also blends various literary genres and forms of media with academic scholarship to explore various voices in the conversation about Jews and Christians in the Middle East‹from novels, films, and poetry to theological tracts and political treatises. We raise the following questions throughout our course: What terms for coexistence have governed Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the Mediterranean? How are religious practices and traditions linked to histories of rule? How do ideologies (e.g., nationalism, secularism, communism) shape the way minorities understand themselves and how society understands them?


Winter 2017 Language Courses


First-Year Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian

BCSN 10203

M/W/F 10:30-11:20

Nada Petkovic


In the second (winter) quarter of the three-quarter sequence of the First-Year Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (BCS) languages and cultures course, students are encouraged to concentrate on the language of their interest and choice. The major objective is still to build a solid foundation in the grammatical patterns of written and spoken BCS, while simultaneously working with both the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets. 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.


Second-Year Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian

BCSN 20203


Nada Petkovic


The winter quarter of the three-quarter sequence of Second-Year Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (BCS) languages and cultures course assumes students took four quarters of formal study of the target language(s) or 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. The second quarter concentrates more on the verbal system (tenses, moods), as well as on syntax, essay writing, and phraseology. The course is complemented with cultural and historical media from the Balkans, guest speakers, cultural events, and dinner parties. A mandatory 30-minute one-on-one conversation sessions with the instructor is scheduled once a week.


Advanced Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian: Language through Film

BCSN, REES 21100/31103

M/W/F 1:30-2:20

Nada Petkovic


Advanced BCS courses encompass both the 3rd and 4th years of language study, with the focus changed from language structure and grammar to issues in interdisciplinary content. The courses are not in sequence. This course addresses the theme of Yugoslav and Post-Yugoslav identity through discussion and interpretation based on selected films, documentaries, images, and related texts—historical and literary, popular press, advertisements, screenplays, and literature on film. Emphasis is on interpersonal communication as well as the interpretation and production of language in written and oral forms. The course engages in systematic grammar review, along with introduction of some new linguistic topics, with constant practice in writing and vocabulary enrichment. The syllabus includes the screening of six films, each from a different director, region, and period, starting with Cinema Komunisto (2012), a documentary by Mila Turajlic. This film will be crucial for understanding how Yugoslav cinema was born and how, in its origins, it belongs to what a later cinephile, Fredric Jameson, has called a “geopolitical aesthetic.” We shall investigate the complex relationship between aesthetics and ideology in the Yugoslav and Post-Yugoslav cinema, and pay close attention to aesthetic conceptions and concrete formal properties, and more importantly, to language, narrative logic, and style.


First-Year Polish

POLI 10203

MWF 10:30 – 11:20 (Drill sessions to be arranged)

Kinga Kosmala


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.


Second-Year Polish

POLI 20103

MWF 11:30 – 12:20 (Drill sessions to be arranged)

Kinga Kosmala

PQ: POLI 20100 or equivalent. 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.


Third-Year Polish

POLI 20403/ 30403

MWF 12:30 – 1:20 (Conversation hour to be arranged)

Kinga Kosmala

PQ: POLI 20400/305 or equivalent. The process of learning in all three quarters of Third Year Polish will be framed by three themes, which most succinctly but aptly characterize the Polish life, culture and history: in the Fall 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 will also improve their knowledge of advanced grammar and stylistics. All work in Polish.