Russian and East European Studies

Campus Windows

The Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures boasts faculty that specialize in Balkan, Czech, Polish, and Russian cultural, literary, and linguistic studies. The department emphasizes rigorous interdisciplinary research that aligns well with the goal of many MAPH students. While students can take all of their courses through the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, they may also find relevant coursework in Cinema and Media Studies, Comparative Literature, English Language and Literature, Language Study, and Theater and Performance Studies.

Sample Courses

SLAV 36800 - Balkan Folklore (Angelina Ilieva)
This course is an overview of Balkan folklore from ethnographic, anthropological, historical/political, and performative perspectives. We become acquainted with folk tales, lyric and epic songs, music, and dance. The work of Milman Parry and Albert Lord, who developed their theory of oral composition through work among epic singers in the Balkans, help us understand folk tradition as a dynamic process. We also 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 our visit to the classes and rehearsals of the Chicago-based ensemble "Balkanske igre."

SLAV 37601 - Gender in the Balkans: Sworn Virgins, Wounded Men & Eternal Mothers (Angelina Ilieva)
Through some of the best literary and cinematic works from Southeastern Europe, we will consider the questions of socialization into gendered modes of being – the demands, comforts, pleasures and frustrations that individuals experience while trying to embody and negotiate social categories. We will examine how masculinity and femininity are constituted in the traditional family model, the socialist paradigm, and during post-socialist transitions. We will also contemplate how gender categories are experienced through other forms of identity–the national and socialist especially–as well as how gender is used to symbolize and animate these other identities.

SLAV 35502 - The Russian Novel (William Nickell)
The course will focus on three of the greatest philosophical crime novels in modern literature: Gogol’s Dead Souls, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and Bely’s Peterburg. Together they chart the course of development of the Russian novel, engaging literature’s essential questions, but also its “accursed” ones, as the Russians say—the ones that can never be answered, but provoke the most worthy of sort of debate.

SALV 37100 - From Poland to Popland: Contemporary Polish Fiction (Bożena Shallcross)
In Poland, the divide between high and low strata of culture was not negotiable until the postwar advance of mass culture and technology, facilitated by the void created by the disappearing Polish folklore and social programs such as a systemic building of a classless society. Therefore, this course’s main focus is on the trajectory of negotiations and mutual impact between these two cultural spheres, which in turn created a new set of cultural references and associations. On the one hand, the course offers an analysis of this complex interaction, through cinematic adaptations, between Polish canonical literature and contemporary cinema; while on the other, it discusses the young generation of Polish writers’ recent engagement of youth culture, consumerism, popnationalism, and the standardized subculture of nouveau-riches.

SLAV 39201 - East European Horror Cinema (Malynne Sternstein)
Eastern Europe has menaced the "enlightened" West for centuries. It remains to this day a valuable source for negotiating the West’s phantasies. One need only look at the rich and varied story of the vampire through popular culture from the 18th-century revenant to the 21st-century sex symbol and family man to confirm this fascination. Eastern Europe (and I use this term here to conform to popular discourse) is the West’s necessary construct to enforce the ideation of its own health and weal. In this course contemporary horror film produced both within and without Eastern Europe—and at times in partnership with the “West”—but all with the East as haunt, landscape, and affect are discussed with the West’s and East’s anxieties (social, political, artistic) in mind. Films include Eli Roth’s Hostel franchise, Julie Delpy’s The Countess, Timur Bekmambetov’s Night Watch and Day Watch, Pavel Ruminov’s Dead Daughters, Nacho Cerdà’s The Abandoned, György Palfi’s Taxidermia, and the highly controversial A Serbian Film directed by Srđan Spasojević. 

A complete listing of offerings is available at the Department’s course page.

Selected Faculty

Russian and East European Studies (REES) Option

The Russian and East European Studies (REES) Program Option allows MAPH students to focus on the culture and politics of Central and Eastern Europe, Russian and Eurasian in depth and breadth. The student choosing this option may take courses entirely in REES, but may also choose to support their REES component with courses in areas like Art HistoryCinema and Media StudiesComparative LiteratureTheatre and Performance Studies, or courses from departments in the Social Sciences, such as History, Anthropology, Political Science, or International Relations.

For students entering MAPH with background of study or heritage mastery of a REES language (Bosnian-Serbian-Croatian, Czech, Polish, Russian, etc.) or REES affiliated language (Yiddish, Hebrew, Kazakh, etc.), the REES option may be completed in the MAPH one year course of study. For the two-year degree, REES directed study offers courses in languages of the region, including languages offered outside the Slavic Department, such as Yiddish, Kazakh, Armenian, etc.) For either the one- or the two-year MAPH program, language courses at or beyond the 200-level may be considered as fulfilling requirements for the REES MA option. For the two-year option, it is also possible to count one year of beginning level study of a second language of the region.

Students who complete the following requirements will receive a notation on their MAPH transcript of record of their concentration in Russian and East European Studies:

  • The MAPH Core Course
  • A designated MA REES concentration winter quarter course*
  • Three additional REES courses or approved elective courses
  • Proficiency in a language of the region as determined by short interview or placement examination or, for the two-year language MAPH option (TLO), successful completion of nine language courses according to the TLO guidelines **
  • An MA thesis or project in Russian and European Studies under the supervision of a REES-affiliated faculty member, with approval from the Director of Graduate Studies in REES

*Designated MAPH REES concentration courses in winter 2021-2022: Bożena Shallcross, “The Holocaust Object” or Anne Eakin Moss, “Dostoevsky and Critical Theory”

** Language proficiency may also be fulfilled by summer study. Please see MAPH’s Two-Year Language Option (TLO)

The REES option can work well with the Two-Year Language Option.

TLO and REES

The Two-year Language Option (TLO) was designed for students who require extensive language skills that exceed the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities' (MAPH) traditional one-year curriculum. This language component is ideal for students who are interested in translation studies, need advanced proficiency for admission to a PhD program, or would like to pursue language study to enhance their academic work. TLO students must begin language study at the intermediate level or higher in at least one language.

TLO students take 9 language courses at the intermediate and advanced levels—in addition to the regular MAPH curriculum of 1 Core course, 7 electives, and 1 thesis—over two academic years. Students also have the opportunity to use the three summers of the program for language study on campus or abroad.

How the TLO Works

Year 1

During the first year, students participating in TLO move through the MAPH year in the traditional manner—the required Core course in the fall quarter, seven elective courses, and complete a thesis in the spring quarter. However, MAPH TLO students must devote at least one of their electives to language study every quarter.

Year 2

In the second year, MAPH TLO students take nine courses—three electives and any outstanding language study courses for a minimum of nine language courses over the two years.

Summer Language Study

MAPH TLO students can gain even higher language proficiency by studying language during the summer. Many language courses are offered through the University of Chicago’s Summer Language Institute (SLI), and students may wish to enroll in summer language courses before MAPH begins. During the second and third summers, MAPH TLO students can study abroad or take another course through the SLI. Note: Summer language study does not count toward MAPH required courses.

Sample Course Schedule

Year 1

Summer Quarter 1 (optional)

Fall Quarter 1

Winter Quarter 1

Spring Quarter 1

Summer Language Institute

MAPH Core

Thesis Workshop

Thesis Workshop

 

Language

Language

Language

 

Elective Course

Elective Course

Elective Course

 

 

Elective Course

 

 

Year 2

Summer Quarter 2 (optional)

Fall Quarter 2

Winter Quarter 2

Spring Quarter 2

Summer Quarter 3 (optional)

Summer Language

Institute

Language

Language

Language

Summer Language

Institute

 or

Study Abroad

Language

Language

Language

 or

Study Abroad

 

Elective Course

Elective Course

Elective Course

 

Application Process

In addition to the traditional MAPH application, students interested in applying to the TLO must submit one supplemental document that indicates:

  • which language(s) they would concentrate on
  • academic and professional reasons for studying these languages
  • how many years and at which institution(s) they have studied these languages

Recent Slavic Thesis Projects

"Faust in the Soviet Paradigm; Sigizmund Krhizhanovsky’s “Quadraturin”"
Tania Albin, MAPH '11
Advisor: Daria Khitrova

"'To Identify My Flowers': Deconstructing the Botanical in Lolita"
Jessica Friedman, MAPH '12
Advisor: Malynne Sternstein

"Polish Pavilion at EXPO 2010: Redefining Wycinanki and Folk Art in Poland"
Stephanie Oehrlein, MAPH '14
Advisor: Kinga Kosmala