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Spring/Summer Academic Term 2003 Course Guide

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Courses in Slavic Linguistics, Literary Theory, Film, and Surveys

This page was created at 8:24 PM on Mon, Jul 14, 2003.



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SLAVIC 312 / RCHUMS 312. Central European Cinema.

Slavic Film

Section 101 — Race, Ethnicity, and Gender Issues.

Instructor(s): Herbert J Eagle (hjeagle@umich.edu)

Prerequisites & Distribution: A knowledge of Russian is not required. (3). (HU). May not be repeated for credit.

Upper-Level WritingR&EForeign Lit

Credits: (3).

Lab Fee: Laboratory fee ($10) required.

Course Homepage: No homepage submitted.

During four decades of Communist Party rule, the film industries of Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia were under state control. One positive result of this was ample funding for serious films about social and political topics; one serious drawback was the existence of a censorship apparatus which made criticism of the policies of the existing regimes very difficult though not impossible. In certain thematic areas, however, particularly those dealing with racial and ethnic intolerance and with the plight of women in patriarchal societies, filmmakers in East Central Europe were able to be more incisive, frank, and provocative than is generally possible within the profit-driven, entertainment-oriented Hollywood film industry. Even when the regimes' policies left much to be desired, progressive official pronouncements with regard to ethnic and gender issues enabled filmmakers to craft powerful films which the regimes had no grounds to supress or censor. After the fall of Communism, the tradition of questioning the behavior of people and of governments in the region continued. We will view and discuss fourteen films, considering not only their meanings but also how they go about transmitting their themes with power and emotion. The course is organized into three units:

  1. The Holocaust — films depicting how people in East Central Europe reacted to the genocidal plans of the Nazis. The motivations of those who were indifferent to racist policies, or who actively collaborated in their execution, as well as of those who protected or rescued Jews at great personal risk; the reactions of Jews to the nightmare in which they found themselves.
  2. Women's lives under State socialism — the films show women in the work force, but with continued primary responsibility for domestic work and child care plagued by persistant patriarchal attitudes toward sex and marriage; women filmmakers in particular confront these issues uncompromisingly, adopting radical stylistic strategies.
  3. Ethnic violence in the fomer Yugoslavia — films show how political rhetoric enflamed historical political grievances, destroying civil society and leading to tragic violence among Croats, Bosnian Moslems, Serbs, and Albanians. While some are swept up in the irrational hysteria which caused so many deaths, others struggle to mantain humanistic values and peaceful coexistance between peoples of differing ethnicities.

Grades are based on participation in class discussion and three medium-length (6-7 page) papers.

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Graduate Course Listings for SLAVIC.


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