Foreign Languages, Cultures, and Literatures
Olga Voronina (director) and Stephanie Kufner (coordinator), Matthew Amos, Franco Baldasso, Nicole Caso, Odile S. Chilton, Robert L. Cioffi, Lauren Curtis, Ziad Dallal, Elizabeth N. Holt, Jason Kavett, Franz R. Kempf, Marina Kostalevsky, Patricia López-Gay, Oleg Minin, Melanie Nicholson, Karen Raizen, Dina Ramadan, James Romm, Nathan Shockey, Wakako Suzuki, Éric Trudel, David Ungvary, Marina van Zuylen, Thomas Wild, Liu Xia, Li-Hua Ying
At Bard, the study of a foreign language provides students with the opportunity to acquire a critical appreciation of foreign cultures and literatures in addition to language skills. Integral to the process is the mastery of the foreign language and its use in the study of written texts—not only literature, but also texts from such fields as philosophy, history, and theology—and of nonverbal expressions of culture such as art history, music, and cinema.
Languages currently taught at Bard include Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, and ancient Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit. Bard maintains a state-of-the-art language facility, the Center for Foreign Languages and Cultures, at the F. W. Olin Language Center, which offers the Bard community many different ways to explore foreign languages and cultures outside the regular language and literature classes. See flcl.bard.edu/resources/center for more details.
Most of the languages taught through the Foreign Languages, Cultures, and Literatures (FLCL) Program offer an intensive format that allows students to complete the equivalent of one and a half years of language study within just a few months. Such courses include a one- or two-month summer or winter program in a country where the target language is spoken. After studying abroad, students demonstrate an impressive increase in linguistic capacity. They also gain cultural knowledge, and the exposure to different manifestations of cultural activity makes them aware of the interrelatedness of diverse disciplines. Most students choose to continue their path toward linguistic and cultural fluency by taking courses at the intermediate and advanced levels.
While each area of language study has its own intellectual and academic plan, all are connected by the study of literature and other cultural expressions through the medium of language. Students are free to work with the languages and texts of more than one culture; thus they can combine the plans of more than one language for Moderation and in their Senior Project. Moderation requirements may vary depending on the focus language; students should refer to information provided by the specific area of study. For all FLCL students, a Senior Project can be a purely literary project (typically involving critical interpretation and translation) or any combination of literary and nonliterary expressions of a given culture.
Recent Senior Projects
- “Bodies Inscribed in the Landscape: Poetic ‘Exhumations’ of Chile and Argentina’s Desaparecido”
- “Love, Loss, and Liminality: Classical and Medieval Perspectives on Orpheus and Eurydice”
- “Mexican Nationalism in Ignacio Manuel Altamirano’s Clemencia”
- “Questioning Authority: An Exploration of Montaigne and Borges”
CoursesThe descriptions below are a sampling of courses from the past four years.
This course focuses on speaking, reading, writing, and comprehension skills in Modern Standard Arabic, the form of Arabic shared by all Arab countries. Emphasis is also placed on authentic resources that derive from the most updated cultural contexts, realities, and creative work of the Arab world. Topics include gender issues, the role of the media, and Arab-Muslim and Arab-Christian traditions.
The focus of this course is on developing a significant level of linguistic and communicative competence. The basic language skills—reading, speaking, listening, and writing—are dealt with simultaneously. Selected texts from Arabic media are read to expand active and passive lexicon and grammatical structures. Prerequisites: Arabic 101 or at least one year of Modern Standard Arabic and consent of the instructor.
Students learn more complex grammatical structures and expand their vocabulary through extended readings and the use of audio and video materials. They also read selections from Arabic literary journals, with a particular focus on poetry and prose from the 1950s and 1960s.
Modern (Mandarin) Chinese is introduced through intensive drilling in oral and written forms. Emphasis is placed on speaking, basic grammar, and the formation of characters. This course is followed by an intensive course (8 hours per week) in the spring and a summer immersion program (6 weeks) in China.
For students who have completed Chinese 101 or the equivalent. The focus is on the language’s oral and written aspects. Regular work in the language lab and private drill sessions with the Chinese tutor are required. This course is followed by a summer immersion program in China.
Theater and Performance in the Chinese-Speaking World
An introduction to Chinese-language theater from the early modern period to contemporary times in China as well as the diaspora, centering on avant-garde performances. The class examines the interwoven relationships among the state, politics, identity, and performance, and in particular it investigates how, despite the state’s efforts to define artistic creativity, the theater has always defied the status quo.
Echoes of the Past: Chinese Cinema and Traditional Chinese Literature
This course eschews a chronological coverage of Chinese literature and culture in favor of examining touchstone texts from premodern Chinese literary traditions and analyzing how their legacy is drawn upon, appropriated, and reinvented in contemporary cinema. Canonical texts include poetry, historical writings, and fictional narratives; films include works by such influential directors as Wong Kar-wai, Ang Lee, Zhang Yimou, Jia Zhangke, and Lu Chuan.
The Chinese Novel
Students read The Story of the Stone (aka Dream of the Red Chamber), which one-fifth of the world considers to be the best novel ever written, and discuss it both as literature and as cultural artifact.
Advanced Chinese I-II
These courses are for students who have taken the equivalent of five semesters of basic Chinese at Bard or elsewhere. The goal is to expand students’ reading and speaking capacity and enrich their cultural experiences. Texts may include newspapers, journals, and fiction.
Chinese Fantastic Tales
Students read tales written in classical Chinese as well as their renderings in modern Chinese. Texts are selected from well-known classical works such as Zhuang Zi, Lie Zi, and Huainan Zi, written in the pre-Qin and Han Dynasties. Stories written in later periods (Tang through Qing), such as Liaozhai Zhiyi, are also included. By reading the classical form and its modern translation, students are able to compare the similarities and differences between ancient and modern Chinese language. Prerequisite: two years or more of Chinese.
Chinese Pop Culture
For students who have studied Chinese for at least three years. The course examines aspects of contemporary popular culture in China, including print culture, cinema, television, pop music, visual arts, fashion, advertising, and cyberculture.
his course provides a foundation in the grammar, diction, and style of Classical Chinese (also called Literary Chinese), the operative language for more than two millennia of China’s literary traditions. The earliest materials covered are texts from the Warring States period (c. fifth century b.c.e.). Students work directly with original texts of historical narrative, philosophy, and poetry, becoming conversant with premodern writings as well as literary elements that are part of modern written Chinese. Prerequisite: two years of Chinese or Japanese.
Reflections of China in Film
With the primary goal of enhancing speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills, this course examines films from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, exploring such topics as the origin of Chinese cinema, nationalism and revolution, cinematic representation of contemporary and historical themes, the search for roots in the post-Mao era, the Fifth Generation and experimental fiction and film, Hong Kong popular culture in the commercial age, feminism and sexuality, and representations of exile, diaspora, and the new immigrants. Conducted in Chinese.
Classics 100 / History 100
See History 100 for a full course description.
Introduction to Greek Tragedy
An introduction to the texts and traditions of Greek tragedy, which flourished in Athens during the fifth century BCE. Close study of the major plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides (in English translation) gives students familiarity with the genre of tragedy as a complex art form and, in particular, as a vehicle for the transmission of core Western values—moral, political, and aesthetic.
The Greek World: An Introduction
This introductory course explores the social, cultural, and political history of the Greek world from its earliest beginnings in the Bronze Age to the “renaissance” of Greek literature and culture under the Roman Empire. The class examines the creation of political forms (from democracy to tyranny), contacts and conflicts between Greece and the East, the rise and fall of world empires, and the invention of literary genres. Materials studied include vase paintings, inscriptions, and texts by Aeschylus and Aristophanes. All readings in English.
The Roman World: An Introduction
An exploration of the social, cultural, and political history of Rome from its earliest beginnings as a small city-state to the dominant imperial power that still influences the language we speak, the art we make, and the laws we follow. The class considers a range of literary, visual, and material primary sources: inscriptions, coins, wall paintings, archaeological data, and texts such as Virgil’s Aeneid, Livy’s history of Rome, and Pliny’s Letters. All readings in English.
Homer for Beginners
The Iliad and Odyssey of Homer (c. eighth century BCE) are the twin pillars upon which the Western literary tradition stands. Between them, they explore issues of human life and civilization that have remained central ever since: mortality and heroism; the relationships between the human and the divine, men and women, free will and fate; the confrontation between European and other cultures; and the nature of poetry, tragedy, and comedy. This course consists of an intensive reading of both epics in their entirety.
Virgil for Beginners
What is the greatest long poem in the Western tradition? Far more voices, over far more centuries, have spoken for Virgil’s Aeneid than for Homer’s Iliad, Dante’s Commedia, or Milton’s Paradise Lost. The class reads the Aeneid twice; the first time in Robert Fitzgerald’s 1983 translation and, after a break, in the 2017 translation by David Ferry. Between readings, students consider the historical background of the poem’s composition and read Virgil’s earlier works, the Eclogues and Georgics.
In the fifth century BCE, Athens developed from a small, relatively unimportant city-state into a dominant power in the Aegean basin. This course confronts some of the ambiguities and tensions (slavery, exclusion of women and noncitizens from political power), as well as the glories, of Athenian art, literature, and history during this period. Designed primarily for first-year students.
Alexander the Great
Classics 201 / History 201
See History 201 for a full course description.
Early Greek Philosophy and Science
This course looks at the principal pre-Socratic philosophers—Parmenides, Empedocles, Heraclitus, Anaxagoras, Democritus—with respect to developments in Greek religion and science as well as to the history of philosophy. Scientific themes include astronomy and the theory of evolution.
Gender and Sexuality in the Ancient World
Classics 211 / History 211
See History 211 for a full course description.
The Age of Augustus:Poetry, Politics, and Power
CROSS-LISTED: HISTORICAL STUDIES, LITERATURE
An exploration of the Age of Augustus in Rome as represented in the period’s literature. Readings, all in English translation, are drawn from the poets Virgil (epic), Horace (lyric), and Ovid (elegy and epic), and from prose authors including Livy and Tacitus (historiography), Suetonius (biography), and the emperor himself (autobiography).
Greek Religion: Magic, Mysteries, and Cult
Classics 2361 / History 2361
An examination of the ways in which polytheism was practiced and conceptualized by the ancient Greeks from the Mycenaean period into the Hellenistic era. The course emphasizes the ritual aspects of Greek polytheism through the analysis of religious institutions, beliefs, and rites in their wider sociocultural contexts. Literary expressions of Greek religion (the connection between myth and religion, for example), and the ways in which Greek religious beliefs and practices profoundly affected the development of Greek culture and history, are also explored.
What is the meaning of our mythologies? How do we understand and interpret traditional stories about the past? What is the relationship between mythology and history? This course seeks to answer these questions by examining selected myths of ancient Greece and Rome and applying to them theoretical approaches to interpreting myth. Topics include origin myths, Greek gods and heroes, war, the human-divine relationship, madness, divine love and lust, death and the afterlife, and Greco-Roman mythology in its wider Mediterranean context. Readings in English translation.
Poetry and Athletics
The meanings to be seen in athletics have stirred the meditations and praises of poets in many cultures and genres. This course looks at the strange intersections of the physical, social, and sacred we still recognize in sports. Readings include case studies of the wedding of poetry to athletics in still thriving Oceanic cultures; victory odes for the ancient Greek games, principally those of Pindar; and sports poetry in Europe and the Americas, ranging from bullfighting and capoeira to baseball.
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
CROSS-LISTED: HISTORICAL STUDIES
Students read the first 50 (of 71) chapters of Edward Gibbon’s masterpiece, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, as well as the last chapter, “Four Causes of Decay and Destruction,” pausing at points to consider theories that supplement or contradict history as to the “true causes” of Rome’s decline and fall. Some of these theories are by early 20th-century scholars, some from recent books and articles.
The Epic in European Literature
A grasp of epic poetry—its techniques, themes, structure, and ideology—is fundamental to the understanding of the European literary tradition. This course examines the evolution of the epic from Homer (eighth century BCE) to Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667). The first half of the semester is devoted to the classical epic: the Iliad, Odyssey, Theogony, Argonautika, De Rerum Natura, Aeneid, and Metamorphoses. The second half traces the epic across the map of Europe: Beowulf, Chanson de Roland, Neibelungenlied, Divine Comedy, Orlando Furioso, and Paradise Lost.
The Invention of Difference
The literatures of the classical world—the Persian Empire, Egypt, Ethiopia, and India—were concerned with the representation of other peoples, places, and cultures. How did ancient writers think about difference? What is the relationship between structures of power and the literature of difference? This seminar explores the invention of difference in texts such as the Odyssey, Aeschylus’s Persians and Suppliant Women, Euripides’s Helen and Iphigenia among the Taurians, and Aristophanes’s Acharnians, among others.
Greek and Roman Epic
Epic poetry was the most prestigious form of poetic expression throughout antiquity, and a grasp of its history, techniques, themes, structure, and ideologies is essential to any serious understanding of the classical—and indeed the Western—literary tradition. This course examines the evolution of the epic in the Greek and Roman worlds from its origins as an oral genre in the Archaic Greek period to its final efflorescence in the Late Antique period (late fourth to early fifth century).
Beginning Greek I-II
In this two-part course, Greek grammar and -fundamental vocabulary are introduced, with attention given to pronunciation and recitation of poetry and prose. Readings from Plato, Demosthenes, Euripides, and others.
This course makes it possible for students with no background in ancient languages to read Homer, Plato, Greek tragedy, Herodotus, and other classical texts after one semester. Daily drills and frequent quizzes, together with ample access to tutoring and extra help, ensure that students stay on track as they master Greek grammar and vocabulary. In Greek 107, the focus is on consolidating knowledge of forms and syntax, and gaining exposure to a variety of classical authors.
Intermediate Greek I: Sophocles
Students read, in translation, each of Sophocles’s seven extant plays and a selection of surviving fragments. After discussing each play as a whole in translation, the class reads some of the works’ greatest passages in Greek. Attention is paid to the way meter heightens meaning, including in the choruses.
Intermediate Greek II: Plato’s Symposium
Students read in Greek most of Plato’s great dialogue on Eros, and all of it in English. For comparison, they also read Xenophon’s Symposium in English. Plato’s Greek text is studied in a recent edition by Louise Pratt, Eros at the Banquet, and supplemented by the same author’s The Essentials of Greek Grammar: A Reference for Intermediate Readers of Attic Greek. Discussion ranges from correct translation and analysis of grammatical points to analysis of the dialogue as both philosophy and literature.
Advanced Readings in Greek I-II
Select readings of poetic texts on the topic of Helen (e.g., Homer, Euripides, Gorgias, and Isocrates). Part II looks at lyric poetry by Sappho, Alcman, Anacreon, Solon, and Simonides.
Advanced Readings in Greek III
The class reads selections from the three most important ancient Greek historians, with an emphasis on Thucydides and relevant passages from Herodotus and Polybius.
This two-semester sequence brings students with no prior knowledge of Latin to the level of reading ancient poetry and prose. The first semester focuses on grammatical exercises and drills, but the class gradually works toward reading short selections from a wide range of Latin literature.
Basic Intensive Latin
Students learn to read authors such as Virgil, Ovid, Cicero, and Augustine in the original language after one semester’s intensive work (the equivalent of two semesters of college Latin). Daily drills and frequent quizzes are combined with readings: students begin with short selections and read longer passages by midterm.
Intermediate Latin I-II
This course aims to solidify students’ knowledge of Latin vocabulary, morphology, and syntax, and help them build interpretative tools for reading and engaging with Latin literature.
The Age of Nero
Despite its depressing slide into autocracy, the age of Nero (54–68 CE) saw a great flowering of Roman literature, including the comic novel Satyricon by Petronius, and the tragedies and essays of Seneca, as well as the mysterious historical drama called Octavia. The class reads selections from all of these texts, spanning a wide range of styles in both poetry and prose. Readings in English help situate the texts against the troubled history of Nero’s reign.
Advanced Latin I: Virgil
An examination of the works that launched Virgil’s poetic career: the Eclogues and Georgics. Eclogues, a collection of 10 short poems that inspired the European tradition of pastoral poetry, conjures a fictional world in the Italian countryside that the author uses to interrogate his own volatile political situation. Georgics also uses a rustic backdrop to explore political and philosophical themes. The class also studies Virgil’s innovative reworking of Greek poetic traditions in these poems.
Advanced Latin II: Ovid’s Metamorphoses
Students in this advanced course read selections from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a beguiling (anti-) epic of change, which encompasses the history of the world from its origins in Chaos to Julius Caesar. The focus is on the work’s approach to narrative and myth; its assimilation of multiple generic forms, from tragedy to pastoral; and its explanations of the world as the Romans knew it. In addition to further improving students’ reading fluency in Latin, emphasis is placed on developing a range of critical approaches to Ovid’s work.
The Origins of Rome
This course examines how Romans of the Augustan age conceived of the origins of their city, culture, and history. Students do a close reading in Latin of book one of Livy’s monumental historical work, Ab Urbe Condita, which treats Rome’s earliest history up to the founding of the Republic in 509 b.c.e. Livy’s work contributed to a vigorous contemporary debate—shared by fellow writers such as Virgil, Propertius, and Ovid—about Roman origins. Prerequisite: 200-level Latin or permission of the instructor.
Sanskrit I, II
Classics 140, 141 / Religion 140, 141
See Religion 140 and 141 for course descriptions.
Basic Intensive French
For students with little or no experience of French who wish to acquire a strong grasp of the language and culture in the shortest time possible. Students complete the equivalent of three semesters of college-level French in a semester course that meets 10 hours a week and is followed by a four-week stay in France.
Intermediate French I-II-III
This introduction to contemporary French civilization and culture is for students who have completed three or more years of high school French or who have acquired a solid knowledge of elementary grammar. Students reinforce their skills in grammar, composition, and spoken proficiency through the use of short texts, newspaper and magazine articles, and video.
French through Translation
This course helps students fine-tune their command of French and develop a good sense of the most appropriate ways of communicating ideas and facts in French. The course emphasizes translation as an exercise, as well as a craft in its own right, and addresses grammatical, lexical, and stylistic issues. Translation is practiced from English into French (and vice versa) with a variety of texts from different genres.
French through Film
This course explores major themes of French culture and civilization through the study of individual films ranging from the silent era to the present, and covering a wide variety of genres. The class considers the interaction between the French and their cinema in terms of historical circumstances, aesthetic ambitions, and self-representation. Conducted in French.
Introduction to French Thought
This course traces the major intellectual conflicts that have shaped la pensée française from Montaigne to Deleuze. Authors are often paired to encourage students to think dialectically on topics such as humanism/antihumanism (Montaigne and Rabelais), the mind/body question (Descartes and Racine), enlightenment/anti-enlightenment (Voltaire and Rousseau), the French Revolution (Sieyès and Olympe de Gouges), Romanticism (Sand and Madame de Staël), modernity and its enemies (Baudelaire and Haussmann), and literature and science (Balzac and Zola), among others. In French.
Quarrels of the Ancients and the Moderns: Past, Present, and Future in the French Literary Tradition
The “querelle des anciens et des modernes,” the conflict that raged at the heart of French letters from the late 17th century to the early 18th, pitted those who found the ancient Greeks and Romans to be untouchable in terms of artistic merit against those who considered contemporary innovations to be a progression beyond the inheritance of antiquity. This course explores the roles played by the past, present, and future in the French literary tradition, with a focus on several authorial oppositions: Corneille/Racine, Voltaire/Rousseau, Balzac/Flaubert, and Sartre/Blanchot.
From the Storming of the Bastille to Stromae: Introduction to French Culture and Civilization
The course begins with an analysis of the political, socioeconomic, and cultural reconfigurations that occurred in France and its colonies from the death knell of the Ancien Régime in 1789 through the multifarious wars and revolutions of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The class then considers today’s France and the many challenges it faces: of national identity in a postcolonial society, of the maintenance of a social model in the face of globalized economic competition, and even of the quality of baguettes in the local boulangerie.
Advanced Composition and Conversation
Students consider a diverse selection of writings (short works of fiction, poems, philosophical essays, political analysis, newspaper editorials, magazine articles) loosely organized around a single theme. The readings provide a rich ground for cultural investigation, intellectual exchange, in-class debates, in-depth examination of stylistics, and vocabulary acquisition. A general review of grammar is also conducted.
Proust: In Search of Lost Time
French 315 / Literature 315
See Literature 315 for a full course description.
Survey of 20th- and 21st-Century French Poetry
This survey of major trends in modern and contemporary French poetry provides students with the opportunity to practice close reading, examines the precarious nature of modern French verse, and considers the many accounts of a “crise de vers” (crisis) in 20th- and 21st-century poetry, as well as the fate of a rather emaciated and breathless lyrical “I.” Works by Alferi, Apollinaire, Aragon, Bonnefoy, Breton, Cadiot, Cendrars, Collobert, Éluard, Guillevic, Jaccottet, Michaux, Ponge, Roche, Roubaud, Tarkos, and many others. Conducted in French.
Autrement Dit: Paroles des Femmes
This course introduces a variety of women’s voices in 20th-century French literature and cinema. Texts by Colette, Simone de Beauvoir, Maryse Condé, Marguerite Duras, Annie Ernaux, Anne Hébert, Catherine Millet, Amélie Nothomb, and Nathalie Sarraute. Screenings of films by Chantal Akerman, Catherine Breillat, Claire Denis, Marguerite Duras, and Agnès Varda. Prerequisite: four years of French.
Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Mallarmé
A poetic revolution was brought to the theory and practices of 19th-century French poetry by three of its most illustrious figures: Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, and Stéphane Mallarmé. As Victor Hugo’s age of lyric romanticism came to an end, these poets took full measure of a modern subjectivity in crisis by making it a crisis of form, with increasing disenchantment, irony, self-reflexivity, and obscurity. Readings: Les Fleurs du Mal and Le Spleen de Paris (Baudelaire), Illuminations and Une Saison en enter (Rimbaud), and Poésies (Mallarmé).
The Lost and Found Art of Conversation from Montaigne to Beckett
Since Socrates, conversation has been admired for its seamless ability to integrate knowledge into society, and supplement savoir (knowledge) with savoir-vivre (the art of living). But conversation has often been condemned as merely artful, dangerous for its proximity to the decadent and the idle. This course examines how these tensions are played out on rhetorical and thematic levels. Texts by Montaigne, Beckett, Aristotle, Marx, Nietzsche, Pascal, Lafargue, Stendhal, and Proust.
Literature of Private Life
The representation of private life in the 19th- century French novel coincided with the advent of realism. Realism described both the institutions that shaped private life (marriage, education, religion) and the discrete dramas occurring backstage—the solitude of the spinster (Flaubert’s Un Cœur Simple), plight of the child (Vallès’s L’Enfant), despair of domesticity (Maupassant’s Une Vie), and nature of neuroses (Zola’s Nana). The course examines writings (novels, stories, journals, correspondence) previously considered too personal to be viewed as literature.
The course enables students with little or no previous experience in German to complete three semesters of college German within five months: the spring semester at Bard, plus four weeks in the summer at Bard College Berlin. Students progress from learning the language for everyday communication to reading and discussion of classical and modern texts by, among others, Goethe, Heine, Kafka, and Brecht. In Berlin, they further explore German language and culture, and participate in guided tours that introduce the city’s history, architecture, and vibrant cultural life.
This course is designed to increase students’ fluency in speaking, reading, and writing, and add significantly to their working vocabulary. Discussions focus on questions around multiculturalism and migration in Germany, and readings include Soharas Reise by Barbara Honigmann.
Berlin: Capital of the 20th Century
German 2194 / Literature 2194
See Literature 2194 for a full course description.
German 220/ Literature 220
See Literature 220 for a full course description.
The Ring of the Nibelung
A study of Richard Wagner’s cycle of four music dramas—a story about gods, dwarves (Nibelungs), giants, and humans that has been called a manifesto for socialism, a plea for racialism, a study of the human psyche, and a parable about the new industrial society. As we travel down the Rhine, across the rainbow, and through the underworld, our tour guides are the Brothers Grimm, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and the anonymous authors of the medieval Nibelungenlied and the Old Norse Poetic Edda.
Unfortunately, we seem to know the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm only in adaptations that greatly reduce their power to touch our emotions and engage our imaginations. Through a close reading of selected tales, this course explores the tales’ poetics and politics, and their origins in folklore and myth. The class considers major critical approaches (Freudian, Marxist, feminist); creative adaptations (Disney, classical ballet, postmodern dance); and other fairy-tale traditions.
Life and Other Dreams
There is waking life, and then there is another “stage” on which dreams take place, as Sigmund Freud wrote in The Interpretation of Dreams. Students read influential and compelling dream narratives, with a focus on German-language literature and culture. How are dreams narrated, and how is their relation to the rest of life conceived? What is the logic of dreams according to Freud? Texts range from Genesis to works by Freud, Kafka, Adorno, Mann, and Benjamin.
Modern German Short Prose
A survey of novellen, erzählungen, parables, and other short forms of mainly 20th-century prose. Students combine detailed literary analysis with an examination of social/political/historical contexts. Readings include works by Kafka, Musil, Mann, Walser, von Kleist, Jeremias Gotthelf, Benjamin, Hans Erich Nossack, Ingeborg Bachmann, Frisch, Dürrenmatt, Ilse Aichinger, Jenny Erpenbeck, Thomas Bernhard, Handke, and Yoko Tawada. Conducted in German.
German Theater between Moral Institution and Participatory Happening
After an overview of pivotal moments in the history and poetics of German theater (Lessing, Schiller, Hauptmann), the class examines specific developments in modern and contemporary theater. These include the new aesthetics of expressionist theater and Max Reinhardt’s work at the Deutsches Theater, Bertolt Brecht’s development of the epic theater before and during World War II, and postwar efforts to stage Vergangenheitsbewältigung (“coming to terms with the past” of the Third Reich and Holocaust). Conducted in German.
Poetry and Philosophy
Is there something like sensory reasoning? Who has the capacity to formulate the unspeakable? Is humor a thought or a sentiment? Poetry and philosophy have for centuries offered fascinating responses to such questions—not least in the German tradition. Poets, philosophers, and poetic thinkers have addressed these concerns, including Goethe, Kant, Schiller, Hölderlin, Heidegger, Rilke, Benjamin, Brecht, and Arendt. The beauty and precision of their language(s) provokes a semester of conversations with these thinkers of and in the German language.
Less a style than a Weltanschauung of a rebellious generation, German Expressionism—flourishing roughly between 1905 and 1925—is generally seen as an artistic reflection of a common feeling of crisis, the disappearance of individualism in burgeoning urban centers, the hypocrisy of Imperial Wilhelminian Germany, and the soulless materialism and (self-)alienation of increased industrialization. Texts by Wedekind, Benn, Heym, Lasker-Schüler, Kafka, Kaiser, and Trakl. Painting, music, and film are also considered.
German Literature and Film after 1989
What is at stake for contemporary German writers, filmmakers, and intellectuals? What topics do they address in their movies, novels, poems, and plays? How do these artworks reflect Germany’s multiethnic society and its pivotal role in a rapidly changing Europe? Discussion centers on texts by Herta Müller, W. G. Sebald, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Terézia Mora, Ingo Schulze, and Emine Sevgy Özdamar, among others; and on films by Fatih Akin, Hans-Christian Schmid, and Michael Haneke.
This seminar is dedicated to the works and worlds of Heinrich von Kleist (1777–1811), one of the most thought-provoking writers of German literature. Texts include a selection of his plays (Amphitryon, Penthesilea, Der zerbrochene Krug), prose works (Marquise von O..., Michael Kohlhaas), and essays (Marionettentheater). The class explores the historical constellations from which Kleist’s writings emerged, as well as contemporary responses by poets and thinkers such as Heine, Nietzsche, Hofmannsthal, and Mayröcker.
Baroque Mourning and Melancholy: Text and Image
Writers in 17th-century Germany inherited and transmitted medieval and Renaissance theories of affect during a time of political and religious tumult. Twentieth-century readers of Walter Benjamin’s decisive study, The Origin of the German Mourning Play, have looked to the Baroque as a primal scene of modernity—and yet few have read Benjamin’s sources. Class readings include works from the German Baroque period in dialogue with passages from Benjamin’s study, as well as texts by Gryphius, Lohenstein, Luther, Benjamin, Panofsky, and Sebald.
Correspondences: Figures of Writing
“One alone is always wrong; but with two involved, the truth begins,” reads an aphorism by Friedrich Nietzsche. He also proposes an alternative mode of thinking and writing to the isolated genius: creative collaboration. This seminar explores several such collaborations: Hannah Arendt and Hilde Domin, Bertolt Brecht and Walter Benjamin, Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann.
See Jewish Studies.
Italian 106This course enables students with little or no -previous knowledge of Italian to complete three semesters of college Italian in five months: 8 credits at Bard and 4 (in January) in Italy, where students continue daily intensive study of the language and culture while living with Italian families. The course methodology is based on a communicative approach, which includes grammar drills, guided compositions, oral practice, role-playing, and readings and analysis of authentic material.
Intermediate Italian I-II
Designed for students who have completed the equivalent of one year of college Italian, the course offers practice in writing and conversation. Students engage in discussion and must complete compositions and oral reports based on Italian literary texts and cultural material.
Italian Crimes / Italian Fictions
Crime fiction in Italy is called il giallo, after the color of the popular books that invaded the Italian market in the 1930s. The genre has become a major player in Italian self-representation even beyond Hollywood clichés. The course approaches modern Italian novels, including Sciascia’s A Ciascuno Il Suo and Moravia’s Il Conformista (and their filmic adaptations) with a focus on the fascist mentality, the evolution of mafia as a modern global enterprise, social and gender exclusion, and other issues. In Italian.
Sicily and Writing
South of Europe but at the center of the Mediterranean world, Sicily has been at the crossroads of cultures and peoples since Homer. The majestic, skeptical, bitter narratives of Sicily’s writers, from Giovanni Verga to Luigi Pirandello and Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, trace a philosophical counternarrative to Italy’s modernity. Filmmakers such as Luchino Visconti and Francesco Rosi amplify the tensions of Sicilian narrative through visually striking cinematic interpretations. Prerequisite: Italian 202 or permission of the instructor.
Advanced Review of Italian: Migrant Nations of Italy
This course aims to enhance students’ oral and written production in Italian by focusing on a key political and social phenomenon of modern Italy: migration and its cultures. By working with original materials by Leonardo Sciascia, Igiaba Scego, Amara Lakhous, and Cesare Segre, among others, students investigate the problems, pitfalls, and memories of a country striving to become an inclusive multicultural society. Taught in Italian.
The Middle Sea: Mediterranean Encounters in Italy
Since Homer, the Mediterranean has inspired the founding myths of countless civilizations that prospered and clashed on its shores. The “Middle Sea” represented the locus of cultural encounters par excellence. As the current migration crises showcase, however, it also constitutes a key geopolitical space of negotiation between national pretenses and transnational mobility of ideas, cultures, and bodies. This course addresses pivotal works of Italian literature and cinema from Boccaccio to Montale, Pasolini, and Carlo Levi, with a particular focus on Mediterranean artists working in Italy today. In Italian.
The course aims to enhance students’ oral and written production in Italian through an exploration of the Renaissance’s diverse theatrical traditions—from Harlequin’s mask to learned comedy, operatic gesture to tragic endings. Through texts, music, and performance, the class puts the Italian Renaissance into dialogue with broad theatrical traditions, ancient and modern. Texts include Machiavelli’s La Mandragola, pastoral plays, excerpts from epic texts, and stage directions for commedia dell’arte productions.
Topics in Italian Culture: Imagining Italian Cities from Dante to Calvino
Unlike other European countries, Italy has no central stage in the construction of its national culture. It grounds its multifold identity on the differences and peculiarities of cities such as Florence, Venice, Naples, and Milan. Living, walking, and imagining the city is a key experience for Italian culture, from the Middle Ages to the postmodern. This course draws from the works of Dante, Boccaccio, Machiavelli, Marinetti, Pasolini, Calvino, and Ferrante. Prerequisite: Italian 202 or permission of the instructor.
The Birth of the Avant-Garde: Futurism, Metaphysics, Magical Realism
In 1909 Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, an Italian poet stationed in Milan but born in Alexandria, founded in Paris the modern avant-garde with the publishing of his first futurist manifesto. Futurism’s claims of refashioning Western culture from its very foundations rapidly spread all over the world. Engaging with both the literature and art of the Italian avant-gardes, this course unravels the intricate, yet fascinating, knot of aesthetics and politics at the core of modernism.
Italian 3205 / Literature 3205
See Literature 3205 for a course description.
Democracy and Defeat: Italy after Fascism
CROSS-LISTED: HUMAN RIGHTS
This seminar takes an interdisciplinary approach to the cultural and intellectual history of Italy from 1943 to 1950. The heterogeneous aspects of the Italian cultural field after World War II are considered in a wide-ranging framework, in which postwar histories are informed not simply by the external context of the Cold War but also by preceding wartime discourses. Readings from Italo Calvino, Curzio Malaparte, Carlo Levi, Primo Levi, and Rosetta Loy. Prerequisite: Italian 202 or permission of instructor.
Introductory Japanese I-II
This two-semester sequence introduces the fundamentals of modern Japanese. Students systematically develop listening, speaking, writing, and reading abilities. Because fluency in Japanese requires sensitivity to the social setting in which one is speaking, the course also provides an introduction to basic aspects of daily life and culture in contemporary Japan.
Intermediate Japanese I-II
This course accelerates the learning of characters begun in Japanese 101-102 and introduces more complex grammatical patterns and expressions, to refine students’ mastery of reading, speaking, writing, and listening. Study includes intensive grammar review and practice of idiomatic expressions.
Human Rights and Modern Japanese Literature
Japanese 2216 / Literature 2216
CROSS-LISTED: ASIAN STUDIES, HUMAN RIGHTS
Students in the course examine how human rights dilemmas are represented in major works of modern Japanese literature and film. Topics include women’s rights, the Burakumin liberation movement, and the rights of citizens vis-à-vis corporations. Texts include works by Tanizaki Junichiro, Kurihara Miwako, Nakagami Kenji, Ishimure Michiko, Shirow Masamune, and Shimazaki Toson, with additional readings on historical context and theoretical approaches. Texts in English.
Advanced Japanese I
The course introduces more complex grammatical structures, especially those common to written material, and accelerates character acquisition and advanced vocabulary. Students learn the fundamentals of dictionary use and acquire the skills necessary for speed-reading and accurate composition of written material. Prerequisite: Japanese 202 or the equivalent.
Advanced Japanese II
In this continuation of Japanese 301, students concentrate on complex grammatical patterns while further accelerating the acquisition of characters and advanced vocabulary. They build oratory skills through debate on relevant social topics and through individual research presentations. Composition is also emphasized. Conducted in Japanese. Prerequisite: Japanese 301 or equivalent.
Reading and Translating Japanese: Theories, Methods, Practice
For students who have had at least three years of Japanese and who can read at the advanced level. The class considers the nature and limits of translation within the Japanese context. While focusing on the techniques and craft of translation, students are also introduced to translation theory, both Western and Japanese, and examine well-known translations by comparing source and target texts. Prerequisite: Japanese 302 or equivalent.
For a description of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences (Smolny) and the Bard–St. Petersburg State University exchange program, see “International Programs and Study Abroad.”
An introduction to the fundamentals of the spoken and written language as well as Russian culture. Creative expression is encouraged through autobiographical and fictional compositions.Successful completion of the sequence qualifies students to enroll in a four-week June program in St. Petersburg or pursue a semester or year of study at Smolny College.
Designed for beginners who have had little or no prior knowledge of Russian, the course focuses on the fundamentals of the spoken and written language, and introduces students to Russian culture. Creative expression in autobiographical and fictional compositions is also encouraged. In addition to regular class meetings, students are required to attend a weekly one-hour tutorial. Students who complete the intensive can apply for a 4-credit summer program in St. Petersburg.
Intermediate Russian I-II
The focus of this sequence is on the continuing acquisition of advanced grammar, pertinent vocabulary, and reading and conversational skills that enable students to communicate effectively. Advanced grammar constructions are introduced through a wide variety of adapted texts and contexts. In addition to textbook material, students read literary and journalistic texts.
Students continue refining and engaging their practice of speaking, reading, and writing Russian. Advanced grammar topics are addressed through a variety of texts and contexts.
An Appointment with Dr. Chekhov
While studying to become a doctor at Moscow University, Chekhov began writing in order to earn money. Students analyze how his “general theory of objectivity” had an impact on his writing and how his “treatment” of human nature and social issues brought an entirely new dimension to Russian literature. Readings include Chekhov’s prose, plays, and letters.
Contemporary Russian Fiction
An examination of the diverse world of contemporary Russian literature from the late Soviet and post-Soviet periods to the present. Readings include the underground publications of samizdat and officially published texts of the first period, postmodernist works from the end of the 20th century, and literary texts of the last two decades. Discussions focus on issues of narrative strategy, a reassessment of Russian history, religion and spirituality, cultural identity, and the changing relationship between Russian literature, the state, and society. In English.
Art of the Russian Avant-Garde
This multidisciplinary course addresses major developments in Russian modern and avant-garde art in the first three decades of the 20th century. It looks at particular movements, ideas, and seminal names, from Vrubel and symbolism to Tatlin and constructivism. The course also offers a methodology and context for the appreciation of the evolution of Russian visual culture and its contribution to the international art arena.
St. Petersburg: City, Monument, Text
Russian 231 / Literature 231
See Literature 231 for a full course description.
Russian in an Academic Context
Readings include nonfiction texts in a wide array of disciplines, as well as poetry and fiction. The goal is to help students acquire vocabulary and build language skills that will allow them to participate in a semester-long program at a Russian college or university and to conduct independent research in Russian.
Russian Opera: Staging History, Shaping Myths
An exploration of Russian history through the medium of Russian opera, which absorbed and confronted, transformed and blended the creative achievements of the Old World with the unique Russian experience. In the 19th century, opera became a powerful agent in Russia’s search for national identity. Operas studied: Glinka’s A Life for the Tsar, Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina, Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tsar’s Bride, Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades and Eugene Onegin, Prokofiev’s ,em>War and Peace, and Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.
Between Friends: Letters of Russian Writers
This advanced-level course looks at everyday life, literature, and the culture of the times through the letters of famous Russian writers of the 19th century, including Pushkin, Gogol, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov. Conducted in Russian.
Russia and Its Theater
CROSS-LISTED: THEATER AND PERFORMANCE
Designed for students with at least two years of study in Russian or for heritage speakers who wish to practice reading, writing, and speaking the language. With a focus on select 19th- and 20th-century prose and poetic texts, the course builds vocabulary and improves students’ ability to communicate in Russian. Texts by Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Sologub, Bunin, and Blok.
Translation: Russian to English
A practical and theoretical course consisting of regular weekly readings and translations of a variety of literary texts. Students also work on an independent project throughout the semester. Texts include short stories and poems by Bunin, Chekhov, Babel, Tolstaya, Dovlatov, Akhmatova, Pasternak, and others.
Love Stories: Prose and Poetry
The course offers a close reading of selected short stories and poems by Russian writers from the 18th century to today, with a look at artistic meditations on the subjects of love, erotic desire, and psychological and cultural conflicts in romantic relationships. Works by Karamzin, Pushkin, Lermontov, Tyutchev, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Gippius, Kuzmin, Blok, Nabokov, Tolstaya, and Ulitskaya. Conducted in Russian.
Kino Po-Russki: Advanced Russian through Film
This creative exploration of the Soviet cinematic canon also offers an in-depth study of Russian idiom, grammar, and syntax. Films discussed include Grigoriy Aleksandrov’s Circus, Nadezhda Kosheverova and Mikhail Shapiro’s Cinderella, Vladimir Menshov’s Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears, Eldar Ryazanov’s The Irony of Fate, and Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Mirror. Listening comprehension, reading, and writing assignments alternate with discussions and reenactment exercises.
Russian through Popular Music and Culture
An examination of key developments, personalities, and texts in Russian popular music and culture from 1960 to the present. While certain concepts, genres, and themes remain central (the singer-songwriter tradition, rock-and-roll as entertainment and music of social protest, the Russian anecdote and comedy), the course also explores cultural marginalia, such as select popular television programs and talk shows of the post-Soviet era.
Basic Intensive Spanish
This course enables students with little or no previous knowledge of Spanish to complete three semesters of college Spanish in five months (8 credits at Bard and 4 credits in Mexico). Students attend eight hours of class per week, plus two hours with a Spanish tutor. Oral communication and reading and writing skills are developed through a variety of approaches.
Accelerated First-Year Spanish
Designed for the student with prior exposure to Spanish or command of another Romance language, the course covers major topics in grammar with intensive practice in speaking, comprehension, reading, and writing. Practice with a Spanish tutor and work in the language lab are required. The course prepares students for summer language programs abroad or for Spanish 201.
Intermediate Spanish I
This course is designed to perfect the command of all four language skills (speaking, comprehension, reading, writing) through intensive grammar review, conversation practice, reading of modern Spanish texts, writing simple compositions, and language lab work. Prerequisites: Spanish 106 or 110 (or equivalent), and permission of the instructor.
Intermediate Spanish II
In this course, students continue to refine their mastery of the four basic skills: reading, writing, speaking, comprehension. The textbook offers an integration of literature, culture, and film. The study of visual and written texts focuses on critical thinking, interpretation, speaking, and writing skills. Prerequisite: Spanish 201 or the equivalent.
Spanish for Heritage Speakers
Designed for students who have been exposed to Spanish at home and wish to achieve confidence in speaking, writing, and reading the language. Grammar study capitalizes on prior contact with the language and allows more rapid progress than in a standard setting. Written composition, grammar review, and discussion of issues pertinent to Hispanic cultures are emphasized.
Cultures and Societies of Latin America and Spain
The Spanish-speaking world comprises a rich variety of cultures that have historically been in dialogue, as well as resistance, over the centuries. This course focuses on key moments and events that have defined the multifaceted societies of Spain and Latin America. Special emphasis is placed on elements such as social movements, questions of race and ethnicity, postmodernity, constructions of gender and sexuality, and national and diasporic identities. Prerequisite: Spanish 202 or permission of the instructor.
Testimonies of Latin America
cross-listed: gss, human rights
How best to represent memories of violence and pain? What are the ultimate effects of mediations of the written word, translations to hegemonic languages, and interventions of well-intentioned intellectuals? Students engage critically with texts that serve as a public forum for voices often silenced in the past. The course integrates diaries, testimonial narratives, and films.
The Afterlives of Federico García Lorca
Federico García Lorca is Spain’s most widely read 20th-century poet and playwright. His works are virtually untranslatable and hermetically personal, and yet they continue to draw the interest of loyal readers around the globe. This course looks at Lorca’s work from his early classicist texts to his late avant-garde production, including Gypsy Ballads, Poet in New York, and plays like Blood Wedding and The House of Bernarda Alba. Also addressed is Spain’s culture and politics in the years leading up to Lorca’s assassination in 1936.
Introduction to Spanish Literature
This course explores some of the major literary works produced on the Iberian peninsula from the Middle Ages to the present day. Students become familiar with the general contours of Spanish history and study in depth masterpieces by Cervantes, Colón, Teresa de Jesús, Don Juan Manuel, Calderón de la Barca, Larra, Galdós, Unamuno, Lorca, Laforet, Llamazares, Orejudo, and Vila-Matas, among others.
Introduction to Latin American Literature
This course covers a broad range historically—from pre-Conquest times to the present—and explores all literary genres, including poetry, short stories, novels, essays, and plays. In order to make sense of the broad chronological and geographical span of this literature, the class focuses on seven separate modules, each highlighting a core moment or key figure in the development of Latin American culture.
Contemporary Spanish Theater and Performing Arts
cross-listed: lais, theater and performance
The course focuses on the most innovative playwrights and performance artists in Spain, considering them within the country’s rich theatrical tradition—and the political turmoil in Spain and Europe after the economic crisis of 2008. Students also explore the links between theater and other forms of cultural expression, and attend stage readings and other live performances in New York City. Readings include works by Paco Becerra, Yolanda Pallín, and José Ramón Fernández. In Spanish.
Five Latin American Poets
The class examines the work of five 20th-century Latin American poets: Pablo Neruda (Chile), César Vallejo (Peru), Octavio Paz (Mexico), Nicolás Guillén (Cuba), and Alejandra Pizarnik (Argentina). Outside readings provide the historical, social, and political contexts in which these writers produced their work.
Perceptions of Reality in 20th-Century Latin American Literature
This course addresses different mechanisms that representative Latin American writers of the 20th century—Vicente Huidobro (Chile), César Vallejo (Peru), Alejandra Pizarnik and Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina), Carlos Fuentes (México), Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia), and Cristina Peri Rossi (Uruguay)—have used to perceive reality, rethink the limits of language, and experiment with new forms of representation.
20th-Century Latin American Novel
With the publication of Cortázar’s Rayuela (Hopscotch, 1963) and García Márquez´s Cien Años de Soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude, 1967), the Latin American novel achieved an international reputation and readership. This course analyzes several novels of the “boom” period to determine the reasons behind their critical acclaim and popular appeal; post-boom works are also examined. Authors may also include Allende, Arenas, Asturias, Carpentier, Cortázar, Fuentes, Peri Rossi, Puig, Skármeta, and Valenzuela. In English, with concurrent reading tutorial in Spanish.
The Broken Voice: Surrealist Poetry and Crisis in Spain
1930s—between the Great War (1914–18) and that somber prelude to the Second World War, the Spanish Civil War (1936–39)—was torn between its allegiance to the dehumanizing principles of the avant-garde and the growing pressures of political commitment. Against this horizon, surrealism emerged as the last expression of the European intelligentsia and its promise to suture all wounds. Readings include works by Lorca, Alberti, Cernuda, and Aleixandre.
Archive Fever in Literature and Film
CROSS-LISTED: EXPERIMENTAL HUMANITIES, HUMAN RIGHTS, LITERATURE
Contemporary societies are marked by a widely shared desire to create personal and collective archives as a way of witnessing and memorializing our lives. With an emphasis on, but not limited to, Spanish and Latin American cultures, this course invites students to explore literary and filmic manifestations that are symptomatic of today’s archive fever. Selected films by Buñuel, Almodóvar, and Varda, among others, are put in conversation with literary works by Martín Gaite, Lispector, Chacel, Semprún, Partnoy, and Cercas.
The Art of Writing Spanish Worlds
An introduction to the art and craft of creative writing in Spanish, with a focus on contemporary narrative fiction. The heart of the class is the writing workshop. Assigned readings and weekly exercises help students expand their narrative writing command and critical skills in the Spanish language. Readings include works by Bolaño, Schweblin, Fernández Cubas, and Navarro.