Understanding Russia through Film – Writing Intensive

3 credits


College of Arts and Science

How does the Russian-speaking world see itself? Europe and the United States have often viewed Russia as “other,” and sometimes as an enemy or a backwards civilization. Some have viewed Russia as an “enigma,” soulful and not fit for this world. In this course we will use film to explore how Russian speakers themselves understand Russia. We will watch 14 major Russian-language films from the post-Soviet era (starting in 1991) that depict moments in Russian history from the middle ages to the present. And we will critically consider what these representations of Russian history and culture suggest about Russian identity today. We will pay special attention to how Russian-language films present difference (ethnic, political, religious, gender, sexual, etc.), or “otherness,” as a way of defining national identity. And we will analyze the relation of national identity constructs to social inequities. We will consider how films present groups of people within a society as “other”; how films present difference across Russian-speaking nations; and how Russia imagines itself as “other” or as a marginalized outsider. The course may be offered face to face OR in an asynchronous online format. For both versions, assignments will include watching films and responding to them in individual and small-group modes; taking open-book quizzes on brief lectures on Russian history and culture; and collaborating on a final group project to curate and create a webpage for a Russian-language film series. Students will gain foundational knowledge of Russian history and culture; will practice critical thinking through analyzing films in individual and collaborative modes; will develop written and oral communication; and will develop skills in intercultural fluency as they engage with Russian culture in its diversity.