In this seminar, we will embark on a journey into the colorful, mystical, and dangerous world of Russian folk fairy tales and mythology. Participants will be introduced to such beloved fairy-tale figures as Baba Yaga, Koshchei the Deathless, Snow Maiden, Vasilissa the Beautiful, Ivan the Fool, and the Firebird. We will also explore folk beliefs associated with various spirits residing in your house and the forest, such as domovoi, kikimora, leshii, and others. We will discuss the folk stories and establish their connection to ancient myths and superstitions. We will learn about various appropriations of these folk stories and characters in works of poetry and fiction, in musical compositions, in arts and crafts, and in films and cartoons, and we will touch upon their use in political propaganda and the tourist industry.
Participants will read selected fairy tales and short excerpts from Russian folklore studies. We will watch clips from operas, ballets, and cartoons, look at paintings and photographs, and listen to musical selections in class. Optional film screenings will be held in the afternoon.
Optional readings: Aleksandr Afanasyev, Russian Fairy Tales, Pantheon Books, Reissue edition, 1973 (ISBN:
Linda J. Ivanits, Russian Folk Belief, Routledge: First Paperback Printing edition, 1992 (ISBN: 978-0873328890)
Victoria Kononova is Assistant Professor of Russian at Lawrence University. She is originally from Velikie Luki, Russia. During her undergraduate studies at Lomonosov Moscow State University, she participated in summer folklore expeditions to distant Russian villages, where she collected stories about nature spirits, local saints, and mystical forefathers. She also sang in a folk ensemble. She received her Ph.D. from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018. Her research explores appropriation of folklore in Russian literature, music, and arts in the late nineteenth century as part of Russian society’s search for national authenticity.