Contemporary East European and Eurasian Literature:

From Velvet Revolution to Silk Road




3 credit hours




Danko Sipka, Ph.D.

Associate Professor Research




Course Web Page


Schedule & Location






There are no prerequisites for taking this course




This course has the following objectives: a) to acquaint its participants with the three cultural spheres in Eastern Europe (Central Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia); b) to familiarize its participants with several major authors representing these cultures, and; c) to develop critical thinking skills regarding the ideas expressed in the literary works and the relationships these ideas have within the cultural and socio-political context of Central Europe, the Balkans, and Central Asia.




This course is an intellectual journey from the heart of Europe, where the 1989 velvet revolutions took place, to the Central Asian regions on the ancient Silk Road, which have been experiencing ethnic and cultural identity revivals since the collapse of the Soviet empire. The course will revolve around the ideas of conflict and discrepancy, i.e., the discrepancy between the perceived image of the “East” in the “West” and the reality of various mutually rather distant cultures in the region; the ethnic and political conflicts of the Balkans and Central Asia, the internal moral and existential conflict of Central European intellectuals, etc.


Student homework consists of reading the works listed below and preparing for in-class discussions. There will be three multiple choice quizzes at the end of weeks 7, 13, and 16. There will also be a final essay due at the end of the course.


Overview and Methodology


The East, Perceived and Real


Overview of the cultural circles of the region as well as of the socio-economic and political changes of the 20th century; construal of the “East” in the Western world.


Central Europe


Cz. Milosz New and Selected Poems 1931-2001, S. Mrozek Tango, D. Kis Hourglass; Film: Marble Man by A. Wajda or Blue by K. Kieslowski.


The Balkans


I. Andric The Bridge over the Drina, I. Kadare Chronicle in Stone, M. Pavic Dictionary of the Khazars; Film: Underground by E. Kusturica or Pretty Villages, Pretty Flames by S. Dragojevic.


Central Asia


Ch. Aitmatov The Place of the Skull; Selected Azerbaijani and Armenian prose writers in: Azerbaijani prose: an anthology (edited by Mirza Ibragimov) and We of the mountains; Armenian short stories (translated by Fainna Glagoleva); Film: Selected Armenian movie.


Course Materials


The principal materials for this course are translations of the literary works and films listed in the description part of this syllabus. In addition, selected critical works about the authors discussed will be disseminated. A substantial amount of other materials, especially for those seeking to broaden their knowledge of the literatures addressed, will be available on the course web page.


Grading Policy


Class work will contribute to the final grade in the following manner:

Quizzes: 25%

Final Essay: 25%

Class Participation: 50%




Weeks 1-2:  Overview and Methodology; The East, Perceived and Real

Weeks 3-7:  Central Europe

Weeks 8-13:  The Balkans

Weeks 14-16:  Central Asia