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Cambridge Ukrainian Studies


Paper SL 10: Studies in Twentieth-Century Ukrainian Literature and Film

Study the Films of Oleksandr Dovzhenko at Cambridge

Paper SL 10 explores the literary and filmic texts that accompanied the rise of Ukraine from imperial periphery to sovereign state in the 'short twentieth century' (Hobsbawm). Its chronological frame between the 1910s and 1990s, two periods marked by declarations of Ukrainian independence, offers you a synoptic cultural history of Soviet Ukraine cast in relief. Each of the paper's five sections centres on a period of artistic flourishing and considers the implications of the intersection of signification, aesthetic representation, and political power from a broad theoretical perspective. The paper will also explore these themes and topics with a view to twenty-first century developments in Ukraine, especially the EuroMaidan Revolution and the current armed conflict with Russia.

Key works include:

• Volodymyr Vynnychenko, Zapysky kyrpatoho mefistofelia / Notes of a Pug-Nosed Mephistopheles

• Oleksandr Dovzhenko, Zvenyhora, Arsenal, Zemlia

• Oleksandr Dovzhenko, Ukraina v ohni / Ukraine in Flames

• Ivan Bahrianyi, Tyhrolovy / The Hunters and the Hunted

• Iurii Illienko, Bilyi ptakh z chornoiu oznakoiu / White Bird with Black Spot, Krynytsia dlia sprahlykh / A Well for the Thirsty

• Oksana Zabuzhko, Pol'ovi doslidzhennia z ukrains'koho seksu / Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex

Realising the 'ancient dream': Revolution in Ukraine

This section lays the paper's historical and conceptual foundations and focuses on the work of Volodymyr Vynnychenko -- prose stylist, playwright, and head of the short-lived Directory (Direktoriia) of the Ukrainian National Republic.

'Thoughts against the current': The Soviet Ukrainian Cultural Renaissance

This section explores the way in which literature and film were put to work in 'Ukrainization' (ukraïnizatsiia), an active program of nation-building mandated by the early Soviet state. It focuses on the films and the prose of Oleksandr Dovzhenko, one of the cinematic masters of the twentieth century.

'Ukraine in flames': The cultural legacy of World War II

This section considers the impact of World War II on Ukrainian culture, which was felt in ways symbolic and brutally physical. Pivoting on the prose 'film-tales' (kinopovisti) of Dovzhenko, it examines representations of warfare before taking up works by Ukrainian writers displaced by this violence and conflict -- the members of the refugee Ukrainian Artistic Movement (Mystets'kyi ukrains'kyi rukh, or MUR) based in Germany.

'An awakened muse': The shestydesiatnyky and visimdesiatnyky

This section begins with the visually-arresting films of Ukrainian 'poetic cinema' and considers the role of art as a form of action in defense of individual and group rights in the periods of artistic renewal before and after the Brezhnev Stagnation. 

Soviet bureaucrats, 'national-masochists', and 'Chicken Kiev': Ukraine in the early 1990s

This section hinges on the advent and on the event of Ukraine's independence and delves into the groundbreaking prose of two of today's most prominent Ukrainian writers, Volodymyr Dibrova and Oksana Zabuzhko.

Paper SL 10 is open to students of all Departments of the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and available in Part II only. Some knowledge of Ukrainian is expected. You are encouraged to register in the Intermediate Ukrainian open course, which is held on Wednesdays during Full Term.

Click here for a more detailed description of Paper SL 10 on the Cambridge MML Faculty website.

Click here for information about Paper SL 9, 'Introduction to the Language, Literature and Culture of Ukraine.'

Course Adviser: Dr Rory Finnin

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