Autumn Courses in Balkan Literature and Film

Strangers to Ourselves: Émigré Literature and Film from Russia and South Eastern Europe
SOSL 26900, SOSL 36900, RUSS 26900, RUSS 36900, CMLT 26902, CMLT 36902
The taste of a very ripe juicy tomato. The smell of mom’s cooking coming from the kitchen. The timbre of my brother’s voice. The fluid cadence of my native speech. The caress of eyes who have known me since I was born. And their venom.

The authors whose works we are going to examine often alternate between nostalgia and the exhilaration of being set free into the endless possibilities of new lives. Leaving home for them does not simply mean movement in space. Separated from the sensory boundaries that defined their old selves, immigrants inhabit warped time in fragmentary, disjointed selves. Immigrant writers struggle for breath – speech, language, voice, the very stuff of their craft resounds somewhere else. Join us as we explore the pain, the struggle, the failure and the triumph of emigration and exile. Vladimir Nabokov, Julia Kristeva, Alexander Hemon, Vassily Aksenov, Dubravka Ugrešić, Tea Obreht, Milcho Manchevski, Norman Manea

The Other within the Self: Identity in the Balkans through Literature and Film
This two-course sequence will examine discursive practices in a number of literary and cinematic works from the South East corner of Europe through which identities in the region become defined by two distinct others: the “barbaric” Ottoman and the “civilized” Western European.

Part One:
Returning the Gaze: The Balkans and Western Europe
SOSL 27200, SOSL 37200, CMLT 23201, CMLT 33201, NEHC 20885, NEHC 30885

Why should we study the Balkans? Fascinating in itself, the area can also provide insights into the intricately connected power and identity dynamics between the “West” (as the center of economic power and normative, civilized humanity) and the “Rest” (as the poor, backward, and often violent periphery). “Returning the Gaze” investigates the complex relationship between South East European self-representations and the imagined Western “gaze” for whose benefit the nations stage their quest for identity and their aspirations for recognition. We will focus on the problems of Orientalism, Balkanism and nesting orientalisms, as well as on self-mythologization and self-exoticization. We will also think about differing models of masculinity, and of the figure of the gypsy as a metaphor for the national self in relation to the West. The course will also consider the role that the imperative to belong to Western Europe played in the Yugoslavian wars of succession. We conclude with Orhan Pamuk’s contemplation on the relation between Turkey and Western Europe in his Nobel Prize novel Snow. Territorially spread between Southeastern Europe and Asia Minor and bidding for EU membership, Pamuk’s Turkey puts the problems of gazing and being gazed at in even starker hues and opens up the concerns of the course beyond the specificity of the Balkans and to the broader definition of “the Rest” returning the gaze of “the West.”

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