Russian, Polish, Czech, and Balkan

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

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