Department of Slavic Languages, Fall 2012

The Department of Slavic Languages is happy to report that interest in Russian is increasing, perhaps because Russia has been so much in the news lately. This fall, for the first time in several years, we had to create a third section of our intensive first-semester course. Enrollments are robust at all levels, from first- through sixth-year Russian, as well as in our English-language literature courses. In fact, three courses (Prof. Fedorova’s Fourth-Level Russian, Prof. Meerson’s Heroines and Anti-Heroes in 19th-Century Literature, and Prof. Morris’ humanities/writing True Fictions) are oversubscribed. We will certainly do everything possible to further this trajectory.

We remain committed to the development of new and interesting courses. Of particular note from Spring 2012 were Prof. Fedorova’s Russian Internet and Profs. Mihaychuk and Sadowska’s Literature of the Other Europe. The former examines the Russian-language Internet as a unique cultural phenomenon playing a pivotal role in virtually every realm of the contemporary society. The latter is devoted to Croatian, Czech, Polish, Serbian, Slovak and Ukrainian literatures, traditions little known to and often overlooked by many Americans. Innovation continues within established courses as well. For instance, this fall students in Fourth-Level Russian are communicating via Skype with their peers at the Russian State University for the Humanities. We have also reviewed and revised the lectures in our team-taught, general-culture courses, Russia A to Z: Parts 1 and 2. We are pleased to report that these courses have attracted students from many different units across the University.

Our recent cultural activities included two major events. In February, 2012, the Department joined forces with Causa Artium to host four winners of Russia’s Debut Prize for young writers. The Debut Prize recognizes the new literature of the new Russia, and since 2008 its laureates have been offered the opportunity to read their works in various international venues. Authors Alisa Ganieva, Irina Bogatyreva, Igor Savelyev, and Dmitry Biryukov read selections from their works. The reading was followed by a lively Q & A session and a reception during which Georgetown students were able to exchange views with the writers. Later in the semester the Department, together with the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies (CERES), organized a poetry reading with Bakhyt Kenzheev, Kazakhstan-born Russian writer. An underground poet in the Soviet Union, one of the founders of the poetic group “Moscow Time,” and a famous figure of samizdat, Kenzheev was published in official Russian literary venues only after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now Kenzheev is translated into Kazakh, English, French, German, and Swedish; besides numerous collections of poetry, he has written five novels. The reading, open to the general public, was also followed by a Q & A session and spirited discussion.

While most of our alumni studied Russian and, indeed, earlier ones knew us simply as the Russian Department, many also know that in the mid-1990s we became the Department of Slavic Languages with the addition first of Ukrainian and then Polish to our curriculum. Below please see the article by Profs. Mihaychuk and Sadowska, to appear in the Fall 2012 FLL Newsletter, on our Ukrainain and Polish programs and students. We cannot overemphasize the importance of this expansion to our academic and cultural missions.

Ukrainian and Polish Studies at Georgetown
(by George Mihaychuk and Iwona Sadowska)

The Ukrainian language program, which began in 1990, is offered on a tutorial basis and provides three levels of instruction: Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced. The course sequence begins with the fundamentals of grammar and moves to increasingly complex language structures and texts (newspaper articles, scholarly articles, literary works) and develops all four language skills. Tutorials at the upper levels can be tailored to students’ specific interests. The program serves undergraduates in the College and SFS and graduate students in MSFS and the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies (CERES), as well as outside professionals. Through CERES, qualified students can apply for U.S. Department of Education Foreign Language Areas Studies (FLAS) Fellowships in Ukrainian language. We continue to offer oral proficiency examinations for Georgetown students as well as students at other area universities.

Since its launch in 2003, our Polish program has risen to offer language, literature, and film studies courses. “Students in the past didn’t know that there’s a statue on campus of a Georgetown professor, Jan Karski, who tried to stop the Holocaust. We’ve changed that,” said Iwona Sadowska, who runs the program and just published Polish: A Comprehensive Grammar as part of Routledge’s leading grammar series.

Students from the Polish program have won six Fulbright Fellowships, two FLAS Fellowships, and numerous Kościuszko Foundation Scholarships for study and research in Poland. Two current students, Alexandra Dudziuk (SFS ’12) and Stephen Szypulski (SFS ’12), were awarded Fulbrights for the 2012-13 academic year. Ms. Dudziuk is applying her expertise in new social media technology to university learning environments in Poland. Mr. Szypulski is studying the role of the Catholic Church as an actor of social change in Poland. Excited about his research, Mr. Szypulski stated, “I have even been able to connect with the outgoing and incoming U.S. Ambassadors to Poland in Warsaw, both former Hoyas.”

As the only university offering a Polish program in Washington, D.C., Georgetown draws students from other universities across town. Through close working relationships and co-hosted events with the Embassy of the Republic of Poland, the Jan Karski Institute, and the Kościuszko Foundation, the Slavic Department and CERES have established Georgetown as Washington’s center of Polish cultural studies.