Faculty: Sean Williams (ethnomusicology), Patricia Krafcik (Russian language and literature)
This program explores the folklore of the Slavic and Celtic peoples from epic times to the present in a cross-cultural study of two of Eurasia’s oldest ethnic groups. Both groups are dispersed: the Slavic regions across eastern and southeastern Europe and into Eurasia, and the Celtic regions across the islands and peninsulas of the West. Both are renowned for their abundant folklore traditions, which have deep roots in a remote past and have served as a valuable source of inspiration for writers, composers and dramatists from the 19th century through the present. What characteristics do both traditions share? What distinguishes the two cultural traditions? What essential historical, linguistic and spiritual elements permeate the hearts and minds of local people in these regions? What do their folklore practices reveal?
We begin the quarter with regional epic narratives and explore the histories and belief systems of the two regions. We follow this foundational work with an exploration of folklore practices (customs, rituals, beliefs), examine 19th-century cultural nationalist movements in music and literature, and conclude with how it all plays out in contemporary life, both rural and urban. This program may serve as a springboard for further study of the Celtic and Slavic peoples, of folklore, and of the material elements of culture. Each week includes lectures, films, seminars, and possible workshops, collaborative presentations, and guest performers or presenters. Students will be expected to write short essays, as requested, and to complete a significant essay at the end of the quarter that examines the role, use and appropriation of folklore materials in a particular Slavic or Celtic region.