Department Events · Uncategorized

Chas Peek and Kaffeestunde: Department Events this Week

It’s the last week of the semester! So you know what that means!

С новым годом

That’s right! The biggest Russian holiday of the year–New Year’s Day!

And you know what New Year’s means, right? Watching classic Soviet films! Most families in the former USSR have a yearly tradition of watching popular New-Year’s-themed movies. Here’s a clip from one of the most popular, the romantic comedy/musical “The Irony of Fate, or, Have a Nice Bath”:

Polish Actress Barbara Brylska played the role of the film’s heroine Nadya, although the vocal performances were by Soviet pop superstar Alla Pugachyova. Here she/they perform a famous poem by Marina Tsvetaeva set to music. Other songs in the film were based on lyrics by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Boris Pasternak, and Bella Akhmadulina

But meanwhile, we have plenty of activities this week to get you in the pre-holiday mood, and maybe take away a little of your pre-exam stress. Come for some conversation and snacks with faculty and other Russian and German speakers!


Chas Peek (Russian conversation hour) will be Tuesday, from 4 to 5, in Greene 341.


Kaffeestunde (German conversation hour) will be Wednesday, from 4 to 5, in Greene 341


Department Events · Uncategorized

Germany in the Carolinas this week!

Welcome back! I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, and is looking forward to finals.

Okay, maybe you’re not looking forward to finals, but you probably *are* looking forward to winter break. But meanwhile we’ve got a full week of great activities lined up for you!

German Movie night is on Tuesday! Greene 340, 7pm

German Movie night 11:27

And for Thursday we are delighted to welcome Klaus Becker, Honorary Consul for Germany, to campus to give a talk on Germany in the Carolinas

Klaus Becker

Department Events · Student Awards · Travel Abroad · Uncategorized

Sanders and Critical Language Scholarship Applications Due Next Week!

It’s a short week! Yay! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! But in the rush to visit with friends and family and wolf down as many family favorites as possible,

Persian borscht

Professor Clark will be revisiting a cross-cultural family favorite, Persian-style borscht. Dill-haters and beet-skeptics need not apply.

don’t forget that two study abroad scholarships have their deadlines next week!

Applications for the Sanders Scholarship, for students interested in study abroad in Germany or Austria, are due November 26.


Vienna, Austria

Scholarships will be awarded for language study in Germany or Austria. These scholarships are available to rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors who will have completed German 153 or above by the time of the award period. The awards are designated specifically (and in order of preference) for: l) summer language study at the Goethe Institut; 2) supplemental aid for a semester or year of study at IES program in Berlin, Freiburg, or Vienna; or 3) a semester of study at the Flow House in Vienna, Austria; of 4) study with the department’s Jena summer program.

Completed applications must be returned to the administrative assistant of the Department of German and Russian, 333 Greene Hall, by the Monday after Thanksgiving break. Please contact Professor Howards or your German professor for more information.

Applications for the Critical Language Scholarship, for students interested in studying Russian in Russia, Georgia, or Kyrgyzstan, are due November 27.


Vladimir, Russia is one of the sites of the 2019 CLS programs in Russian

The link to the CLS application is here. Please contact your Russian professor or Professor Clark for more information.

Enjoy your break!

Department Events · Student Awards · Travel Abroad · Uncategorized

Kaffeestunde and Russian Film Night: Events This Week

It’s a cold rainy Veterans Day today, but that won’t stop us from offering plenty of (indoor) activities this week! Both of our department activities are on Wednesday, so if you wanted to, you could totally hang around and come to both!

Kaffeestunde will be from 4 to 5, Wednesday, November 14. Games and prizes will be on offer!

Kaffeestunde 11:14

Then our last Russian film of the semester will be from 6 to 7:30. We’ll be finishing up our retrospective of beloved Soviet comedy director Leonid Gaidai by watching his adaptation of Ilf & Petrov’s comedy classic “12 Chairs.”

12 Chairs

And last but not least, a reminder that students interested in studying German in Germany or Austria next year should talk to their German professor or Dr. Howards about the department’s Sanders Scholarship. Applications are due the Monday after Thanksgiving, which is coming right up!

Book review · Uncategorized

Goethe’s “Iphigenia” and the 2018 elections for German Literature Month #germanlitmonth

Professor McAllister has contributed this essay on Goethe’s play Iphigenia and its lessons for the current political climate for German Literature Month:


As I finish up reading Goethe’s Iphigenia with our seniors I cannot help but compare that classic with events impacting the United States today as millions (hopefully) head to the polls in a bitter and hotly contested election.


Scene from the 1802 Weimar premiere of Iphigenia, with Goethe (seated, center) as Orestes

Today, petulant and reckless rhetoric has incited many to embrace fearful instead of compassionate attitudes toward refugees fleeing death, poverty, and other calamities beyond their control. The character Iphigenia was herself a refugee, an immigrant unwillingly whisked away from her homeland by forces she could not control or change. Brought by the gods to a foreign land where a cruel custom fueled by xenophobic fear demanded the death of any wayward traveler unfortunate enough to stumble upon its shores, Iphigenia achieved the impossible. She not only survived, but she also changed the culture of violence she was intended to facilitate. In doing so, she not only saved herself and other foreigners (importantly her brother and his companions), but she also saved a country from its own worst inclinations. Miraculous indeed.

Yet, unlike Euripides’ character, Goethe’s Iphigenia receives no divine assistance. The miracles she performs she creates herself. In this manner she is the paragon of German classicism, a character able to achieve the divine through human means. Her character also reflects the classical temperament: a soul stirred by deep emotions, fear and love, yet tempered by rational thought and unwavering integrity. Breaking the habit of her lineage she is unable to deceive, lie, and kill. Her weapons are her words. And she wields them adroitly as she navigates a dialectic of ever shifting voices each demanding her acquiescence. Yet she prevails. She wins. She saves the day and in doing so provides a model of conciliation for the rest of humanity.

Structurally Goethe’s play is an imitation of a Greek original, but its content is thoroughly German, if not European. Even though Goethe’s play is an allegory about Europe’s violent history of distrust, dissimulation, and hatred of the neighbor, the play provides a thoughtful lesson about the foreigner for any nation, especially ours and our current political atmosphere of divisiveness. In contrast to distrust and enmity Iphigenia offers trust, honest dialogue, and vulnerability. She provides an antidote to fear and violence that humans, if left unchallenged, otherwise easily embrace. It is the only way she can expiate the guilt of her ancestral house, itself framed by a narrative of hate and deceit. In a dedication poem written for an actor in the 1827 performance of Iphigenia in Berlin Goethe wrote: “pure humanity expiates all human frailty and error.” Through his character Iphigenia Goethe clearly models what he means by his statement. First, humans are destined to err. And second, honesty and humility can awaken a sense of shared humanity that enables a reconciliation of animosities born of misunderstandings.

At the end of the play Iphigenia offers Thoas, the King of her exiled home, an example of how she would welcome foreigners, hoping he would do the same. She pleads:

Verbann uns nicht! Ein freundlich Gastrecht walte

von dir zu uns: so sind wir nicht auf ewig

Getrennt und abgeschieden. Wert und teuer,

Wie mir mein Vater war, so bist du’s mir,

Und dieser Eindruck bleibt in meiner Seele.

Bringt der Geringste deines Volkes je

Den Ton der Stimme mir ins Ohr zurück,

Den ich an euch gewohnt zu hören bin,

Und seh ich an dem Ärmsten eure Tracht:

Empfangen will ich ihn wie einen Gott,

Ich will ihm selbst ein Lager zubereiten,

Auf einen Stuhl ihn an das Feuer laden

Und nur nach dir und deinem schicksal fragen.

With this image Iphigenia reiterates the obligation of the host to welcome, to house, and to protect the refugee, even the poorest of them all, as if the guest were family and models a new precedent not just for her and Thoas’ descendants, but for the whole of humanity. Thoas indicates with his “Lebe wohl” that he, too, will follow her example. Sadly our nations, present and past, too often illustrate their willingness to embrace those baser emotions that cursed Iphigenia’s house for generations. Perhaps this is why we rarely find such unfettered optimism in German literature. Tragic comedy and the grotesque seem better suited for our national temperaments. Or it could be that we as subjects of our various tribes are failing to correctly interpret others’ intentions as well as our own motivations. After all it is an ambiguous answer and its erroneous interpretation that confound the conflict at the heart of Goethe’s play. Once Iphigenia’s brother, Orest, correctly understands that Iphigenia, and not the image of a goddess, is the answer to his and his family’s troubled existence, the conflict resolves. We don’t need divine prayer or intervention. We simply need to scrutinize to the messages we receive and make sure we understand them correctly and heed reason over demagoguery.

Department Events · Uncategorized

Movies, Music, and More! This Week’s Department Events

It’s another action-packed week here! So let’s just jump in with a list of this week’s department events.

First, on Tuesday at 4pm we’ll have Chas Peek (Russian Conversation Hour) in Greene 341. Refreshments, games, music, and Russian conversation will all flow in abundance!


Stop by and say hi in English or Russian! Greene 341, 4-5pm, Tuesday November 6.
A bit later on the same day we’ll have German movie night:

Die Ehe der Maria Braun

And then on Thursday, over in the Fine Arts Center, there will be a lecture and recital featuring composers persecuted during the Nazi regime. Free and open to the public!

Politics and Music


Travel Abroad · Uncategorized

The Boren Scholarship

Wow! Is it already the last week of October? The semester sure is racing by! Which means it’s time to start thinking already about study study abroad applications for next year.

As a reminder, the Critical Language Scholarship deadline is in November, so if you’re interested and eligible, you will want to get right on that. But that is not the only national scholarship for students of critical need languages such as Russian. Another biggie is the Boren Scholarship.

Вечерний вид на Владивосток и бухт

With a Boren you could get really far off the beaten track. Like Vladivostok, for example.

What’s cool about the Boren? Two things. First of all, while it does have funding for summer study for STEM students, it focuses primarily on providing funding students planning to spend at least 6, and preferably 12, months abroad.


Or maybe study Kyrgyz in Bishkek

Second of all, the Boren scholarship is for students interested in pursuing a career in national security, and comes with a service requirement after graduation. But the flip side is that Boren awardees are given assistance in identifying and applying for eligible positions. So if you’re interested in working in security and intelligence, a Boren will help you get your foot in the door in your chosen career.

And it’s not just for undergrads! There’s also the Boren Fellowship for graduate students.

You can find an overview of the Boren program here.

Priority languages here.

Eligibility requirements here.

Timeline/deadlines here.

And if you want to find out more about studying Russian abroad, please contact Professor Clark at