Columbia University's Department of Slavic Languages, one of the oldest in the U.S., aims to educate new generations of scholars dedicated to advancing the field of Slavic studies. It strongly emphasizes the rigorous study of literary texts and, discourses and cultural history. It also encourages its students to pursue original and innovative projects that further the development of the field.
In recent years, the area of Slavic studies has undergone major changes, challenging scholars in the field to reach out and build many interdisciplinary ties. We encourage our students to link literary study with innovative work in other disciplines—intellectual and social history, film and performance studies, musicology, art history, sociology, anthropology, religious studies, and others—that already share some of literature's investment in narrativity, structure, communication and interpretation. The Department welcomes theoretical, reflective work that draws on contemporary theories and approaches, but simultaneously stresses the historicity of such discourses and of the cultural phenomena they set out to investigate.
The Columbia University Slavic Department enjoys close cooperation with many of Columbia's other programs, departments and institutes in the humanities, social sciences and fine arts, including the Linguistics program, the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, the East Central European Center, and the W. Averell Harriman Institute. Students may pursue the Institute's Harriman Certificate and are encouraged to do so. Courses in the Harriman program provide broader historical, political and cultural contexts for literature. They offer opportunities for practical alternatives to an academic career. In addition, the Institute provides access to a rich array of visiting speakers and scholars, assistance for travel, access to film and directly received television, and contact with students and several dozen faculty members in related departments. To supplement Columbia’s vast array of educational opportunities, students regularly take advantage of the resources New York City has to offer, including museums, libraries, theatres, businesses and embassies.
The Columbia University library boasts an outstanding collection of Slavic books and manuscripts. The library houses the Bakhmeteff Archive, famed for its collection of Russian émigré materials. Students also have access to the Slavic and Baltic Collections of the New York Public Library. Taken together, the holdings at Columbia and NYPL contain the largest concentration of Russian-language materials in the country. In addition, Columbia's Slavic Librarian is available to assist students in tracking down resources related to Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies, both in the Columbia Libraries and online.
The faculty of the Slavic Department is quite diverse with respect to background and area of academic focus. Traditionally, the department's main strength has been Russian literature and culture; however, we strive to reflect the rich diversity of Slavic cultures, offering courses in Czech, Polish, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, and Ukrainian literatures and cultures, as well as comparative courses that trace common theoretical and cultural concerns across national boundaries. Chronologically, the Department's course offerings span the entire history of Slavic literatures and cultures, from the medieval period to the postcommunist era. While the Department currently does not offer a graduate specialization in linguistics, several elective courses of study provide rigorous training in that field.
In addition to working in their indivual fields of specialization, doctoral students in the Slavic Department are required to develop a strong minor in a second Slavic literature or a related field in the humanities, arts, or social sciences, or, alternatively, pursue the Certificate in Comparative Literature and Society. Along with appropriate teaching experience, this double specialization provides our students with a solid disciplinary base for their research and prepares them for the demands of the academic job.
The Department seeks, above all, to foster independent thought while providing a thorough grounding in the Slavic literary tradition and solid training in research, giving each student the opportunity to develop his or her own original scholarly approach, and thereby to make a unique contribution to Columbia's tradition of excellence in Slavic studies.