2016-2017 Literature and Culture Courses


Spring 2017 Semester

Slavic 97: Tutorial (Sophomore Year)
Prof. Aleksandra Kremer
Fridays, 2-4pm
An interdisciplinary introduction to major issues in the field of Slavic Languages and Literatures, including critical theory, modes of interpreting literary texts, the forces structuring national and regional identities, as well as great authors of the Slavic literary traditions, including Russian, Czech, and Polish works.

For concentrators in Slavic Literatures and Cultures. Open to non-concentrators provided they contact the instructor before the beginning of the semester.


Slavic 148: Strange Russian Writers
Prof. Stephanie Sandler
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11 - 12 noon
Studies Russia's rebels, deviants, martyrs, loners, and losers as emblems of national identity. Stories, films and poems that project Russia's distinctive obsessions with history and religion. Includes Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Leskov, Kharms, Platonov, Nabokov, Petrushevskaya, Prigov; films by Eisenstein, Tarkovsky, Askoldov, Sokurov.


Slavic 151: Gogol
Prof. William Mills Todd III
Wednesdays, 2-4pm
Close reading of Gogol’s narrative, dramatic, and non-fictional texts. We will be paying close attention to the verbal aspects of Gogol’s comic imagination, so a good reading knowledge of Russian is essential. From here we will discuss the temporal, spatial, and spiritual ramifications of Gogol’s peculiar world and its creative response to contemporary cultural, historical, and national issues. The course will also examine the development of Gogol criticism with weekly assignments and discussions.


Slavic 174a: Miłosz and America
Prof. Aleksandra Kremer
Wednesdays, 3-5pm
Czesław Miłosz spent almost half of his life in the United States, translated selected American poems, and maintained different personal contacts with American intellectuals. However, numerous roles that he played in the US as a professor of Slavic literatures, poet, essayist, translator, editor, and Nobel Prize winner, were mostly aimed at explaining and promoting his own cultural and historical background. His presentations of East-European heritage and his vision of poetry were built with American audience in mind and frequently in opposition to his convictions about Western culture. We will discuss diverse texts revealing different (often contradictory) faces of Miłosz as a poet who tried to control translations of his poems and his reception, as a teacher of Polish literature and promoter of Polish poets, as an interlocutor and correspondent of Brodsky and Merton, as a critic of the West, as a speaker at Harvard, as a translator of Eliot and Whitman, or as an author dedicating his texts to Ginsberg and Lowell. We will also study the recognition that Miłosz gradually won in the US and his impact on English-language poets, such as Hirsch, Hass, and Heaney. All readings will be available in English.


Slavic 185: 18th-Century Russian Literature: Seminar
Prof. Daria Khitrova
Mondays, 12-2pm
A survey of major authors and key questions in 18th-century Russian literature: (r)evolutions in literary language; syllabo-tonic reform; style and genre systems; the status of literature in the Imperial state, etc. Studies Prokopovich, Trediakovsky, Lomonosov, Sumarokov, Fonvizin, Derzhavin, Bogdanovich, Karamzin.


Slavic 195: East Central European Novel after World War II
Prof. Jonathan Bolton
Tuesdays, 2-4pm
Writers from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Romania have imagined their region as one of multicultural harmony and murderous ethnic cleansing, as home to Europe’s most debased forms of evil and most inspiring spirit of resistance, as Europe’s neglected backwater and its true conscience. For Milan Kundera, Central Europe was the kidnapped conscience of the West; for György Konrád it was a subversive dream, for Josef Kroutvor a melancholy grotesque. What holds these contradictory identities together? This seminar will introduce you to some of the classics of Central European literature after World War II, including authors such as David Albahari, Thomas Bernhard, Elias Canetti, Bohumil Hrabal, Ryszard Kapuściński, Danilo Kiš, Milan Kundera, Norman Manea, Sándor Márai, Czesław Miłosz, Herta Müller, Magda Szabó, and others. We will ask how these writers can be understood in a regional context rather than a national one, and we will examine some key themes of the modern Central European novel (including war and occupation, the encounter with Communism, emigration and exile, the interplay of personal biography and national history, and the encounter between artists and the state). All readings available in English.


Slavic 199hfb: Russian Culture in Performance
Prof. Julie Buckler, Prof. Daria Khitrova, and Prof. Stephanie Sandler
A one-time only, collaborative course organized around the October, 2016 performance at Harvard of Petersburg’s Bolshoi Drama Theater’s production of The Visible Side of Life, a one-woman play about the poet Elena Shvarts. This is a year-long course, for four credits. The course will meet for four 90-minute sessions in fall, 2016 to discuss traditions of performing poetry in the theater; the history of the Bolshoi Drama Theater; Russian performances as a research topic; Russian poets’ styles of reading; poetry performance across media; and the poetry of Elena Shvarts, particularly its dramatic aspects. The goal of the fall semester sessions will be to prepare students for the theater performance of The Visible Side of Life; to build a foundation for students to do academic work in performance studies; and to formulate research questions on adaptation, transformation, translation across media and art forms.

In Slavic 199hfb (offered in Spring 2017), students will work on independent projects under the supervision of a faculty member. Collaborations, curated web sites, performances, performance proposals, conference presentations, and traditional seminar papers will all be welcome. The spring semester will end in a celebratory gathering for participants to share their work.

Slavic 199hfb

Slavic 280r: Slavic Culture: Seminar
Prof. Michael Flier
Thursdays, 2-4pm
The Culture of Medieval Rus': Art, Architecture, Ritual, Literature.


See also a list of General EducationHumanities, and other related courses as well as Freshman Seminars offered by our faculty.