Department Events · Uncategorized

Apocalypse Then: Dr. Boyer To Give Talk on Fifteenth-Century Apocalyptic Texts

With Thanksgiving, followed closely by finals, bearing down on us like a juggernaut, this week seems like the perfect time to discuss apocalyptic texts, doesn’t it? Well, fear not! Dr. Boyer will be giving a talk Tuesday afternoon about The Antichrist and the Fifteen Signs of Doomsday, a medieval text about miracles and the apocalypse. Come by, say hi, and learn a little about magic, alchemy, and the Middle Ages!

Antichrist and Doomsday.jpg

Book review · Translations · Uncategorized

#TranslationThursday: “Vita Nostra” by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko, Translated by Julia Meitov Hersey

Vita Nostra

I picked up “Vita Nostra” largely out of curiosity. I’d never heard of the authors before, but I’m always up for some Russian literature in translation, and the fact that it was contemporary fantasy made it even more intriguing. But when diving into these things, you never know what you’re going to get.

And indeed, I was in for a wild ride. The authors, Marina and Sergey Dyachenko, write what they call “M-realism.” What “M-realism” is the authors have declined to clarify, although a quick Google search does turn up the theory, propounded by N. Tennant, that “M-realism is the idea that one rejects bivalence and assents to the recognition-transcendent requirement.” So there you have it.

Anyway, “Vita Nostra” occupies a fascinating liminal literary space between fantasy and hard sci-fi, and between your typical urban/academy fantasy and literary fiction. The main character, Sasha Samokhina, is a teenager who turns out to have an amazing, massive, magical gift. What that magical gift is, though, is not revealed, not even to her, until the end of the book. Instead, she’s coerced into completing a series of nonsensical tasks, and then forced into enrolling in a peculiar institute in a small provincial town.

Once there, she is given more nonsensical and infuriating tasks, while being bullied and threatened by her instructors. Always a straight-A student, Sasha becomes a manic workaholic, until the bizarre assignments start to become clear to her, and she begins to see the larger pattern of which she is a part. At which point she begins making changes to herself and the world around her–changes that could have tragic consequences for all concerned.

Readers of academy fantasy (e.g., “Vampire Academy“) will recognize many familiar elements in “Vita Nostra.” It even has a handsome PT instructor named Dima whom all the girls have a crush on, just like “Vampire Academy.” But while “Vita Nostra” has a compelling plot that will drag you along with it whether you want it to or not, it is decidedly metaphysical and metaliterary fair compared with its YA brethren. Although the basic storyline, of an adolescent girl who gets pulled into a magical school and goes through a coming-of-age process there, both intellectually and romantically, is the same, “Vita Nostra” has a lot less wish fulfillment and a lot more meditation on things like the coercive nature of education and the very makeup of reality itself.

The translation must have been quite a challenge, given the theoretical nature of its underlying themes, as well as the word play involved in some of the key scenes (particular credit should go to the interplay between “verb” and “reverberate” in the translation). It reads very smoothly, though, preserving the essential foreignness of the topic while translating it into colloquial, readable English.

“Vita Nostra” is a compelling read, but it’s not light reading. If you’re looking for “Vampire Academy 2,” this may not be it. But if you’re interested in reading some very smart, very thought-provoking contemporary fantasy/sci fi in translation, I highly recommend it.

Department Events · Student Awards · Travel Abroad · Uncategorized

Applications for Sanders Scholarships are Now Open

Interested in doing a study abroad to Germany or Austria?


Now there’s an incentive to apply for study abroad!

The WFU German program is now accepting applications for Sanders Scholarships, which help offset the cost of study abroad in Germany or Austria. They’re available to rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors who will have completed GER 153 by  the time of the award period and plan to study at the Goethe Institute, IES, or the Flow House.

If you have any questions, please talk to your instructor or Doctor Howards. You can access a PDF of the application here: Sanders Scholarship Application 2019

Applications and letter of recommendation are due Monday, December 2nd.

Travel Abroad · Uncategorized

A Former WFU Student in Eastern Europe

Who knows where your post-college life will lead you? Former WFU student Addison McLamb has contributed this delightful post about a little side adventure to Romania during his posting in Bulgaria:

Romanian border

A border check point between Romania and Bulgaria
There we were: cruising 80kph towards the Romanian border in a diesel Opel SUV, Katy Perry’s “Harleys in Hawaii” playing from a small bluetooth speaker; Josh, the SoCal West Pointer, fighting sleep in the passenger seat; empty bottles of SAVINA water and “5” gum wrappers littering the floorboards.
All was quiet on the Eastern front. Farms and small villages lay along the route. We crossed a large valley in the Danube river basin and snaked through the mountains with slow-moving transfer trucks before being deposited onto the flat, tilled cropland of Varna’s coastal shelf. The Black Sea was was a just a few horizons east of us.
At the border crossing, Bulgarian truckers were queued in neat lines and standing by their cabs and critiquing the whole scene with the unblinking detachment of kennel club judges. Very tight shirts over very loose stomachs. Cheap European cigarette fumes, probably from large distributors in Plovdiv or Sofia. Waiting.
Our small vehicle line moved faster and we were waved forward by a frowning man in a black jumpsuit. “CUSTOMS,” his jacket said. We complied and I turned off what was now 6LACK.
“No. These are not right.” (our NATO paperwork)
I gulped.
Josh had crossed the border multiple times. He laughed and put on his sunglasses and looked out the side and mumbled something about this has never happened before, haha.
CUSTOMS shook his head and said “no, no!” in broken English and went back inside his brick shack covered in block Cyrillic and colored seals and all ranges of emphatic geometric punctuation. Murphy’s Law also applies in the former Soviet bloc.
But thankfully, CUSTOMS never returned. The next officer helpfully processed our paperwork and we were off into the agro-paradise of Romania’s sprawling seaboard.
Overall, the trip wasn’t too eventful. We saw stray dogs, rundown villages, beautiful rolling hills that smacked of scenelets somewhere between the darkness of Rembrandt and the glossiness of a Teletubbies shtick. Bulgarian mountains are like molars—stumpy and unpredictable and jutting up inconveniently as series of broken ridges and open rock faces. The people and the towns are are getting older. Elders sit along the roadways and look at the cars as they pass by, perhaps wondering where we’re going, and why, or perhaps not wondering anything at all.
In one town there was a giant rocket statue by the main road. Commuters wheeled past. Evergreens crowded the statue’s base, and I strained to see a faded “CCCP” logo within the memorial. And in thinking about this recent road trip as a whole, that’s how rural Bulgaria seemed: like something stoic and dark, a statue perhaps, built atop a fading manifesto and being crowded out by the trees.
There is life and growth in this place but you have to look hard to find it.
Department Events · Uncategorized

Events This Week: A Book Release and Bliny!

We’ve got quite an exciting lineup of events this week!

First of all, we’re thrilled to announce that the book launch reception that will be held this Wednesday, 4-6pm, in the Green Room in Reynolda Hall, includes a book that our very own Professor Boyer participated in. Come by for discussion, drinks, and snacks 🙂 You can also listen to a podcast episode about it here.

American Medieval Goes North

Two new exciting books on medieval studies from Wake Forest Faculty have just been released! Come to the book launch reception 4:00-6:00pm on Wednesday, November 13th in the Green Room in Reynolda Hall.

And then, for something completely different, the Russian program will hold another Pancake Party on Thursday, November 14. Any and all Russian students are invited to come to Professor Clark’s house Thursday evening between 5:30 and 8:00 to learn to how to make блины (Russian-style crepes). Please RSVP to if you are interested in attending.

Pancake night November 14


Department Events · Uncategorized

Events this week: Kaffeestunde, Film Night, and More!

We’re back from fall break, and busier than ever! So without further ado, let’s jump into a listing of this week’s activities.

Kaffeestunde October 16

Come join us for coffee and conversation this Wednesday afternoon, 4-5pm.


Can’t get enough German conversation? Mosey on over to Stammtisch Wednesday evening.

German Film October 17

And then catch a German film on Thursday, starting at 7pm.

Walls fall down

Finally, get ready for the Walls Fall Down event next week!