November 2, 2009

Team-Taught Course Will Merge Russian Art, Culture, and History

Students will learn from experts in two disciplines and free, weeklong trip to Russia

A new team-taught course will provide students with a look at Russian and Eastern European art, government, history, literature, music, and religion, both in and out of the classroom. The interdisciplinary class, which includes a free trip to Russia, will allow students to experience the country firsthand. The course is supported in part by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

History, Art, and Culture of Russia and Eastern Europe, taught by Joshua Sanborn, associate professor of history, and Ida Sinkevic, associate professor of art, will allow students to learn from experts in two different disciplines in the same classroom.

“The lectures will go beyond the limits of our individual fields and will combine aesthetic and structural values of works of art and buildings with the historical and political circumstances under which they were made,” says Sinkevic. “Thus students will be awarded an extraordinary opportunity to study a foreign culture in a complex, multifaceted, and yet approachable way.”

Each week, students will cover a different area of history–reading literature, viewing slides, listening to music, and discussing social and political developments. They will read works from great Russian writers, examine religious culture and architecture, and learn about life in modern Russia and Eastern Europe. In addition, other Russian and East European studies faculty members will contribute to the class with suggested topics and readings and by being guest lecturers.

The trip to Russia will take place during spring break from March 12-20 and will feature visits to Moscow and St. Petersburg. Some of the highlights will be Red Square, the Kremlin, and the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, and Nevskii Prospekt, the Hermitage Museum, and the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. The trip is being paid for by a generous gift from the parent of a student.

“There are many ways that the course content and the trip will be integrated,” says Sanborn. “We will be studying the history and architecture of the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg in the weeks immediately prior to the trip, and those will be fresh in the minds of our students.  In addition, the art portion of the course will be dramatically strengthened by the opportunity to spend extended time in two major Russian museums.”

Another way in which the academic and practical components of the course will be combined is through a group project. Students will develop a project idea in the first half of the semester that will be pursued while in Russia.

“These projects can range from photojournalism on life in Russia’s big cities to projects on the political attitudes of youth, to studies of 18th century architecture, to an essay on Leo Tolstoy’s presence in modern Moscow,” says Sanborn. “In this way, the time in Russia will not just be a tourist experience, but an organic part of the course itself.”

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