Literature in Translation Courses Spring 2024

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

(3 credits)

MWF 9:55 – 10:45 AM

Instructor: Irina Shevelenko 

LITTRANS 220 - Chekhov: The Drama of Modern Life

(3 credits) 

MWF 12:05 – 12:55 PM 

Instructor: Andrew Reynolds 

Course Description: This course introduces students to the life and works of Anton Chekhov (1860-1904), one of the most attractive and influential figures in Russian (and world) literature. We will study many of Chekhov’s major works (short stories, novellas, and plays) to gain a better sense of what literature is and why it is important to read literary texts. Russian culture is one where literature has always played a central role in the nation’s self-definitions, but Chekhov’s enduring popularity around the globe is evidence of his universal appeal and relevance. His innovations in the art of the short story and drama have changed, perhaps more than those of any other author, the ways modern literature functions and how plays are staged and acted in. One of the main features of this course will be to try to understand how Chekhov’s works are constructed and how they function. At the same time, we will learn much about the Russia of Chekhov’s time and the social, philosophical, and moral questions that concerned him and his contemporaries and their very different responses to what Russian writers call the “accursed questions”. We shall also discover that many of these dilemmas are still with us today; moreover, that Chekhov’s tolerance, objectivity, and empathy are invaluable at a time of increasing ideological polarization.

All readings will be in English.

Prerequisites: None. Open to first-year students.

LITTRANS 224 - Tolstoy

(3 credits)

MWF 11:00 – 11:50 AM 

Instructor: Kirill Ospovat

Course Description: In this course, we read Tolstoy’s lengthier and shorter masterpieces, from War and Peace to The Strider, alongside some of his nonfictional manifestoes. We explore his techniques of representation and ethical stances and traced their evolution through Tolstoy’s long literary career. What were Tolstoy’s objections to sexuality and political reform? What is moral and beautiful? How does civilization and education relate to nature?  What does death say about life? These were some of the questions that we have investigated while reading Tolstoy’s manifold work.

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

(4 credits)

  • LECTURE: MWF 2:25 – 3:15 PM
  • DISCUSSION: T 2:25 – 3:15

Instructor: Jennifer Tishler 

LITTRANS 247 - Women vs Power

(3 credits) 

MW 2:30 3:45 PM 

Instructor: Oksana Stoychuk 

Course Description: Since the early 1990s, there has been an explosion of women’s writing in Central and Eastern Europe greater than in any other cultural period. This is due to the fact that women in this region have experienced more cataclysmic transformations than most of their contemporaries in Western Europe. This course focuses on the question of how women writers have responded to the collapse of communism, searching in their work for new forms of posttotalitarian identities – national, cultural or sexual, creating the new empowered female voices. We will read a number of contemporary Central and Eastern European women writers and trace narrative manifestations of the women’s struggle against different forms of authority: political regimes, religion, cultural hegemony, and patriarchy. In addition to works of fiction, we will read articles, interviews, and other secondary sources to achieve a general understanding of contemporary politics, cultural conflict, and gender roles in Central and Eastern Europe.

Prerequisites: Open for everyone. No knowledge of the German language is required for this class.

LITTRANS 247 - Adventure in Literature and Film

(3 credits) 

TR 1:00 – 2:15 PM

Instructor: Lukasz Wodzynski 

Course Description: How do we define adventure, and who gets to experience it? What role has it played in modern culture? What do adventure stories tell us about our values and changing attitudes to risk and violence? We will address these and similar questions on our intellectual journey through some of the most iconic adventures in Western cultural tradition, from The Odyssey to Indiana Jones, and beyond.

Prerequisites: None.

(The course meets the Literature requirement)

LITTRANS 247 - The Polish American Experience

(3 credits)

MW 4:00 – 5:15 PM 

Instructor: Krzysztof Borowski

Course Description: Polish migration to the Americas, including the United States, has a long and rich tradition. This course surveys the historical, political, and sociological factors that brought millions of Poles across the Atlantic Ocean. Through readings, lectures, and discussions, we will examine the history and cultural legacy of that transnational movement in the Americas in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, the Caribbean, and the United States.

Prerequisites: None. All readings in English. No language knowledge required.

(L&S Credit – Counts as Liberal Arts and Science credit in L&S)

LITTRANS 266 - Queer Russians: Embodied Difference - Art & Politics

(3 credits) 

MWF 1:20 – 2:10 PM 

Instructor: Sara Karpukhin 

LITTRANS 274 - Masterpieces of Scandinavian Literature: The 20th Century

(3 credits)

MW 12:05 – 12:55 PM

Instructor: Susan Brantly

Course Description: 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).

Prerequisites: Knowledge of a Nordic language or consent of instructor

(This course is also offered to majors as SCAND ST 374)

LITTRANS 276 - Reading the Barbarians

(3 credits)

TR 11:00 AM – 12:15 PM

Instructor: Katerina Somers

Course Description: This course is about Germanic barbarians as they have been imagined and reimagined in Europe and North America. Our origins story for the barbarian is Tacitus’s Germania, in which the Roman senator created the fierce and wild-eyed savages who destroyed three Roman legions at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 CE. In the medieval Lay of the Nibelungs, these same barbarians acquire the civilized veneer of courtly manners and opulent wardrobes, but retain their propensity for brutal acts of violence. They are more thoroughly rehabilitated in the centuries to follow, when German-speaking intellectuals cultivate and promote a sense of nationalism in the absence of a German nation. During this time, the barbarian attains a new status, embodied in characters like Siegfried and Brünhilde in Wagner’s four-opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelung and Hermann the German in Heinrich von Kleist’s play, The Battle of Hermann. Yet the myth of the German barbarians, their imagined indigeneity and racial purity, their supposedly ancient and uniquely German culture that reflects the true nature of the Volk, is treated as fact. Even worse, it becomes the template for what all Germans should strive to be. Finally, we investigate the migration of the Tacitean ideal to North America, where it appears in the form of the liberty-loving Anglo-Saxon. We end the course by tracing its influence in the formation of a US-American national identity.

PrerequisitesOpen for all levels including Freshmen.

(Breadth – Literature. Counts toward the Humanities req. Level – Elementary. L&S Credit – Counts as Liberal Arts and Science credit in L&S.)

LITTRANS 276 - Climate Fiction: Literature and Media in the Anthropocene

(3 credits)

TR 2:30 – 3:45 PM

Instructor: Sabine Moedersheim

Course Description: “Climate Fiction “ is an emerging genre of literature, graphic novels, and film exploring the consequences of climate change in the age of the “Anthropocene”, the epoch in which human impacts on the planet’s ecological systems reach a dangerous tipping point. The aim of this course is to discuss the human experience of climate change on a global scale through analyses of works by German authors such as Lutz Seiler, Yoko Tawada, Ilija Trojanow, Christa Wolf as well as writers from around the world, including Margaret Atwood, Octavia E. Butler, Amitav Ghosh, and others. We will explore dystopian, and apocalyptic stories but also works that imagine a more just future of resilience and social equality.

All materials will be in English translations or with English subtitles. Lectures and discussions will be in English. Prior knowledge of German is welcome but not required.

Prerequisites: Satisfied Communications A requirement

(Level: Intermediate. Breadth: Literature. L&S credit type: Counts as LAS credit (L&S). Cross listed: GERMAN 276, LITTRANS 276)

LITTRANS 280 - Grimm to Gryffindor: German Fairytales Reimagined

(3 credits)

MWF 1:20 – 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 324 - Humans and Other Animals in Nordic Literature and Film

(3 credits) 

TR 11:00 AM – 12:15 PM

Instructor: Ida Moen Johnson

Course Description: In Henrik Ibsen’s famous play, The Wild Duck (1884), the animal is often understood as a symbol for the drama’s damaged characters. But is the duck just a metaphor, or is the duck a duck, too? As for the humans in the story: are they people, animals, or both? In this course, we will study Nordic texts that center the animal, from ugly ducklings and charismatic reindeer to Moomintrolls and hobbyhorses. We will also learn from the fields of animal studies and posthumanism, whose lessons are critical at a time when human-made climate change threatens all forms of life on Earth. Through fiction, film, and theory, this course tackles questions such as: Can art created by humans ever be “true to the animal?” How might literature and film help us challenge humanist hierarchies? And, what can Nordic texts teach us about the possibilities and limits of being an animal—including the human kind?

Prerequisites: Sophomore standing

(Counts as LAS credit (L&S))

LITTRANS 326 - Winners and Losers

(3 credits)

TR 4:00 – 5:15 PM 

Instructor: Jolanda Vanderwal Taylor 

Course Description: In this course we will consider a variety of fascinating texts in English translation selected from Dutch language literary offerings that take questions about heroes and anti-heroes, and the notion of success in life, as their topic. The texts we consider will approach these considerations from several different perspectives and vantage points.

We will look at the techniques, devices, methods and structures that writers employ to entertain, amuse and unsettle the reader, to provide an aesthetic experience, to challenge the reader, and to allow readers to consider the “big questions such as:

  • What is success in life? What is the good life? What matters?
  • How do we present ourselves to others, and to ourselves?
  • What is important: outward appearances? A middle-class lifestyle?
  • What does it mean to be honest about oneself, and with oneself? How does a lack of self-reflection or honesty affect the narration of a novel? How does an unreliable narrator function?
  • Why do characters choose different values than those I aspire to?
  • Why do writers decide to select heroes or anti-heroes, winners or losers, as the characters in their fiction?
  • What questions should readers ask themselves and each other?

This course invites its participants to read attentively, to think carefully, and to discuss thoughtfully and vigorously, based on a fascinating body of texts.

Prerequisites: Open for all levels including Freshmen. Taught in English.

(H and L breadth)

LITTRANS 327 - The Vampire in Literature and Film

(3 credits) 

MW 1:20 – 2:10 PM 

Instructor: Thomas DuBois 

Course Description: Explores the development of the vampire legend in folklore, rumor, literature, cinema, television, and popular culture and in relation to topics such as colonization, race, gender, sexuality, and class.

Prerequisites: Sophomore standing

LITTRANS 345 - The Nordic Storyteller

(3 credits) 

TR 1:00 – 2:15 PM 

Instructor: Scott Mellor 

Course Description: 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.

Prerequisites: Sophomore or higher