Smolny's academic Philosophy is based upon the following principles:
Students should be free to determine their own courses and majors;
The college should provide a wide breadth of knowledge, as well as in-depth training in an area of concentration;
The study of theoretical disciplines should be paired with the acquisition of practical life skills;
Classes should be small, with primary attention paid to independent reading and critical discussion of texts.
Smolny has 12 academic programs (majors) and eight areas of concentration (minors), and there are over 130 courses offered each semester. Course lists for upcoming semesters are usually posted by Smolny mid-way through the preceding semester.
Fall 2014 Courses (Tentative) - English Translation
The objective of this course is to give students an understanding of which aspects of literary texts can be of interest to researchers in the cognitive sciences, especially in connection to research into human awareness of others (in the framework of the Theory of Mind). The course is designed to expose students to the main problems and methods in research into consciousness in contemporary cognitive science, including the history of this field, and with the possible use of material derived from literary texts. This preparatory course is intended to form a foundation for graduates’ professional training. The course is designed for students interested in psycholinguistics and cognitive linguistics, and is intended to give them an understanding of the current state of affairs in certain fields of cognitive science, as well as demonstrate the importance of problems of reconstruction of consciousness (naïve or original) for cognitive research.
Last year, the city of Konigsberg-Kaliningrad celebrated its 750th anniversary. This event provoked a renewal of discussions on the historical and contemporary fate of the former capitol of Eastern Prussia. Political questions have drawn the liveliest debate. The place and role of Konigsberg in the cultural history of Germany and Europe, in the history of science and philosophy, in the history of literature and various arts remains in the shadows, and is poorly known even in educated circles. The objective of this course and seminar is to attract the attention of those students interested by the history of Germany and Russia and cultural history to aspects of Konigsberg's historical presence, and the contemporary cultural role of the city of Kaliningrad in Eastern Europe. Study of the history of Konigsberg and the works of academics, thinkers, writers and artists who are linked to the city by either their biography or their ideas will allow students to not only enrich their knowledge of history, but to explore a number of texts that reflect certain periods and schools of thought in the history of Germany, and especially Prussia. The main issues addressed by the course are the following: 1. The problem of reconciling liberal-democratic and reactionary traditions; Konigsberg as a symbol of progress and/or as a bastion of resistance to progress. 2. Konigsberg and Prussia, Prussia and Germany: kinship, connections, repulsion, mutual criticism. 3. Konigsberg philosophy, culture and art from the 18th century to the mid-twentieth century. 3. Unique aspects of Konigsberg art, against the backdrop of protestant cultural traditions, and in connection with issues of reconciling art and the modernizing processes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Naturally, it would be impossible to cover all aspects of the subject in this new seminar. We will begin with the period up until 1914, and attempt to study chapters from a new book on the culture and ideological history of Konigsberg, written by Jurgen Manthei, Kenigsburg. Istoriya respubliki kosmopolitov [Konigsberg: History of the Republic of Cosmopolitans] (Munich, 2005). We will also draw on general knowledge on the history of the city and of Prussia, taken from books published in Russian: 1. Vostochnaya Prussia. S drevneyshikh vremen do kontsa vtoroy mirovoy voyny [Eastern Prussia, From Ancient Times to the End of the Second World War]. Kaliningrad, 1996. 2. Ocherki istorii Kenigsburgskogo universiteta [Essays on the History of Konigsberg University]. Kaliningrad, 1995. K. Lavrinovich, Albertina. 3. Kenigsburg v Prussii. Istoriya odnogo yevropeyskogo goroda. [Konigsburg in Prussia. The History of One European City]. Recklinghausen, 1996, Fritz Hause (in Russian) 4. Ocherki Istorii Prussii [Essays on the History of Prussia]. St. Petersburg, 1992, Ernest Lavisse.
This course is held at the St. Petersburg Printing Studio, and includes practical classes covering all the main types of printmaking: intaglio printing (copper etching, drypoint and aquatint), relief printing (block and linocut printing), color monotype and carborundum printing. Teaching of each technique begins with a brief historical survey and general information about the printmaking method (during which students meet a renowned contemporary artist working in the given technique), and culminates with students working to create their own artwork, under guidance from the teacher. In this way, students gain both practical printmaking skills during the course, and a detailed knowledge of the current status of printmaking as an art.
For more than 170 years, photography has echoed the development of civilization, in its main role of documenting reality. However, since the beginning of the 19th century, photography has garnered ever greater respect as one of the fine arts. In the modern world, photography is becoming the most accessible form of art, which has the effect of constantly increasing the number of its admirers, as well as the number of people striving to achieve practical mastery of the art. This basic course includes theoretical classes, which will acquaint students with the origins and historical development of photography, the basics of composition and various photographic genres, as well as practical classes, during which students will learn the main skills for producing photographic images.
This course continues to expose students to the practical art of photography. The main focus of the course will be different methods and techniques, that allow photography to integrate freely with contemporary art. Class time will predominantly be spent on practical work on different areas of photography, as well as covering a large body of visual material on photographs and new directions in photography. The class is offered to students who attended the basic course Photography Class I.
This course consists of a cycle of lectures on the art of the second half of the twentieth century. The biographies of artists and the histories of artistic movements and artistic techniques are researched in this course from the viewpoint of two over-arching objectives assumed by the art of the avant-garde: to represent the unrepresentable Nothing and to become Everything. The rapid and dramatic transition between approaches to the resolution of these tasks in 1940-1990's is the main focus of the course. The course will discuss such forms of representation of cutting-edge art as abstraction, the object, performance, conceptual photography and video-art.
Study of one of the most interesting phenomena of recent Russian art, the Russian avant-garde, is more broadly rooted in academic approaches to the development of twentieth-century art as a whole. Trends in the fine arts between 1900 and the 1930's were a fundamentally new, revolutionary phase in the international development of art. Meanwhile, as it was deeply rooted in the politics, ideology and philosophy of its time, it described an unusually dramatic, and ultimately tragic, twist of history, which in many ways pre-determined its recondite fate. From Symbolism to Art Nouveau, through Cubo-Futurism, Suprematism and Constructivism to Social Realism: this is the route of Russian art of the time in question, and the biographical journey of its creators. The urgency of change and the flood of new discoveries, the appearance of new and impressive names and personalities made the Russian avant-garde an exceptionally many-layered and ambiguous phenomenon. Until this day, there exist several contradictory interpretative models of this phenomenon, making it possible to comprehend the movement from different viewpoints, without resorting to the extremes of an apologia, or dogmatic, critical approaches. In this course, the most important stages in the development of avant-garde art will be considered with special, heightened attention paid to the individual artistic methods and systems. The objective of this course is the identification of national traditions and the unique qualities of Russian painting that were celebrated by the avant-garde and, at the same time, demonstration of the internationalization of artistic language, and the development of principles common to the art of modernism. Familiarization and, possibly, a subsequent professional interest in the subject is also one of the course objectives. Lectures and seminar-type classes are combined with slide shows, readings, and the analysis of monographs and other sources. Some classes are to include viewings at the State Russian Museum.
This course is designed to give students an understanding of the main historical stages in the development of Russian art, starting from the tenth century and ending with the current time. The overarching chronological approach to the material will be combined with framing the issues in a manner that emphasizes the key phenomena and concepts in Russian art and culture. The main topics are: the phenomenon of the icon; shatyor architecture; Baroque and Classicism as national traits; from academism to itinerant art; the path of self-identification of Russian art in the twentieth century (the avant-garde and modern art). This course is unique as an opportunity to study the main aspects of Russian art in a dynamic, historical perspective. In other words, not only topical and ever-relevant issues are explored, but also questions that require a broader, systematic approach. The identification of these characteristics, related to the search for a 'Russian sense of form' will be pursued using a wide range of visual material, including Byzantine, Western European, Oriental and other sources. Level: M (one of the mandatory courses in the program 'Fine Arts and Architecture,' studied in year one)
In this course, architecture is treated as a self-standing, complex field of human activity. The technical, social and intellectual foundations of architecture are examined, and classifications of different types of buildings (both systematic and historical), and of different architectural forms are introduced. The relationships between functions, constructions, forms and materials are analyzed, and consideration is given to questions of theme, genre, image and symbols in architecture and city planning.
The approach deployed in this course is rich in artistic images, which create in classes the atmosphere of creativity and facilitate a deep understanding of the essence of art. Students explore the engaging aspects of each new topic—aspects which develop and stimulate thoughtful image association, imagination and emotional perception. Classes dedicated to the fine arts (drawing and painting), contemplation of nature (landscapes, still life, etc.) and enjoyment of the beauty of the world around us combine harmoniously with the emotional and creative experience of executing analytical and creative tasks (rendering the volume, materiality and details of objects, depending on the point of view of the artist; rendering an object in space by applying the rules of perspective; identifying and exploring deliberate patterns in artworks, governing the distribution of light and shade, gradual changes in color across surfaces, depending on light source; rendering space and air).
The history of the 'underground' is one of the major cultural facets late socialism (late 1950's—late 1980's). Samizdat, 'black humor,' religious quests, dissidence, apolitical bohemian lifestyles, the pathos of personal freedom and the mechanization of once-artistic practices are all tightly woven into the cultural myth of this past era. We create an historical portrait of this environment, by describing the shared conceptions that constitute modern knowledge of unofficial culture. Among the heroes of the recent past, we find both celebrities and artists still awaiting recognition. In this course, the mutual influences of Western non-conformism and the Soviet underground movement are analyzed in detail: Leftist intellectuals with faith in the ideals of the utopian revolution of 1968, and jaded skeptics for whom 1968 was the year that Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia.
Study of the phenomenon of Russian photography has only just begun. Long-forgotten names are being rediscovered; schools and movements are re-surfacing, while the relationships between separate phenomena and individual names are being researched from the viewpoint of international issues in the development of photography in the twentieth century. This special course is designed to distinguish the unique characteristics of Russian photography from a historical and artistic viewpoint, and, crucially, to understand its role in the history of both art and culture of the twentieth century. The primary focus will be key figures, such as N. Levitsky, K. Bulla, G. Prokudin-Gorsky, V. Lobovikov, M. Nappelbaum, A. Rodchenko, A. Shaykhet, B. Ignatovich, P. Khlebnikov, A. Petrusov, and others. It is impossible to imagine how art would have developed in the twentieth century without photography (and photographic images, whether created for technical or artistic purposes). It is precisely in this century that photographic art has demonstrated its strength as a powerful and self-sufficient artistic language, in a similar way to painting in the preceding era. In Russian art of the last century, there are luminous names—from M. Nappelbaum, through A. Rodchenko and up to modern photographers, the study of whose work in a broad, historical and cultural context allows us to appreciate the position, role and value of photography among the other arts. The course will emphasize the following areas: aspects of photographic language as a new means of seeing reality, the place of photography among the other arts, the development of photographic genres and understanding of the 'artistry' of photography, from both modern and historical viewpoints. The development of photography in Russia in the twentieth century went hand-in-hand with the search for adequate means of recording reality and, at the same time, under unprecedented, inescapable pressure from the dominant ideological system. Nevertheless, as a 'lower art form' photography paradoxically offered greater opportunities for expression of such aspects of life and culture as were not immediately subject to aesthetic regulation and censorship. In other words, photography demonstrates the opportunity of close acquaintance with day-to-day culture, and, on the other hand, with the elusive, vanishing nature of the same, caused by the genre's own inherent qualities (Punctum photography). Particular emphasis will be placed on modern photography, which has been flourishing since the beginning of the 1990's, due to the appearance of new names, technologies and genres. Rich visual resources make it possible to appreciate, fully and in detail, the qualities of Russian photography.
This course is dedicated to considering the history of Russian art, that is linked to the life and work of artists from Russia, in Western Europe and the US. The course covers a broad historical span, from the time of Peter the First until Perestroika. Broad trends of Russian artists turning to the West (pensioner visits under the aegis of the Academy of Arts, World Exhibitions, political emigration) will be described and analyzed in the course alongside the specific fates of certain important émigrés from Russia, who lived and worked within the bounds of Western culture (Orest Kiprensky, Marc Chagall, Ilya Kabakov and others). As this historical and artistic material is ingested, students will have the opportunity to learn about such interesting and important historical and cultural processes as the integration of Russian art of different time periods into European culture, and to understand how this process progressed as a unique set of issues and problems. This will not only make it possible to expand students' horizons, but also will offer valuable experience for students' own quests for personal paths in the modern world.
Foreign Languages (Arabic, English, French, German, and Italian)
The objective of this course is to consider changes in the perception of time that have taken place in the twentieth century, by analysis of contemporary debates on the history and evolution of the historical discipline. The collapse of a picture of the world that grew from the ideals of the era of Enlightenment—a collapse that became apparent after the Second World War—confuted the perception of historical time as linear, inevitable and objective. A new perception of time came along to replace it, first described by Foucault's Archeology of Knowledge. The evolution of the most important trends in historiography of the twentieth century—the replacement of a positivist historiography by the Annas school of history, with the subsequent 'fragmentation' of history, and the appearance of numerous new historical directions, can be seen as a quest for new ways to conceptualize time in history. Particular attention in the course will be paid to modern attempts by historians to understand the 'challenge of the time' as new and original: verbal history, history of daily life, historical memory, micro-history, the history of 'places of memory', as well as attempts to reanimate old models of how history is written, such as history as the 'teacher of life', or positivist history. Works by the following authors will be analyzed during the course: Ernest Lavisse, Fernand Brandel, Jacques Le Goff, Carlo Ginzburg, Philip Nord, R. Koselleck, Paul Ricoeur, Gerard Noirel and David Carr.
The course will consist in the in-class discussion of four classical texts of liberal political thought, spanning four centuries. Most of the readings will be available in Russian as well, but the in-class discussion will be in English. I am a great believer in reading classic texts, unabridged, first hand. I think meeting with great thinkers of the past directly should be an integral part of a liberal arts undergraduate experience. This course is an attempt at translating that principle to the subject of classical liberal political theory, an approach that, while contestable and contested, shapes the standard Western view of politics. Often unwittingly, these texts are at the heart of the notions of political liberties, justice, and human rights, some of which are taken for granted by many.
We shall start with Hobbes using unswerving reason to draw magnificent picture of political institution of the state; we go on to Rousseau, drawing on as well as deviating from Hobbes in presenting a very different view on the same notion of social contract; we continue by reading the crisp arguments for liberty by John Stuart Mill, and we finish our tour of four centuries by the most influential treatise on social liberal thought of the twentieth century, by John Rawls. Taught in English.
This survey course compasses the political, intellectual and cultural history of the Russian Empire and the problem of assessment and comparison, by contemporaries, of the historical development of Russia, with the history of the 'West.' In terms of chronology, the course will cover the period from the Muscovy Czardom (the first systematic contacts between Muscovy and Europe) up to the twentieth century, when Russia and the West reached a point of maximum convergence, and the Euro-centric model of development reached crisis point. Students in the course will explore texts by leading European thinkers who examined the historical development of Russia, as well as the main Russian intellectual debates on the problems of the similarity and differences between Russia and the 'West.'
This course has the objective of exposing students with an interest in Russian history and Russian cinematography to a broad range of cinematic material, which has recently been consulted ever more frequently as a route to the study of history. The films themselves, in reflecting both past and current events, are a striking example of history 'in the making.'
The course will survey the history of nationalism and national identity in Central and Eastern Europe. This survey necessitates an introduction to the history of the region, with its shifting political boundaries from the late Middle Ages to the end of the fall of Communism, and changing discourses of symbolic geography. The discussions will center on the formation of modern Central and Eastern European nationalisms and, in particular, on its intellectual foundations, canons and self-reflexivity. A separate thread of the course will be devoted to examination of entanglements of the place of Russia in the Central and Eastern European context.
The objective of this course is to teach students professional analysis of Russian foreign policy, with consideration for its idiosyncrasies and inherent patterns. The central topic of the course is the formation of a foreign policy agenda, how this is reflected in mass consciousness, and the resultant positioning of the Russian diplomatic mission. Aspects of national identity in today's Russia are also considered, with regard to their interrelation and interdependence with foreign policy discourse. Finally, students will gain insights into the institutional side of Russian foreign policy, and the mechanisms for taking foreign policy decisions. All the above issues are discussed on the basis of a systematic rendering of specific, factual material.
The purpose of this course is to provide a survey of the political, intellectual, social, economic and cultural history of the Russian Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the beginning of the 20th century. Using sources on Russian history as a basis, the course traces the evolution and preservation of traditional elements in various aspects of the Russian Empire: in the Russian economic system (problems of an agrarian society and the development of capitalism, the phenomenon of state capitalism, economic policies of the Russian government in the context of 'catch-up development' and industrialization); in the history of Russian society (social hierarchies, the birth of the modern professions and classes, the history of peasant society and towns, the problem of dependence of social development on state intervention, Russian society as multi-ethnic and poly-confessional); in the history of social culture (high culture and popular culture in the era of Europeanization, the rise of the family and the individual, the church and the religious component in public life, secularization processes, the spread of education and the appearance of civil society, and the history of Russian science); in the history of the state and political culture (history of the Russian monarchy, creation and reform of the system for managing the Russian Empire, politics of the center of the Empire with respect to non-Russian ethnicities and non-orthodox religious confessions, the foundation of a state of law and the development of Russian law, the history of Russian bureaucracy and the bureaucratization of the system for managing the state, the appearance of parliament and political parties); in the history of ideas and political ideologies (the reception of European enlightenment in Russia, Romanticism, Positivism, the reception and development in Russia of socialist ideas: populism and Marxism, the development of liberalism and conservatism, the crisis of Positivism, the Russian fin de siècle and Russian fascism). Other sets of problems considered will include the question of continuity and discontinuity in Russian history. A special focus of attention in this course will be debates (historical and historiographic) on the nature of Russian history in a peripheral, East European context, and the relationship between the trajectory of Russian history and the New Age in Europe.
This special course is dedicated to the study of the poetics of Joseph Brodsky. The course focus is on Brodsky's poetic texts of the 1960's-1990's. The majority of class time will be spent reading and analyzing these texts. The main elements of Brodsky's poetic language will also be considered, as well as the unique compositional and narrative aspects of his works. A special focus will be analysis of the poet's system of metaphors. The intertextual links of Brodsky's works will also be considered. A number of classes dedicated to analysis of Brodsky's texts will be inter-disciplinary in character. In the middle of the special course, a student mini-conference will be held on the poetics of Brodsky's cycle A Part of Speech.
This course is a the third in a cycle of three theoretical courses: Theory of Poetics, on the structure of literary text (poetics); Narrative Theory, and Linguistic and Intertextual Poetics. Students may select any individual course in the cycle, or attend all three courses in any order. It is understood that students' strong foundation in literary and poetics theory, and methods of analyzing literary text presupposes the greatest possible familiarity with this cycle of poetics disciplines.
This course unites three different areas of study: 1) linguistic poetics, 2) intertextual poetics as applied to poetic texts, i.e. non-narrative texts—narrative aspects of intertextuality will be covered in the course Narration, 3) advanced monographic analysis of poetic text. The third aspect coincides and interweaves with the first two, such that the same material may be discussed from different viewpoints. The third aspect is studied mainly using examples of classical analysis performed in the last decades by leading philologists, and the example of improvised analysis of texts of various types, in class. The first and second aspects are studied by means of systematic review of the main problematic areas in the corresponding disciplines.
This course will acquaint students with the unique aspects of cinematic text. In order to understand these issues, we will turn to such concepts in literature, psychology, or art studies as 'allegory,' 'metaphor,' 'realized metaphor,' 'subtext,' 'dream language,' 'silent theater,' 'direct and reverse perspective,' 'close-up, wide shot,' 'montage' and so forth. We will discuss how literary works are adapted for the cinema based, in part, on the example of the works of Shakespeare.
This course is a self-contained continuation of the previous course on the history of life and culture in St. Petersburg in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Students will learn about the changes that took place in the lives of Petersburgers since the mid-19th century: city life and trade; the life of rented apartment buildings and their tenants; the interiors of St. Petersburg apartments; the relationships between masters and servants in post-reform Russia; the daily life of civil servants, traders, raznochinets (the professional class not drawn from the nobility); and the lives of students and gymnasium pupils. Another aspect of the lives of Petersburgers, which is of great historical interest, is that of St. Petersburg summer houses, or dachas, the number of which was steadily increasing due to the construction of railroads and which would replace the traditional estates of noblemen as a place of recreation for city-dwellers. From the beginning of the new, twentieth, century city life adapted to new realities: trams, electricity, and the telephone. Naturally, the course will also discuss the cultural atmosphere of the Silver Age, although this will not duplicate the course on the history of Russian literature, but instead explore life in literary salons, artistic cabarets, and public interest in the theater.
In this course, we will explore the history of the Russian novel, from approximately 1840 to 1940. Such aspects of the novel as genre and the prehistory of the novel in Russia will be considered, as well as numerous novels, beginning with the classical works of Lermontov and Gogol. Two of the main topics will be the Russian novel in the second half of the nineteenth century (Turgenev, Goncharov, Dostoyevsky, Saltykov-Shchedrin, Leskov and Tolstoy) and the novel in the twentieth century (Gorky, Bunin, Sollogub, Bely, Platonov, Bulgakov, Remezov, Nabokov and Sholokhov). We will explore the poetics of novels, as well as their aesthetic, philosophical, ethical, religious and other overtures and motifs.
This course is built around students' exposure to the main St. Petersburg museums commemorating the city's literary history: the literary museum of Pushkin House, the museum-apartments of Derzhavin, Pushkin, Nekrasov, Dostoyevsky, Blok, Akhmatova, and the literary cabaret Brodyachaya sobaka (The Stray Dog). Students will become familiar with museums both in classes and via excursions conducted by museum research staff. The course topics are not limited to museum exhibitions, but will also include various aspects of the biography and creative paths of each writer, and the building that was part of his or her life (for example, discussions on the topics 'The Duel and Death of Pushkin,' 'Dostoyevsky's Petersburg,' 'The Sovremennik Magazine and its Place in the Russian Press,' 'The Evolution of Blok's Muse,' etc.).
The starting point of this course is the fact that French literature of the twentieth century has featured, and continues to boast, its 'own Franz Kafka', a certain literary figure, also active in the arena of creative work, but subject not as much to the real, biographical origin, as to the fanciful laws of the foreign author's literary reception. Without side-stepping attempts to analyze texts by the real Kafka, in this course we will try to understand how it became possible for 'Kafka the surrealist' (De L'Humeur Noire [Anthology of Black Humor] by Anton Breton) or 'Kafka the existentialist' (Le Mythe de Sysyphe [The Myth of Sisyphus] by Albert Camus) to appear. Analysis of certain key 'Kafkan' topics will be accompanied by study of the most original 'French interpretations' of his work, penned by Jean-Paul Sartre, George Bataille, Maurice Blanchot, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guatarri.
This course is based on a strictly individual approach, aimed at realizing the natural potential in each student’s voice. The course will help to master different singing styles (in ‘speech’ and ‘conversation’ modes), as well as such genres and styles as Russian and foreign variety concert singing, pop, rock, jazz, Russian popular song and art song. The course is illustrated with audio and video materials: rock operas, musical albums, musicals, musical films, etc. Musical accompaniment will come from recordings of music with vocal track removed, piano, and a live orchestral ensemble. Training in a capella singing will be provided. An individual syllabus and repertoire are determined during the first class, depending on the students' level of musical development, interests and capabilities.
In this course, St. Petersburg of the eighteenth century will be considered as a unique facet of Russian musical culture. The history of this period, starting with the time of Peter the Great and ending with the reign of Paul I, and revealing the processes behind the formation of various Western-style musical institutions (theater, concerts, schools, sheet music printing, etc.), genres of musical art (opera, instrumental chamber ensembles and vocal music), will constitute one part of this course. A special focus will be analysis of the phenomenon of ‘musical life at court’: court music and its role in the context of ceremonies, holidays, and high-society leisure. The course syllabus will give students the opportunity to become familiar with the work of both European composers working in St. Petersburg—or whose works were performed here—and Russian musicians. One of the important aspects of the course is contemporary interpretation of the music of the St. Petersburg court in the framework of a recent movement, which has earned the label of ‘historical’ or ‘authentic’ performance.
In this course, the performance of music is considered as the form and means of its existence, structured by its phenomenology and ontology; performance is seen as a form of activity with both cultural/geographical and cultural/historical coordinates. The topics that run through the entire course are the phenomenology and mythology of musical performance, its history, its function in artistic communication and the essentially infinite range of its types (from the commitment to faithful observance—above all else—of the author’s instructions, to the interpretative artist—ultimately, even a competitor of the author—in the listening environment of the ‘artiste and concert’ era, which formed against the cultural backdrop of the specific work, and for which our understanding of the history of art as a history of masterpieces in art, including performance masterpieces, is culturally relevant and psychologically sufficient).
The objective of this course is to give students an understanding of the main theories of genre cinematography, as applied to thrillers and horror films. Students will learn about the history of these genres, their development and transformations, narrative models, and the socio-cultural and psychological premises for such films. Some of the time will be dedicated to viewing and discussion of films and familiarization with the works of leading film creators, responsible for establishing or developing the classic formulae in these genres. Students in the course will have an opportunity to independently consider the possible paths for adaptation of the thriller and horror genres for the Russian film industry, and consider the obstacles to such adaptation. The course syllabus requires that students have proficient English reading skills, as Russian-language literature on this subject is extremely limited and (with rare exceptions) of low quality. Part of each class will be dedicated to discussion of films and film fragments, and for this reason viewing of said films as a ‘homework assignment’ is mandatory, and will be strictly enforced.
The objective of this course is to analyze the historical development of religious tolerance within the framework of the European cultural tradition, on the one hand, and of intolerance on the other, and to consider the reflection of these trends in philosophical thought and the salient legislative documents of the European powers. This course is designed to give students knowledge of the process by which tolerance and intolerance interact in European culture, and to analyze the process by which ideas of freedom of conscience arose and found philosophical justification, and then found wider validation in Europe's cultural and legal traditions.
Philosophy has played a major role in the public and cultural life of Germany, starting with Leibniz and Wolff, and up until the current time. Moreover, ‘philosophy' is understood to mean not only philosophical systems, but also philosophical essays, aesthetic ruminations and philosophical epiphanies in fictional literature. These elements constitute a broad, philosophical field in German literature. A literature laced with philosophizing leans toward abstraction and ideals. It is often found in German philosophy and fictional literature that philosophy and literature undeniably form a single whole. In this way, literary, fictional and musical works are unthinkable for German culture without a tendency toward idealization and ‘cleansing' day-to-day life of chaos. This special course will pay particular attention to the combination of literature and philosophy produced by Nietzsche, whose works constitute one of the main bridges between philosophy and literature in Germany. The influence of Nietzsche's philosophy on writers, artists and great public figures was vitally significant for German cultural life. Finally, in the twentieth century, the struggle between ideologies produces a wide spectrum of insights into the question of the relationship between philosophy and art.
International Relations, Political Science, and Human Rights
Human rights in the 20th century have become a universally-recognized norm for the entire civilized world. As a signatory to the main international human rights treaties, Russia has declared its intention to build a state of law that respects human rights. However, the pattern of observation of human rights is currently far from ideal in Russia. In this course, a series of issues will be considered, relating to the observation of the main human rights in Russia, both historically and at the current time, as well as possible routes for altering the situation.
The main sources will be reports by Russian and international human rights organizations, comparison and analysis of changes that have already taken place or are taking place now, as we watch. The objective of this special course is for students to become acquainted with the history of human rights violations, from the time of empire to the late Soviet period, and also to explore obstacles to building a system for the future protection of human rights in Russia. The course will consider the relationship between the development of ideas of democracy and of human rights, and include discussion of problems faced by the advocacy movement and its crisis in today's Russia.
The purpose of this course is to introduce students to anthropological perspectives on three of the most pressing international issues of our time: globalization, terrorism and war. These three issues are intimately related to each other: they have also been the subjects of scrutiny by anthropologists.
This course is dedicated to the discussion of problems encountered by the world community in the process of protecting human rights, understood from the viewpoint of universalism as a single set of rules and codes, applicable to all. Recent events have exacerbated a number of serious contradictions that stand in the way of applying this mechanism. The greatest of these are contradictions between the principles of individual rights, human rights and rights of citizens, and collective rights, understood as the rights of a group of individuals. The problem of reconciling a culture of relativism and the declaration of a universal concept of human rights is becoming the target of the liveliest discussion. In addition, there is a tendency to expand the concept of human rights itself. The course will consider human rights issues in modern society by the exploration of specific examples.
This course studies the origins and development of the human rights advocacy movement in the USSR, and its contribution to the development of democracy in Russia today. The political history of the USSR in the twentieth century would be incomplete without the history of confrontation between totalitarian authority and the people—called nonconformists or dissidents—who attempted to exercise human rights, to defend their honor and dignity. The means of defending and promoting these rights are an important aspect of the history of the advocacy movement—as important as the evolution of viewpoints on the concept of human rights itself, and on the means of exercising these rights. The course will include testimony of repressions that members of the advocacy movement were subjected to, showing how these repressions changed in each historical period. Particular attention will be paid to the unique aspects of human rights in the USSR, contradictions between the struggle for collective rights (national movements and religious groups) and for individual rights, related to citizenship (the civil rights movement). The phenomenon of Samizdat will be especially highlighted in the course, as a realization of the right to freedom of speech.
What is terrorism? Since 9/11, the concept has re-gained notorious presence in the daily news and headlines. Is terrorism violence in order to pursue a political goal? Are all-violent actions not declared as war equal to terrorism? How should we distinguish 'liberation wars' from 'terrorist actions'? Do 'good', i.e. moral intentions such as Human Rights, liberty, and absence of state terror justify violence? Are there any legitimate reasons to use terrorist methods to achieve political claims such as independence / secession, the attention of the international community and the UN's dealing with the problem? Or is terrorism just a pretence covering blunt economic interests and power-struggles between non-democratically elected power elites? And is terrorism today what it has been in the 1960s and 70s in Western Europe?
This course deals with theoretical aspects of terrorism such as the terrorist mindset, ideologies prone to incite violent actions as well as aspects of how to exit from a terrorist group. We shall further deal with the crucial issue of state involvement: by what means and policies can the state prevent the emergence of terrorist groups? What incentives do the state have to make terrorists abandon their allegiance to the goals they believed require violent means?
This course focuses on fascist and extremist movements from a variety of perspectives. The first part of the course develops an understanding of fascism as a concept, using primarily the case of Nazi Germany. It considers the following questions: What is fascism? How does it arise? What are its main principles (or does it have any)? Who are its supporters and beneficiaries? How important are concepts like modernization, totalitarianism and anti-Semitism to our understanding of fascism? The second part of the course will compare National Socialism in Germany with fascist movements in interwar Italy and Eastern Europe (Croatia, Hungary, Romania), as well as with Peronism in Argentina. The third part of the course examines extremist movements in the post-war era, including religious and racist groups in the US, nationalists and skinheads across Europe, and terrorist groups in various parts of the world.
This course covers the main problems in current world politics, related to the use of nuclear technologies for military purposes. It consists of two main parts. In the first part, the nuclear strategy and nuclear military policy of states possessing nuclear weapons is considered, including the history of the appearance and development of nuclear strategy during the Cold War period. The second part is dedicated to problems of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, including the history of development and the current state of the international non-proliferation regime.
The main goal of the course is for students to form an understanding of the history of development and status quo in a broad range of international policy issues related to nuclear weapons. To achieve this task, students will use course materials to accumulate knowledge on the main nuclear strategies of states possessing nuclear weapons, on national policies and the international non-proliferation regime, on the current state and potential for development of that regime, and of threats to its existence. A special focus will be the study of various documents: international treaties covering problems of control over nuclear arms.
In this course, gender theories in sociology, social and cultural anthropology and politology are discussed. Students will learn about the main topics in gender studies (men's, women's and queer studies, the structure and transformation of gender relations in the private and public spheres, the distribution of power, gender and violence, the problem of gender discrimination, gender-oriented public movements, cultural gender codes, etc.). The central focus will be on discussion of theoretical concepts, which constitute the toolbox of gender studies (cultural construction of gender, gender display, gender and identity, theory of sexual politics, cultural exploration of corporeality, feminist criticism, etc.). The practical part of classes will include familiarization with key works that illustrate the different areas in gender studies, as well as experience applying the knowledge thus acquired into practice, by means of field studies.
Since the beginning of the so-called "third wave" of democratization in Latin America, southern Europe, and Eastern Europe in the 1980s and 1990s, the question of "what makes democracy work in some places but not others" has taken on a new salience. This course on democratization is divided into three parts. The first part of the course examines the foundations of democracy from a variety of perspectives: historical, economic, institutional, and cultural. The second part of the course considers individual cases of democratization from the "third wave" as well as theories of democratization, including the role of political parties, governmental systems (presidential versus parliamentary), electoral systems, and civil society. The final part of the course reconsiders what has become known as the "transition paradigm" in light of the failure of democracy to take hold in certain countries.
This course will explore Saint-Petersburg as an extraordinary cultural phenomenon: the social and economic phenomenon that is a city, but a text in its own right. It served (or one should again say "serves") as a text in two respects. Unlike other Russian cities that had arisen more or less organically in the Middle Ages, it was the willful creation of Peter I, his "window opening onto Europe," which was also intended in its function and design to mirror that Europe. In pursuit of Saint-Petersburg's cultural identity, this course will examine several major works of Russian fiction, but in doing so it will also illustrate those works' close connection with their urban setting, with Russian political power (the presence of the czar's court), and with Russian geopolitics (the city as a window of Europe, but also as a paradoxical capital, poised at the edge of the empire). Saint-Petersburg compared with the most fabulous Europan cities - Rome and Nuremberg. Almost three-thousand-year-old Rome, the former capital of the magnificient Roman Empire and the birthplace of the catolicism, remains the most powerful symbolization of history in the modern world. Nuremberg, a lair of medieval European mystery and horror, becomes, in the 20th century, its real embodiment - first as the projected capital of Nazi state, then as a place of final execution of Nazism - the Nuremberg trial.
This course covers a broad range of theory and practice in art, science and para-science of the 1920's and 1930's, related to the construction of a new mentality (experiments in the field of physiology, psychology, pedagogy, philosophy of language, etc.) and a new Soviet culture of daily life (from new practices in relations between the sexes to the development of hygiene and physical education programs). All these theories, regardless of how inherently utopian they may now seem, were intended to transform the individual's subjective state and collective identity: to construct a new person, who would become the foundation upon which a new type of collective could be organized. The experiments of the 1920's and 1930's are especially interesting, because they did not constitute one single project but were, conversely, the conglomerate of competing scientific, artistic and ideological programs, which drew on the contradictory political interests of different groups within the Party. The comparison between the 'twenties' and the 'thirties', as cultural and political eras, is deployed in the course to illustrate the mutual relationship between the new anthropology and Soviet history, on the path from military communism to a totalitarian empire.
This course examines the points at which religion and politics meet, especially those points where social subordinates mobilize for resistance via religious belief systems and movements. The course will move in time from early modern Europe to contemporary South Africa and other parts of the world; it will move in space from Africa to South-East Asia. It will examine both the organized religions of complex types and the Shamanic cults generally (though not always) associated with simpler, 'primitive' societies. It also examines the use of ritual by officially non-religious political regimes, such as the Soviet Union or the French presidency of Mitterrand. In addition to these topics and themes, students will also be given a grounding in the general anthropological theories of religion and ritual, including the work of theorists such as Marx, Durkheim, and Weber, as well as contemporary anthropologists such as Clifford Geertz and Michael Taussig. At the end of this course, students should be aware of the various theories of religion and resistance that have been developed by anthropologists and other social scientists, should have an understanding of the key concepts and ethnographic case studies, and should be able to think critically about the issues surrounding the relationship between religion and society.
Areas of Concentration (Minors)
American Culture and Civilization
Eastern Culture and Civilization
French Culture and Civilization
Russian Culture and Civilization
Sample Course Plans
Here are actual semester course plans of North American students who have recently studied at Smolny. All classes are in Russian unless otherwise indicated. Visiting North American students are each assigned an academic advisor who will help devise the most efficient course load for each individual.