HIST 318, The Politics of Death: The Living, the Dead, and the State, T 1:20 PM-4:10 PM
This course will explore the intersections between the living, the dead, and the state, focusing on the ways that death and the dead body raise particular questions and problems for different kinds of political regimes. The course will examine the collisions between the state and the dead, both symbolic and material, by investigating spaces where the state and death intersect in revealing ways: cemeteries, cremation, monuments, rituals, and religious institutions and cultures. The course will also follow, borrowing anthropologist Katherine Verdery’s term, “the political lives of dead bodies,” the ways in which states mobilize dead bodies to reconfigure the political order.
HIST/REES 219, Russian and Soviet History, 1881 to the Present, MW 1:20-2:40 PM
Reversals of fortune have defined Russian history perhaps more so than for any other nation. Though the Russian Empire began the 19th century as an emerging European superpower that defeated Napoleon, it ended that same century as a backward state plagued by political, economic, and social strife that ultimately brought the Romanov dynasty to a revolutionary collapse. A similar trajectory describes the “short” Soviet 20th century that began with the promise of a qualitatively new political order that sought to transform social relations and human nature and concluded with a spectacular implosion that some heralded as the end of history itself. This course will follow the story of how the Soviet Union emerged from the ruins of the Russian imperial order to become the world’s first socialist society, the most serious challenge to imperialism, liberalism, and capitalism, and, arguably, modernity’s greatest political experiment. We will cover the following topics: the emergence and fate of Russian national identity; the origins and dynamics of Russia’s revolutions; the political, economic, and cultural challenges of the Soviet project; the role of the party and ideology in politics and everyday life; the nationalities question and the challenges of governing a socialist empire; Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War and the rebirth of the nation (and nationalism); the emergence of the Soviet Union as a Cold War superpower; the country’s historic attempts to reform (and the frequent failure of these attempts); and the dynamics of the system’s collapse.
And if you have advisees who are interested in literature, there are seats available in my course on the Central and East European novel, in which we read some of the greatest works of the 20th century. No prior knowledge of the area or its history is required or presumed.
REES 255, Prague, Vienna, Sarajevo: 20th-Century Novels from Central and Eastern Europe, MW 2:50-4:10 PM
This course is a survey of 20th-century prose fiction of Central and Eastern Europe, with an emphasis on the Czech novel. The novels we will read make history come alive through the eyes of vividly individual characters. In Joseph Roth’s RADETZKY MARCH, the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire is viewed through the lens of a single heartbroken family; in Bohumil Hrabal’s I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND, the Czech experience in World War II and postwar Stalinization is embodied in the figure of a diminutive hotel waiter; Milan Kundera’s THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING refracts the Soviet domination of Czechoslovakia through the traumas and love affairs of a quartet of characters; in Witold Gombrowicz’s TRANS-ATLANTYK and Aleksandar Hemon’s THE QUESTION OF BRUNO, the main characters find themselves in a foreign land when their home countries (Poland and Yugoslavia, respectively) are torn apart by war. All the works we will read exemplify the high level of narrative sophistication, in realist, absurdist, and experimental modes, that is a hallmark of Central and Eastern European literature.