RUSSIAN 358 - Central Asia through Russian Eyes: Cultural Appropriation of an Exotic Land
Section: 001
Term: FA 2009
Subject: Russian (RUSSIAN)
Department: LSA Slavic Languages & Literatures
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Taught in English.
May not be repeated for credit.
Undergrad and Grad
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This course explores key representations of Central Asia in Russian culture from the 19th-21st centuries. It highlights the following topics: how Russia’s conquest of Central Asia contributed the Russians’ quest for national identity; how their perceptions of the region have evolved; and how they positioned themselves in regard to values associated with Muslim culture.

This course addresses a broad range of issues dealing with political stereotypes, national identities, and cultural representations of significant “others.” It approaches 19th-21st century Russian poetry, painting, political, and fictional prose as powerful vehicles that express and convey to the public various interpretations of crucial political issues. We will focus on verbal and fine arts to revel their ideological potential. The course also examines how texts and other artifacts are structured, how style creates meaning, and how art, as an ideological tool, can ultimately transcend the limits of ideology. It familiarizes students with strategies of cultural appropriation of “exotic” lands elaborated by Russians over two centuries, while seeking to show what was universal and what was distinctive in the Russian case. The course discusses literary masterpieces that won international recognition (for example, Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The Cancer Ward and Chingiz Aitmatov’s Farewell, Gulsary!) and contextualizes them historically and ideologically. Topics include love and modernity, the metaphysics of beauty, utopia, metropolis-colony relations, ethnic intolerance, gender, and religious issues.

Russia’s expansion to the East throughout the imperial period provided a cultural, political, and geographical setting for Russian literature and fine arts, dramatically enriching their thematic range. But it also posed challenging questions. Did Russia belong to the East or the West? Could Russians perceive their expansion in terms of Europe’s mission to civilize the “barbaric” world? How did newly included non-Russian ethnic groups helped reevaluate the Russian self? The course will address these fundamental issues by exploring key literary and fine arts representations of Turkmenistan, the conventional name for culturally divergent Central Asian lands conquered in the 1860-1880. We will discuss why and when Russians’ curiosity about the region arose and how their perceptions of its culture have evolved in a changing political environment since the 19th century and into the 21st. Throughout the course, we will highlight how Russian intellectuals’ impulse to construct a national identity for the borderland peoples contributed to the Russians’ own troubled quest for their authentic self. We will also examine how Russians positioned themselves in regard to the social, intellectual, and religious values associated with Muslim culture. Emphasis will be placed on metropolis-colony relations, national identity, gender and religious issues. No prior knowledge of Russian literature, language, or history is required.

Crs Requirements: Attendance at lectures. Participation in class discussions. Grades will be based on mid-term and final exams, 4 papers (7-8 pages each), a class presentation based on one of these papers, followed by sufficient revision of that paper after the presentation and in-class discussion by peers and instructor. The presentation will require an original/creative approach to the material and substantial research on a topic chosen by the instructor.

RUSSIAN 358 - Central Asia through Russian Eyes: Cultural Appropriation of an Exotic Land
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
TuTh 2:30PM - 4:00PM
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