Slavic 39F: Balkan Cultures

Tu 2-5, 179 Dwinelle. Instructor: Ronelle Alexander.

Units: 3 Satisfies L&S International Studies OR Social & Behavioral Sciences breadth requirement.

Instructor’s email:

The Balkans as a region have always fascinated Westerners, ranging from intrepid eighteenth- and nineteenth-century travelers seeking the exotica of “Turkey in Europe” to their modern cohorts who become enamored of Balkan culture, and especially its music–a fascination so great that a group of middle-aged and elderly Bulgarian women who were known at home as The Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir could be marketed in the West as “Le mystère des voix bulgares” (The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices), win a Grammy, and have their songs used on the soundtrack of Xena: Warrior Princess. But the Balkan region is fascinating in a negative sense as well, that sense which has given our language the verb “to balkanize”, defined by Merriam-Webster as “to break up (as a region or group) into smaller and often hostile units”.

This class will approach the idea of “the Balkans” through three different aspects of Balkan culture: literature, folklore, and music. All interested students are welcome, both those with a Balkan background and those who know nothing about the area.

Requirements: Attendance, participation in discussion, three short papers, final class project.

Partial reading list:

Andric, The Bridge on the Drina

Holton & Mihailovich, Songs of the Serbian People

Kadare, The Three-Arched Bridge

Rice, Music in Bulgaria

Starova, My Father’s Books

Wachtel, The Balkans in World History

Prerequisites: none