Slavic 158: Topics in East European Cultural History: “Language, Culture, and Politics in the Balkans”

MWF 2-3, 255 Dwinelle. Instructor: Andrew Dombrowski.

Units: 4 Satisfies L&S Historical Studies OR Social and Behavioral Sciences breadth requirement.

Slavic 158 is a Cultural Topics requirement for majors in the East European or Eurasian cultures track in the Slavic department.  This course has no prerequisites and can also be used to fulfill elective credit with a choice of L&S Breadth requirements.

This course uses language as a prism to explore the cultural and political history of the Balkans, a famously multilingual and multicultural region of Europe that has also been the site of considerable warfare and interethnic conflict during the twentieth century. Language is a particularly fruitful lens for examining these issues because it has been highly politicized in this region, so that linguistic claims are frequently deployed in rhetoric about national and cultural conflicts. This concern with language is also reflected in literature and other artistic forms of expression. This course combines linguistic, literary, and historical readings, along with selected films, to address the interplay between language, politics, and culture in the Balkans from the medieval period to the 21st century. Explicit attention is also devoted to ways in which study of these issues in the Balkans can inform our understanding of how language, culture, and politics intersect in other areas of the world. The course format will combine lecture and discussion.

Offered by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, this course is of relevance to students interested in cultural and political history of the Balkans as well as in general problems of sociolinguistics.

Course requirements: regular attendance, short assignments, final presentation, midterm, and final.

Readings include:
Andrew Wachtel. The Balkans in World History. Oxford University Press, 2008.
Luan Starova. My Father’s Books. University of Wisconsin Press, 2012.
Milorad Pavic. Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel in 100,000 Words. Vintage, 1989.
Zoran Zivkovic. Time Gifts. Northwestern University Press, 2000.

Readings on bSpace: a selection of articles on Balkan sociolinguistics, touching on topics such as language standardization, linguistic diversity, linguistic history, language contact, and the interrelationship between language and identity. Authors include Ronelle Alexander, Brian Joseph, Victor Friedman, Robert Greenberg, and others.

Prerequisites: None.