Why Choose Slavic Studies?


The Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures welcomes all students curious about Slavic languages and cultures, and is happy to accept late transfers so long as the applicants have already begun language study.

The undergraduate concentration will prepare you for graduate study in Slavic, comparative literature, history, and other programs, but many of our students follow careers in other areas, including medicine, law, business, and government; they find that the experience of learning a language and getting to know a foreign culture greatly expands their opportunities for work and travel. Above all, the concentration seeks to provide intellectual stimulation along with linguistic and analytic skills that will serve students well in their future careers.

Your Slavic tutorials will give you a rigorous introduction to contemporary methodologies of reading texts and studying foreign cultures. All tutorials in the Slavic Department are taught exclusively by full-time faculty.

The sophomore tutorial (spring term only) will introduce students to major issues in the field of Slavic studies, including critical theory, modes of interpreting literary texts as well as visual culture, and the forces structuring national and regional identities.

The junior tutorial, which is taken in the spring term of the third year, is devoted to a single topic and provides concentrators with an intensive reading experience – for example, reading Crime and Punishment in Russian. Students also take one 100-level department course that requires reading texts Russian (or another Slavic language) and this serves as the third tutorial.

Many of our concentrators combine a love of literature with a strong interest in other disciplines, and we highlight the interdisciplinary nature of Slavic studies by incorporating questions of history, politics, and visual culture in our tutorials and other department courses.

In the senior year, non-honors concentrators will design a fall-term capstone project in consultation with the Director of Undergradute Studies (DUS), allowing them to study with a faculty member from the Department and write a 25–30 page senior project. Honors students will work with a faculty member for the entire senior year and write an honors thesis. The Department awards prizes for superior honors theses.

In addition to the required survey course in Russian literature, students are encouraged to use their two elective courses to explore a broad variety of subjects offered by the department, including Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Nabokov, the avant-garde, the culture of St. Petersburg, the literature and culture of Prague, Romanticism and Polish literature, 20th-century Ukrainian literature, the culture of Medieval Rus’, Russian women readers and writers, the Russian theater, East European film, post-realist and post-modernist fiction, and Slavic science fiction. Many of these courses cover aspects of Slavic critical theory (formalism, structuralism, Bakhtin, cultural semiotics), as well as other contemporary theoretical approaches to literature.

Vrtbovská zahrada, one of Prague's most beautiful Baroque gardens image courtesy: Prof. Jonathan Bolton
Study abroad is difficult under current conditions. We are monitoring the situation and we will make recommendations in accordance with current university guidelines. In the past, the majority of our concentrators spent time abroad, typically during their junior year or in the summer after junior year. Slavic Department faculty usually run two summer abroad programs each year, one in St. Petersburg and the other in Prague. Many of our students also study in Russia or Central Europe with other programs such as the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) or the American Council of Teachers of Russian (ACTR). Entrance to these programs is competitive, but Harvard students have traditionally done well. Credit toward concentration requirements is granted to those who successfully complete such programs; in order to receive concentration credit for this or any other external study, the student must receive permission in advance from the DUS.