Russian & Eastern European Studies

2021-2022 Course Offerings

Autumn

REES 21002 /31002 Kieslowski's French Cinema

Krzysztof Kieślowski's The Decalogue and The Double Life of Veronique catapulted the Polish director to the international scene. His subsequent French triptych Blue, White, Red turned out to be his last works that altered his image and legacy to affirm his status as an auteur and a representative of the transnational cinema. We discuss how in his virtual universe of parallel histories and repeated chances, 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 thing-world, often portrayed on the verge of vague abstraction of (in)audibility or (un)transparency, this course bridges his cinema with the larger concepts of postmodern subjectivity and possibility of metaphysics. The course concludes with the filmmaker's contribution to world cinema. All along, we read selections from Kieślowski's and Piesiewicz's screen scripts, Kieślowski's own writings and interviews, as well as from the abundant criticism of his French movies. All materials are in English. (CMLT 24405 / CMST 24405 / CMST 34405 / FNDL 25312)

Bożena Shallcross

REES 27035 /37035 Gender, Agency, and Power in 19th C Russian Literature

When members of Pussy Riot performed their “Punk Prayer” at the Cathedral of Christ Our Savior in Moscow in 2011, heads covered with neon balaclavas, it was as much the scandal of their female bodies in front of the iconostasis as the words of their song that constituted their protest against state and church. This course focuses on similarly scandalous provocations and quieter acts of resistance against normative gender expectations in 19th-century Russian literature. We read narratives of rebellion by individuals and collective actions by groups of women, and consider the surprising agency attributed to women’s cooperative work in Russian literature as well as the heavy burdens placed on women by family, state, and church. Readings include primarily short fiction in a variety of genres (sentimental, romantic, realist, and gothic) by canonized male writers and by women writers of the 19th C who are less often taught and translated, but were widely read in their own day. These works expand our understanding of the narrative possibilities for sexuality and gendered subjectivity in the Russian literary sphere, and of the ways in which possibility itself was made and remade by literary expression. The course also introduces students to methods of literary analysis informed by critical theories of gender, and asks how Russian literary and cultural history may offer new ways of thinking about gendered bodies, performance, and interrelations in the 19th C and today. (GNSE 20118)

Anne Eakin Moss

REES 29013 /39013 The Burden of History: A Nation and Its Lost Paradise

What makes it possible for the imagined communities called nations to command the emotional attachments that they do? This course considers some possible answers to Benedict Anderson’s question on the basis of material from the Balkans. We will examine the transformation of the scenario of paradise, loss, and redemption into a template for a national identity narrative through which South East European nations retell their Ottoman past. With the help of Žižek’s theory of the subject as constituted by trauma and Kant’s notion of the sublime, we will contemplate the national fixation on the trauma of loss and the dynamic between victimhood and sublimity. (CMLT 23401 / CMLT 33401 / HIST 24005 / HIST 34005 / NEHC 20573 / NEHC 30573)

Angelina Ilieva

REES 29024 /39024 States of Surveillance

What does it feel to be watched and listened to all the time? Literary and cinematic works give us a glimpse into the experience of living under surveillance and explore the human effects of surveillance--the fraying of intimacy, fracturing sense of self, testing the limits of what it means to be human. Works from the former Soviet Union (Solzhenitsyn, Abram Tertz, Andrey Zvyagintsev), former Yugoslavia (Ivo Andrić, Danilo Kiš, Dušan Kovačević), Romania (Norman Manea, Cristian Mungiu), Bulgaria (Valeri Petrov), and Albania (Ismail Kadare). (CMLT 29024 / CMLT 39024 )

Angelina Ilieva

REES 29155 /39155 From Chekhov to Chernobyl: Russian Literature of Environmental Catastrophe

What is it that made the fact of anthropogenic climate change “unthinkable” in the 20th century, and what ideas might allow us to think past what Amitav Ghosh calls this “great derangement”? Environmental degradation and disaster provide a steady backdrop to the 20th century in Russia and the Soviet Union. With control over one sixth of the world’s land mass, the Russian and Soviet Empires exploited the seemingly inexhaustible natural resources of the country’s territory via industrialization, collectivization, forced migration and a vast system of prison camps and internal exile. While the Soviet regime promised mastery over nature, and Russian culture valorized the harmonization of humans with the natural world, environmental catastrophe, both sudden and cumulative, proved the folly of those dreams. Though the Soviet narrative of unflagging progress towards an industrialized utopia rendered these follies unmentionable, imaginative literature provides an indelible record of their costs. We will read works by authors who have grappled with this ongoing catastrophe and its implications for relations between human beings and the world. How might the cultural legacies of communism reframe some of the most vital questions for our shared planetary future? We will examine the ecological thinking of writers and filmmakers including Anton Chekhov, Vladimir Vernadsky, Andrey Platonov, Valentin Rasputin, Larisa Shepitko, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Svetlana Alexievich. (ENST 29155)

Anne Eakin Moss

Winter

REES 26012 Introduction to Russian Civilization II

The second quarter continues on through the post-Soviet period. Working closely with a variety of primary sources—from oral legends to film and music, from political treatises to literary masterpieces—we will track the evolution of Russian civilization over the centuries and through radically different political regimes. Topics to be discussed include the influence of Byzantine, Mongol-Tataric, and Western culture in Russian civilization; forces of change and continuity in political, intellectual and cultural life; the relationship between center and periphery; systems of social and political legitimization; and symbols and practices of collective identity. (HIST 14000 / SOSC 24100)

Taking these courses in sequence is recommended but not required. | Faith Hillis, Anne Eakin Moss

REES 20000 /30000 Tolstoy's Late Works

This course examines the works written by Tolstoy after Anna Karenina, when he abandoned the novel as a form and gave up his copyright. Readings include his influential writings on non-violence and vegetarianism, his challenges to church and state authority, as well as later literary works, which some believe surpass the famous novels he had renounced. We will also explore the particularities of Tolstoy’s charisma in these years, when he came to be viewed as a second Tsar in Russia and as a moral authority throughout the world. (FNDL 22850 / RLIT 32900 / RLST 28501)

William Nickell

REES 21000 /31000 Gombrowicz: The Writer as Philosopher

In this course, we dwell on Witold Gombrowicz the philosopher, exploring the components of his authorial style and concepts that substantiate his claim to both the literary and the philosophical spheres. Entangled in an ongoing battle with basic 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 reputations as writers/philosophers, Gombrowicz applied distinctly literary models to the same questions that they explored. We investigate these models in depth, as we focus on Gombrowicz’s novels, philosophical lectures, and some of his autobiographical writings. With an insight from recent criticism of these primary texts, we seek answers to the more general question: What makes this author a philosopher? (FNDL 26903 / ISHU 29405 )

All readings in English. | Bożena Shallcross

REES 27019 /37019 Holocaust Object

In this course, we explore various ontological and representational modes of the Holocaust material object world as it was represented during World War II. Then, we interrogate the post-Holocaust artifacts and material remnants, as they are displayed, curated, controlled, and narrated in the memorial sites and museums of former ghettos and extermination and concentration camps. These sites which—once the locations of genocide—are now places of remembrance, the (post)human, and material remnants also serve educational purposes. Therefore, we study the ways in which this material world, ranging from infrastructure to detritus, has been subjected to two, often conflicting, tasks of representation and preservation, which we view through a prism of authenticity. In order to study representation, we critically engage a textual and visual reading of museum narrations and fiction writings; to tackle the demands of preservation, we apply a neo-materialist approach. Of special interest are survivors’ testimonies as appended to the artifacts they donated. The course will also equip you with salient critical tools for future creative research in Holocaust studies. (ANTH 23910 / ANTH 35035 / ARCH 27019 / HIST 23413 / HIST 33413 / JWSC 29500)

Bożena Shallcross

REES 27025 /37025 Polish Modernist Literature

TBD

Sasha Lindskog

REES 29021 /39021 The Shadows of Living Things: The Writings of Mikhail Bulgakov

“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 the 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 The Master and Margarita. (FNDL 29020 )

Angelina Ilieva

REES 29045 /39045 Dostoevsky and Critical Theory

The tormented, obsessed, and sadistic characters of Dostoevsky’s novels posed a challenge to positivism and reason too scandalous and compelling to be ignored. The novels inspired some of the most brilliant and influential thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the fields of religion, philosophy, psychology and literary theory. We will read two of Dostoevsky’s philosophically challenging novels alongside works by these critics and philosophers, including Nietzsche, Sartre, Freud, Bakhtin, Kristeva, and Levinas. While exploring their ideas about faith and unbelief, madness and reason, violence and torture, society and history, we will also inquire into the relationships among literature, philosophy and biography and examine the processes of influence and adaptation. (CMLT 29045 / CMLT 39045)

Anne Eakin Moss

REES 29071 /39071 Magic Nations

TBD

Angelina Ilieva

Spring

REES 20020 /30020 Pale Fire

This course is an intensive reading of Pale Fire by Nabokov. (FNDL 25311 / ENGL 22817 / GNSE 29610 / GNSE 39610)

Malynne Sternstein

REES 23154 /33154 XCAP: The Commune: The Making and Breaking of Intentional Communities

Any class is an intentional community of sorts: people gathered together with a sense of collective purpose. But often the hopes of students are not met by the content or the methods in the classroom. Can we do better by making the process more intentional—clarifying and developing a collective sense of purpose at the outset? We will start by forming a collective plan on topics to be explored—anything from iconic American communities and Russian communes to memoir studies and economics. Possible projects include creating an intentional community in an off-campus location, designing a communal space, rewriting manifestos, or creating a new communal charter. We can cover anything from economics, space, and gender to the problem of leadership and secular belief systems. We may also want to utilize alternative modes of learning, besides reading and discussing texts, such as roleplaying. A few students in the class have some experience in intentional communities, and we will welcome their input and suggestions. (KNOW 29975)

William Nickell

REES 24220 /34220 Anxious Spaces

This course explores built (architectural), filmic, and narrative spaces that disturb our bearings, un-situate us, and defy neurotypical cognition. In the sense that “angst” is a mode that can be understood as both stalling and generative, we analyze spaces and representations of spaces such as corridors, attics, basements, canals, viaducts, labyrinths, forests, ruins, etc., spaces that are ‘felt’ as estranging, foreboding, in short, anxiety-provoking, in order to understand why—despite or because these topoi are hostile—they are produced, reproduced, and craved. We will pay special attention to abject spaces of racial and sexual exclusivity, sites of spoliation, and of memory and erasure. Among our primary texts are films by Kubrick, Tarkovksy, and Antonioni, and Chytilová, short fiction by Borges, Kafka, Nabokov, and selections from the philosophical/theoretical writings of Bachelard, Deleuze & Guattari, Debord, Foucault, Kracauer, and the edited volume, Mapping Desire, Geographies of Sexuality. (ARCH 24220 / GNSE 24220 / GNSE 34220)

Malynne Sternstein

REES 29009 /39009 Balkan Folklore

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.” (ANTH 25908 / ANTH 35908 / CMLT 23301 / CMLT 33301 / NEHC 20568 / NEHC 30568)

Angelina Ilieva

REES 29035 /39035 Regimes of Love

TBD

Angelina Ilieva