In 2008 Putin quipped to the U.S. president, "you must understand, George, Ukraine is not even a country." That denial of sovereignty later took an ominous turn, with the annexation of Crimea and the ongoing violence in Eastern Ukraine. Most Westerners are perplexed by all this. Aren't they one Slavic people? In fact, their common cultural and political heritage notwithstanding, many Ukrainians bristle at the linguistic, political, and cultural dominance of their Russian "brothers and sisters," while many Russians view Ukrainians as part of their own "nation." But what is meant by "nation?" Looking beyond political structures, status as a great nation was traditionally affirmed by the production of a national literary epic. In this course we will develop a nuanced appreciation for the current conflict through careful attention to each nation's canonical war epic: Taras Bulba by Nikolai Gogol, a Ukrainian who wrote in Russian and is claimed by both nations as their own - and Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace - perhaps the most famous novel of all time, which is set in the years leading up to and during the Napoleonic invasion of Russia in 1812 and the patriotic fervor that ensued. Along the way, we will discuss a few shorter "Ukrainian tales" by Gogol, as well as Tolstoy's early military tales, "The Sevastopol Sketches," which were inspired by his experiences in the Crimean War
All readings and discussion in English.
Satisfies the cultural diversity requirement.
Satisfies the Literary Studies, Creative Writing, and Rhetoric distribution requirement.