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 understanding of the current conflict through careful attention to each nation's classic war epic: Gogol's Taras Bulba and Tolstoy's War and Peace. We will also compare film adaptations, consult digital mapping projects, and track events unfolding on the contested Crimean peninsula and on the battlefields of Eastern Ukraine.
All readings and discussion in English.
Satisfies the cultural diversity requirement.
Satisfies the Literary Studies, Creative Writing, and Rhetoric distribution requirement.