The Sarmatian Review



SLAVIC 367 (The Slavic and East European Emigre Experience in America)

Instructor: Dr. Angela Brintlinger, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures

The syllabus was prepared jointly by Angela Brintlinger and Daniel Collins.

Instructor's Notes:

I taught this course for the first time in 1997 and will teach it again this fall. At the Ohio State University, we are on a ten-week quarter system, and the class met twice a week for two hours throughout the quarter. Class size was limited to 25 students.

When my colleague Daniel Collins and I devised this course, we wanted to take advantage of the University's requirements to help us create a course that would attract students. OSU's "General Education Curriculum" (GEC) includes three required writing-intensive courses. The first of these is taken in the English Department and the third in the student's major, but the second one can be offered by any department, as long as its topic is 'the American Experience.' Since Slavs and East Europeans are an important part of the American experience, we went ahead with this course. By making sure to emphasize gender, class and racial and ethnic issues, we also qualified as a 'social diversity' course, which fills another of the students' GEC requirements.

There was no way to include all the experiences of the various Slavic and East European ethnic groups into a ten-week course. I tried instead to include experiences (on the plains, in the coal mines, in the city) shared by different ethnic groups. The students' projects, presented at the end of the course as a 'symposium,' were supposed to include national groups less represented in the course as a whole. In addition, I chose a mixture of texts by Slavs and East Europeans and by Americans to show both sides of the relationship between the immigrants and the culture they encountered.

My colleagues and I expected that the class would consist mostly of students of Slavic heritage, but the Poles, Croats, Serbs and Hungarians in my class made up less than one-third. Do I need to add that Slavic heritage is interesting not only to Slavic Americans?

I generally change some of the texts and alter the focus somewhat each time I teach the course, but last year's experience based on the syllabus below was very rewarding. My students were excited to learn more about Slavs and East Europeans.

Description of course

This course explores the experience of Eastern European immigrants including Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, Bulgarians, Romanians, Ukrainians, Russians and East European Jews in the United States throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Issues examined include: conservation vs. assimilation in language, values, and other aspects of culture; the immigrants' perception of themselves and their perception of the Other (i.e., Americans belonging to the dominant culture); gender issues; and generational gaps between immigrants and their Americanized descendants.

Materials studied include fiction, personal narrative and essay, plus the dominant culture's image/stereotype of the East European immigrant in film, anecdote and humor.


1. To achieve a better understanding of the mutual perception of Eastern European immigrants and Americans

2. To learn ways of reading, writing and speaking about issues of social diversity, including race and ethnicity, social class, and gender.


The students will develop skills in reading, discussing, analyzing (orally and in writing) and responding to a variety of English-language texts, including poetry, fiction, personal narrative, essays, articles, jokes and films.


Engaged and responsive class participation will be expected on a daily basis. Graded work in the course will include four short writing assignments (3-5 pages), a ten-minute oral presentation, and a final paper of 8-10 pages that may (but does not have to) expand on the oral presentation.


I. The Eastern European Immigrant in Poetry and Fiction

Lecture 1: Who are the Slavs and East Europeans?

Week 1: Pioneer Farmers

Lecture 2: Czechs on the Plains

(Reading: Willa Cather, "The Bohemian Girl")

Lecture 3: A Jewish Girl in North Dakota

(Reading: Rachel Calof, Rachel Calof's Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains)

Week 2: The Unguarded Gates

Lecture 4: The City

(Reading: Thomas Aldrich, "Unguarded Gates" and Walt Whitman, "A Nation of Nations"; Anzia Yezierska, "How I Found America," "America and I")

Lecture 5: "Hunky Laborers"

(Reading: Thomas Bell, Out of This Furnace)

Week 3:

Lecture 6: Dissident Intellectuals

(Reading: Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin)

Lecture 7: Children of Strangers

(Reading: Anthony Bukoski, "Children of Strangers," "Polkaholics")

II. The Eastern European Immigrant in Humor and Folktale (Stereotyping I)

Week 4:

Lecture 8: Names and Ethnic Slurs: What are the new arrivals called? What happens to Slavic names in America?

(Reading: Josephine Wtulich, "Stereotypical Images of the Slav before the American Eyes: Literature, Film, and Humor 1900-1968; Film: Charlie Chaplin, "The Immigrant")

Lecture 9: "Polack" and other Jokes; "Ethnicspeak"

(Reading: Alan Dundes, "A Study of Ethnic Slurs: The Jew and the Polack in the U.S."; "American folktale" of Joe Magarac, Croatian steelworker)

III. The Eastern European Immigrant in Film and Theater (Stereotyping II)

Week 5:

Lecture 10: The Pole in New Orleans, 1951 (Stanley Kowalski)

(Film: "A Streetcar Named Desire")

Lecture 11: Analysis of "Streetcar"

(Reading: Maurice Yacowar's Tennessee Williams and Film: "A Streetcar Named Desire," 15-24)

Week 6:

Lecture 12: The Pole in New York, 1987

(Reading: Janusz Glowacki, Hunting Cockroaches)

IV. Feelings of Alienation/Reactions to American Cultural Phenomena

Week 7:

Lecture 13: Perceptions of Advertising and Popular Culture.

(Reading: Vladimir Nabokov, "Philistines and Philistinism";

Dubravka Ugresic, "Body," "Trash," "Coca-Cola")

Lecture 14: Commenting on America: Andrei Codrescu.

(Film: "Road Scholar")

Week 8:

Lecture 15: The Emigre

(Reading: Czeslaw Milosz: "After the War" [Conversations with Czeslaw Milosz, 90-98], "The Agony of the West" [114-121], and "Emigration to America: A Summing Up" [in Visions from San Francisco Bay, 198-226])

Lecture 16: Becoming an American

(Reading: Oscar Jaszi, Homage to Danubia ["On Becoming an American Citizen," 178-181; "A Speech at the Memorial Service for Oscar Jaszi" by Prof. Stephen Borsody, 93-195]; Andrei Codrescu, "Born Again," In America's Shoes, 1-16)

Week 9:

Lecture 17: The Exile (A "Citizen of the World")

(Reading: Alexander Solzhenitsyn, "A World Split Apart" ["Harvard Speech"] and one response essay [divided among students]; Vasily Aksenov, In Search of Melancholy Baby, Chapter 1, including "Hating the States" and "Loving the States"; Joseph Brodsky, "Less than One")

V. Conclusion: The Slavs and Eastern Europeans in America

Week 10:

Lectures 18, 19, 20: Student Symposium on The Slavs and Eastern Europeans in America (Oral Presentations).

Concluding Remarks.


SLAVIC 412/RUSSIAN 412 (The Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian Commonwealth, 16th-18th Centuries)

Instructor: Dr. Krzysztof Koehler, Department of German and Slavic Studies


TIME: TTh 3:00-4:20 PM

PLACE: 210 Rayzor Hall

OFFICE HOURS: TTh 11:00-12:00 AM

OFFICE LOCATION: 205 Rayzor Hall

The purpose of the course is to familiarize students with the politics, history, culture and literature of the Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian Commonwealth from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century.

Asecondary goal is to familiarize students with the classical pre-Enlightenment state of the European consciousness as grounded in the heritage of Antiquity and of Christianity.


Norman Davies, God's Playground:AHistory of Poland, 2 vols. (Columbia 1984)

Henryk Sienkiewicz, With Fire and Sword, trans. W. Kuniczak (Hippocrene)


Jan-Chryzostom Pasek, Memoirs of the Polish Baroque (California UP)

Czeslaw Milosz, The History of Polish Literature (California UP)


Aristotle, Politics (the first two chapters)

Aristotle, Poetics

Horace Carminae (in English translation), especially "De Arte poetica"

St. Augustine, The City of God

Bogdana Carpenter, ed., Monumenta Polonica


Davies, read by February 10

Mid-term recess:March 2-6

Sienkiewicz, read by March 15

Spring recess:April 1-2

April 23:last day of classes

The dates are approximate. Tests will be given on God's Playground and With Fire and Sword on or after the dates indicated in READING ASSIGNMENTS.

FORMAT: lectures and discussions

REQUIREMENTS: reading all of the assigned works

passing the tests on these works

one paper due April 21

(no A's for late papers)


1. The origins of the Polish parliamentary system

2. Confessions in the Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian Commonwealth

3. National minorities in the Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian Commonwealth

4. The role of the Jesuit Order in the process of Catholic Counter-reformation in the Commonwealth

5. The election of kings and the principles behind it in the Commonwealth

6. The tradition of tolerance in political and religious life in the Commonwealth

7. The vision of history in Henryk Sienkiewicz's With Fire and Sword

8. With Fire and Sword as an epic work (for those who have read Aristotle's Poetics and are familiar with some contemporary poetics)

9. Analysis of a character in With Fire and Sword

10. Civil war and its consequences in With Fire and Sword

You can of course select your own topic with the instructor's approval.

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The Sarmatian Review
Last updated 09/24/98