Literature in Translation Courses Spring 2022

  • LITTRANS 202/204 - Survey of 19th and 20th Century Russian Literature in Translation II

    (3 credits)

    MWF 9:55 am – 10:45 am        Instructor: Andrew Reynolds

    Course Description: This class as a whole has three major objectives:

    1. To acquaint students with some of the major literary movements and writers of 20th-Century Russian Literature.
    2. To acquaint students with the history, culture, and politics of pre-1917 Russia, the USSR, and contemporary Russia.
    3. To introduce students to various critical approaches to the study of literature and to help them read, analyze, and write about complex literary works.

    In addition, the Communications-B sections of this class allow students to work more closely on writing and research. The Teaching Assistants for these sections provide their own syllabus and Course outline.

    “If the Russians are mentioned one runs the risk of feeling that to write of any fiction save theirs is a waste of time.” Virginia Woolf’s famous statement refers above all to the 19th-century Russian realist novelists, but 20th-century Russian literature is also more than worth your attention. The course begins with an introduction to the study of literature and with an overview of some of the specific features of Russian history and culture. The first texts studied are short stories by Chekhov: this allows the students to develop the habits of close reading that should stand them in good stead for the longer works. We then survey the reasons for the revolutions in culture and politics in the period from 1892-1917. Our first novel is Zamyatin’s science-fiction dystopia We, precursor of 1984, Brave New World and countless other works. The themes most central to utopian and dystopian literature will be an important thread running through the semester. Our second novel, Olesha’s Envy, describes the clash of the “old” and “new” ways of life in the young and triumphalist Soviet state and the attempts of a “superfluous man” to find a place for himself in this new society. Nabokov’s novel Invitation  to a Beheading is typical of this writer in its highly metaliterary  and enigmatic narrative  of an “outsider” who is condemned to death by an Alice-in-Wonderland–type world for the crime of “gnostical turpitude”(!); Nabokov argues that this text has little to do with the Soviet and Nazi tyrannies of the time, still less to do with Kafka, though some readers will disagree. Our next novel is often the students’ favorite – the unclassifiable Master and Margarita, with a cast list which includes a large talking black cat, Pontius Pilate and someone whose identity shall remain a mystery for the time being. Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was published in large part to help Khrushchev’s process of De-Stalinization, but this first truthful account of life in the Gulag, like the author itself, soon refused to conform to the “authorized readings” vainly imposed on it, and can be seen as one of the books that helped lead to the collapse of the USSR. Venedikt Erofeev’s Moscow to the End of the Line depicts a different type of resistance to the official “heroic” ideology – alcoholism and anti-social behavior as a form of self-martyrdom. The final text, Sorokin’s Day of the Oprichnik, written in 2006, is a uncannily prophetic dystopian satire on Russia in the year 2028; critics considered that many of the absurdities it portrayed seemed extreme even for Sorokin, and yet today many of the horrors it foresaw have already come to pass. Sorokin’s breaking of virtually all lexical and literary taboos in the depiction of extreme and absurd acts of sex and violence are offered as a way of overcoming the allegedly exhausted traditions of 20th-century Russian Literature.

    This course should be valuable and relevant to anyone studying Russian society or history, and of course for anyone with an interest in literature. These works are also, of course, direct encounters, like all the best works of Russian literature, with the “accursed questions” of life, love, evil, violence, sex, death and the other usual suspects. As always in my classes, the main focus will be on the individual reader’s close encounter with the aesthetics and ethics of these works.

  • LITTRANS 221 - Gogol in Translation

    (3 credits)

    MWF 12:00 pm – 12:55 pm        Instructor: Andrew Reynolds

    Course Description: “When, as in the immortal The Overcoat, Gogol really let himself go and pottered on the brink of his private abyss, he became the greatest artist that Russia has yet produced.”  Vladimir Nabokov

    This course will explore the major fictional texts of Nikolai Vasil’evich Gogol (1809-52) – Ukrainian and Petersburg Tales, The Inspector General, Dead Souls – in an attempt to get closer to one of the most enigmatic and influential writers in world literature  Relevant non-fiction texts will also be introduced when appropriate.  Despite the comparisons to Poe and Kafka or Gogol’s undeniable influence on Dostoevsky and Bulgakov, one thing is certain – his world of laughter and tears is unlike that of any other writer. Are his characters realistic if satirical portraits of his countrymen, or phantoms spawned by his own spiritual torments? Is Gogol a Russian imperialist or Ukrainian nationalist, both, or neither? Is Dead Souls an excoriation of a sad Russia or an evocation of her special destiny as the speeding troika before whom all other nations will give way?

  • LITTRANS 234 - Soviet Life and Culture Through Literature and Art (from 1917)

    (3-4 credits)

    MWF 2:25 pm – 3:15 pm        Instructor: Jennifer Tishler

    Course Descriptions:LITTRANS 234 – Russian Life and Culture Through Literature and Art (1917-1991)” is a survey of Russian artistic, intellectual, social, and popular culture of the Soviet period (1917-1991). It assumes no previous knowledge of Russian culture or language. In this class, students learn to:

    • Identify and summarize important features of Russian cultural history of the Soviet period, with an emphasis on the interaction between politics and culture between 1917 and 1991. 
    • Identify and summarize significant works of Russian “high art” (e.g., painting, literature, film) as well as mass culture or popular culture (the culture of the everyday) and to think about the connections between them. 
    • Demonstrate knowledge about Russian Soviet culture by writing an analytical essay.  
    • Think more critically about the “functions” (artistic, social, and political) of Russian Soviet culture through discussions and writing assignments. 
  • LITTRANS 247 - Multiculturalism in Central Europe

    (3 credits)

    MWF 2:25 pm – 3:15 pm        Instructor: Krzysztof Borowski

    Course Description: When we look at the map of Europe, we tend to think about nations as perfectly encapsulated in their respective nation-states: Germany is where Germans live, French people live within the borders of France, Italians in Italy, Poles in Poland, etc. However, history shows that the opposite is true!
     In this course, we will examine the forgotten world of multiple cultures, languages, and religions. We will explore the incredible diversity of the Central European region throughout the centuries by looking at Poland and the Polish lands as our case study. We will study examples within the following themes: bilingualism, borderlands, ethnicity, minority, nationality, religion, and others. We will discuss and analyze texts from various disciplines, including anthropology, archeology, film, history, literature, linguistics, and sociology. Come and explore the fascinating stories of Central European people with us! 

     Students will engage with course material through small group activities, discussions, lectures, and a collaborative multimedia mapping project. Students will actively participate in the learning process through in-class presentations that expand on the course material. Finally, students will have an opportunity to pursue their interests by researching and preparing a case study on the topic of their choice. 

  • LITTRANS 247 - Escape from Utopia: Cultures After Communism

    (3 credits)

    TR 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm          Instructor: Łukasz Wodsynski

    Course Description: The swift collapse of communist regimes across Central and Eastern Europe came as a surprise to both their opponents and political clients. How did culture mediate the experience of this political, social, and economic revolution? How does the experience of communism shape the historiography, identity, and vision(s) of the future of the affected nations? What is the condition of postcommunism? These are some of the questions we will be exploring as we examine Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Czech, and South Slavic literature and cinema from the decades following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

  • LITTRANS 247 - War and Culture: The Polish Experience

    (3 credits)

    TR 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm          Instructor: Łukasz Wodsynski

    Course Description: Poland and Europe 1914-1945.  Even as we emerge from a devastating global health crisis and face the uncertain future, we find that the traumas, issues, and concepts engendered by two World Wars continue to haunt us, even a century later. We once again find ourselves in difficult times, marked by social, cultural, religious, and economic tensions. In this course, we will examine how cultural texts – including literature, film, theatre, painting and sculpture – produced during, between, and after the two wars – deal with the extreme and everyday experiences, with shattered worlds of individuals, ethnicities, and nations. 

  • LITTRANS 266 - Performance and Power

    (3 credits)

    TR 11:00 am – 12:15 pm        Instructor: Maksim Hanukai

    Course Descriptions: What does it mean “to perform” and what does performance do? How does performance help impose or challenge oppressive structures of power? We will attempt to answer these and related questions by examining a range of performance theories and practices from Russia, Europe, and the United States. Focusing on artists and authors like Sergei Eisenstein, Bertold Brecht, Marina Abramovic, and Pussy Riot, we will learn about political theater in the 20th and 21st centuries, the emergence and evolution of performance art and art actionism, the aesthetic and juridical functions of documentary theater and film, and the recent performative turn in New Left poetry. We will also extend our inquiry beyond art to examine performative practices in modern political and everyday life: show trials, historical reenactment festivals, protests movements, gender performances, collective memory rituals, etc. This course is open to students at all levels. All readings and materials will be available in English.

  • LITTRANS 274 - In Translation: Masterpieces of Scandinavian Literature-the 20th Century

    (3 credits)

    TR 12:00 pm – 12:55 pm        Instructor: Susan Brantly

    Course Descriptions: Can thrillers, science fiction novels, or films be literary masterpieces? Yes, they can! Explore the changing fashions in literature throughout the 20th Century, while you learn important survival skills for the media age. Everybody wants something, so how do you assess what different writers want from you, and what tricks do they use to go about getting it? Through a selection of short texts, novels, and plays, we’ll be learning from some of the best: Nobel Laureates (Knut Hamsun, Pär Lagerkvist), medical doctors (P.C. Jersild), and other provocateurs (August Strindberg, Isak Dinesen, Ingmar Berman, Peter Hoeg, and the rest).

  • LITTRANS 275 - In Translation: The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen

    (3-4 credits)

    MWF 8:50 am – 9:40 am        Instructor: Claus Elholm Andersen

    Course Descriptions: Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales are known all over the world. He wrote The Little MermaidThe Snow QueenThe Ugly Duckling and many, many more. This course to going to familiarize you with the works of Hans Christian Andersen, with an emphasis on his fairy tales. During the course, we will read and analyze some of his best-known fairytales, but also look at a few texts from some of the other genres he mastered. Our readings will include the biographical traits of his stories, but will primarily focus on his mastery of the genre and his complex narrative method. We will also talk about the time and place in which Hans Christian Andersen wrote his fairytales – Denmark in the 19th century ­– and discuss how this influenced his stories. Though his stories/tales might seem simply, they are complex literary artifacts. This course will argue that Andersen should be considered one of the great authors of the 19th century, not just an author of simple fairy tales for children. 

  • LITTRANS 276 - Grimm to Gryffindor: German Fairytales Reimagined

    (3 credits)

    MWF 1:20 pm – 2:10 pm        Instructor: Melissa Sheedy

    Course Description: From wolves to witches, Rumpelstiltskin to Rapunzel, the German fairy-tale tradition is filled with rich imagery, familiar themes, and political and social subversion. Of enduring popularity and as constant subjects of reimagination and revitalization, German tales and their retellings serve as a unique lens through which to view the social, political, and cultural contexts in which they were produced. Through these texts, we will glimpse the underlying perceptions and values regarding family, gender, nation, nature, religion, and society, both in the first half of the 19th century and in the Germany of the last 25 years. With an eye to depictions of gender and gender roles as well as to conceptions of the environment and civilization, we will critically engage with these works and contextualize them within the social and political landscapes that shaped them. Our investigations will center on tales and their retellings in a variety of forms, with a special focus on fairytales by women writers. In recognizing and analyzing the Märchen’s influences in literature, art, music, poetry, and pop culture, we will begin to appreciate the fairy-tale’s enduring legacy and its place within German literary and cultural history. This course counts as a cognate course for the German major.

  • LITTRANS 276 - Global Migrants & Refugees in Literature and Film

    (3 credits)

    TR 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm        Instructor: B. Venkat Mani

    Course Description: You’ve been reading about refugees and migrants on social media and in the news, but don’t know where to start? You have some familiarity with the topic but want to engage with it through literature, film, and music on a global scale? Then this is a course for you.  The main aim of this course is to discuss how migrants and refugees shape and transform the world we live in.  

    Migration continues to be a highly contested topic in the world today. In 2016 the number of people living outside nations of their birth was highest in recorded human history. For 2020, the United Nations’ High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates 82.4 million forcibly displaced people around the world. The Covid-19 global pandemic brought new challenges. Humans living in refugee camps, detention centers, or simply separated from their loved ones due to closing of international travel were impacted all over the world. The proliferation of refugees and stateless people in the world has coincided with the resurgence of exclusive nationalism, and divisive rhetoric centered on securing and insulating borders. In Europe and North America, immigration has defined the demographic make-up of specific nations for centuries. Especially since the end of the Second World War, waves of mass-migration have had a major impact on politics, society, and culture, giving rise to forms of aesthetic expression in literature, film, and music. 

    In this course, we will give human faces to statistics through their stories. We will engage with “migration” as a concept and a lived reality of our world, as a social, cultural, political, and historical phenomenon. In addition to discussing migration as a journey from the nation of birth to the adopted nation of residence we will discuss migration as a multidirectional, multi-lingual movement of ideas. The focus of our course will be migration into Germany, but we will compare and contrast it with migrations into US and UK.  

    What is so special about the German migration history in the 20th century? How does migration change the social fabric of Germany and other European nations? How has migration enriched literature, culture, music, food, and sports? How do racial, ethnic, religious, and other forms of discrimination pose challenges to inclusion of German/ European migrant subjects? What is the difference between willful and forced migration? How do we understand refugee narratives? These and other questions will be central to this course.  

    We will discuss how the understanding of migration in the Euro-American world has changed in the 20th and 21st  centuries. We will analyze how migration as an experience is manifested in literature, cinema, and music, and how issues of identities and difference, tolerance and acceptance, nationalism and cosmopolitanism form and inform societies today. Most importantly, we will explore how categories such as home and elsewhere, the self and the other, belonging and cultural citizenship find expression in contemporary nations. 

  • LITTRANS 326 - The Family: Secrets in Dutch Literature and Film

    (3 credits)

    TR 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm        Instructor: Jolanda Vanderwal Taylor

    Course Descriptions: What makes a family? How can the family support its members, and how do they construct a collective identity? What factors make or a break a family? (Genetics? Shared history? Love? Commitment? Compassion? Shared values? ….) We will analyze well-known, (mostly) recent Dutch novels and films, to discuss their portrayals of different kinds of wonderful and horrible families, and the many kinds of love, joy, intrigue, mystery, and disaster that can occur.  

      As we read and discuss these novels and films, we will consider the role in general of the family in human culture, and we will consider the status of the family in Dutch cultures. Doing so will enable you to learn about diverse citizens of the Netherlands. We will also consider not just which issues the authors of these texts raise and what they say about them, but also how: what literary techniques do authors use to craft these texts, and what do the effects they fashion allow them—and the reader—to accomplish? And because looking at foreign/other families can help put one’s own experience into perspective, our discussions will allow each of us to reflect on and refine or further integrate our own views and values as they pertain to relationships, personhood, and our ideals and responsibilities as members of families and as citizens. 

  • LITTRANS 329 - The Vampire in Literature and Film

    (3 credits)

    TR 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm        Instructor: Benjamin Mier-Cruz

    Course Descriptions: This course explores the historical development of the vampire legend from the 18th century until today, with particular attention to literary works, film, and television. The course will additionally focus on representations of gender and sexuality related to the vampire.

  • LITTRANS 335 - In Translation: The Drama of Henrik Ibsen

    (3 credits)

    TR 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm        Instructor: Dean Krouk

    Course Descriptions: Often considered “the father of modern drama,” the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) is a major figure of world literature whose dramatic works remain fascinating and globally influential, both as texts and through performance and adaptation. Students read and discuss Ibsen in English translation, with a focus on Ibsen’s historical contexts, dramatic techniques, social and political thought, and the reception and adaptation of his work in modern culture. 

  • LITTRANS 345 - The Nordic Storyteller

    (3 credits)

    TR 1:00 pm – 2:15 pm       Instructor: Scott Mellor

    Course Descriptions: Telling stories is as old as time. Folk storytelling, which originate in the distant past, has often been scorned by the literary establishment, but the fact that they survived through centuries of oral transmission until they were finally recorded in the fairly recent past testifies to their lasting existential appeal. The stories these texts tell are dashingly entertaining and often deeply disturbing: they may offer a profoundly fatalistic view of existence, but they may also voice an angry and, at the same time, humorous protest against oppression. When this narrative type was discovered by scholars and the societal elite about 1800, it inspired many first-rank Nordic authors, e.g., Hans Christian Andersen, Henrik Ibsen, Selma Lagerlöf; and in the 20th century it has cast its spell over Isak Dinesen, Villy Sørensen, and Pär Lagerkvist and its influence has moved from literary to other media today. The course examines both the original folktales, its modern “imitations” and literature as well as gives an introduction to the critical methodologies that have recently been developed to deal with this seemingly simple, but in reality, highly sophisticated, narrative.

  • LITTRANS 347 - In Translation: Kalevala and Finnish Folklore

    (3 Credits)

    TR 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm          Instructor: Thomas A. DuBois

    Course Description: This course introduces Finland’s national epic, the KalevalaBased on traditional heroic and romance songs collected by Elias Lonnrot from Finnish and Karelian peasants in the nineteenth century, the Kalevala provides a glimpse of ancient Finnish mythology as well as traditional Finnish agrarian life. We will examine the folklore on which it was based and the literature, film, music, and popular culture it has inspired over the past two centuries with an eye to understanding the ways in which Finns have used the Kalevala to imagine their nation, their ideals, and their aspirations.

  • LITTRANS 435 - The Sagas of Icelanders in English Translation

    (3 Credits)

    TR 11:00 am – 12:15 pm          Instructor: Kirsten Wolf

    Course Description: The course is designed to give students an understanding of saga literature as a genre and of the cultural history of Iceland in the Viking Era and the Middle Ages, based on the interplay between pagan codes of honor and Christian ethics. In addition, students will gain an understanding of the methodological problems involved in studying sagas as historical documents.