Dr. Benjamin Jens received his Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is happy to return to the Dept. of Russian and Slavic Studies at the University of Arizona, having held a visitingposition here from 2012-2014. He has previously taught Russian language, literature, and culture courses at The College of New Jersey and the University of Vermont. Dr. Jens's main area of research is the use of silence as a mode of communication in 19th-century Russian literature; he also has research interests in Russian and East European cinema, Eastern Orthodoxy, and cultural ties between the Western Balkans and Russia.
This course studies a selection of the best and most influential fantastic, marvelous, and uncanny works from the region that brought the world rocketry, Sputnik, and the robot. Students will analyze a variety of media (in translation) from Eastern Europe that posit situations based in a "fantastic" space, time or world to compare how broader cultural concerns are expressed through the genre of science fiction. We will discuss the development of the genre in Eastern Europe from the era of Romanticism to the modern day, with emphasis on the historical-cultural context of the Space Race between the US and USSR and its impact on the genre. This course will explore the view "from the East" of such topics as progress, imperialism, human perfectibility, gender constructs, the nature of communication, human/other identity, and the limits of knowledge as humanity pushes further into the final frontier. Students will read all texts in translation; all films will be available with English-language subtitles.
The course will examine supernatural figures who find their folkloric and historical origins in the Slavic and East European tradition. Through legends, chronicles, novels, films, and music, the course will consider how and why these creatures come to reflect contemporary fears.
A Tier-Two Humanities course with readings and discussion in English or representative Russian literary works of the 19th century.