Armenian 124: Armenian Literature in Social Context

W 2-4, 228 Dwinelle. Instructor: Myrna Douzjian.

Units: 4

Armenian literary production has a transnational history, tied to cultural centers in the Ottoman and Russian Empires, the Soviet Union, the Republic of Armenia, and a global diaspora. This traversal of geographical boundaries forms the basis for the organizational logic of this course, which is focused on some of the Armenian literary masterpieces of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. These texts will offer a lens through which to view the socio-political contexts and cultural legacies that shape the attitudes of Armenian writers, artists, and intellectuals in our contemporary globalized world.

The course will blend short lectures on the texts’ historical and socio-political background with discussions that focus on textual analysis. Several films will complement our discussions of cultural representation in literary texts. We will draw connections between our generically and thematically diverse readings by considering the following questions throughout the semester: How does literature represent Armenia as a nation? What do works of literature suggest about Armenian cultural identity and the identities of various “others”? What is the relationship between culture and politics? How has this relationship evolved? How does literature complicate our notions about cataclysmic experiences (genocide, war, exile, and displacement)?

Texts for purchase (to reduce costs, students may want to purches used copies on
Yessayan, Zabel. My Soul in Exile and Other Writings. Trans. G.M. Goshgarian, Jennifer Manoukian, and Nanore Barsoumian. AIWA Press, 2014. ISBN: 0964878771.
Oshagan, Hagop. Remnants: The Way of the Womb. Trans. G.M. Goshgarian. Gomidas Institute, 2013. ISBN: 1909382086.
Oshagan, Vahe and Ara Oshagan. Father Land. Trans. G. M. Goshgarian. powerHouse Books, ISBN: 1576875482.

Texts to be provided by instructor:
Avetik Issahakian’s Abou Lala Mahari
Yeghishe Charents’s Land of Fire
Shareen Anderson’s Charents: In Search of My Armenian Poet
Aksel Bakunts’s The Dark Valley
Gevorg Emin’s Songs of Armenia
Sergei Parajanov’s The Color of Pomegranates
Shahan Shahnur’s Retreat without Song
Nigoghos Sarafian’s The Bois de Vincennes
Aghasi Ayvazyan’s Props
Violet Grigoryan’s “African Kiss,” “The City,” “Love,” “Harem Rose,” and “Unfinished Ode: Upon the Clitoris”
Krikor Beledian’s “Deviation”
Jivan Avetisyan’s Tevanik
Ronald Suny’s “Soviet Armenia”
Khachig Tölölyan’s “Elites and Institutions in the Armenian Transnation”
Angela Harutyunyan and Eric Goodfield’s “Theorizing the Politics of Representation in Contemporary Armenia”

Prerequisites: None. Readings, lectures, and discussion in English. Students with knowledge of Armenian are encouraged to do at least some of the reading in Armenian.

Requirements: regular attendance; 100-200 pages of reading/week; midterm; oral presentation; and individual project in lieu of a final