Professor Emily Van Buskirk MTh3

As historian Drew Faust has noted, “Only a story of purpose and legitimation can transform random violence into what human convention has designated as war.” In this course we study the experience of “war” as described in Russian- and Ukrainian-language short stories, novellas, poetry, diaries, memoir, and film, from the nineteenth century to Russia’s present war of aggression in Ukraine. How do narratives give voice to experiences of war, and represent what these experiences signify? A special focus of the course will be the Second World War, in which the Soviet Union triumphed while suffering unspeakable losses (roughly 26 million deaths). We will seek to understand not only how this war was experienced, but also how its memory cult has developed, and how it has lately been instrumentalized in reference to Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine. We will also reflect on poetry and prose by Ukrainian and Russian authors in our own day, documenting and representing the largest land war to afflict Europe since 1945. Throughout the course, the topic of war will serve as a window onto culture, values, memory, and literary politics.

All readings and discussions in English. No prerequisites. Fulfills WCr.