Professor Padraic Kenney phone 492-5729
Department of History e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Office: Hellems 368 Office hours: Mon., Tues., 12-1:30
The focus of this seminar will be the decline and fall of communism in three countries which experienced revolutionary change in 1989. It is not to soon to begin examining these events as historians. We will be interested in the following questions: what was the communist system? Why did people oppose it (or support it)? what is a revolution, and was there one in 1989? what are the roles of various factors in that revolution?
Part One of this course will concern the nature of communism. In the second part, we will compare four explanations of the fall of communism: an economic explanation, a political one, a foreign-policy one (Gorbachev), and a social/intellectual one. We will conclude with a look at the moral consequences of communism.
Assignments: four short papers, worth 10, 15, 15, and 15% of final grade. Research paper: 25%. Class participation: 20%. Please note that while the research paper is due in class on April 20, you may choose any other date before that, or shortly thereafter, as the due date, in consultation with me. I do this to allow you to avoid conflicts with other classes.
>>>Extensions on papers will only be granted by prior arrangement, and only due to a documented emergency. If an assignment is completed late without prior arrangement, one full grade will be deducted every day (including weekends); papers turned in after class on the day due will lose one-third of a grade. No assignment may be made up more than one week after the original due date.
Jan 12. Introduction to course. Major themes in Eastern Europe since 1945.
Introduction to first paper assignment.
Jan 26. Communism's weaknesses and strengths. Where are the cracks? Who should revolt? Read Swain & Swain (all, but skip sections on other countries). First paper due in class.
Feb 2. Havel's critique of communism, and program for change. Read "The Power of the Powerless" (Havel, pp. 23-97).
Feb 9. Kundera's critique of communism, and program for change. Read The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (all).
Feb 16. Other approaches to opposition. Read assigned selections from Havel.
Feb 23. Introduction to the fall of communism; review of theories. Discussion of possible research topics and methods.
Mar 2. Communism's economic collapse. Read The Road From Serfdom (all). What does Skidelsky's approach explain, and what doesn't it?
Second paper due in class.
Mar 9. Gorbachev and the Brezhnev doctrine. Read Gati, 3-103, 205-219.
Mar 16. The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe: what does Gati's approach explain, and what doesn't it? Finish Gati.
Mar 31. The communist system - did it have to collapse? Read Waller, first half.
Apr 6. What does Waller's approach explain, and what does it not? Third paper due in class.
Apr 13. The intellectuals: where do they fit in? read Stokes, chs. 1-5; refresh Havel.
Apr 20. Research paper presentations. Research papers due.
Apr 27. Research paper presentations.
May 4. Communism's legacies: a look ahead. Read Rosenberg.
Final paper due May 8.
#1. Short paper, due January 26. Minimum three pages. 10% of grade. Comparison of two films' treatment of communism. Choose two of the following films to view. You may choose from the same country, or different countries; by genre; by time period covered or when they were made. The central question I want you to address is: "How do these films portray the struggle of the individual against a system, or the acceptance of the system?" The approach you take, and the issues you deal with, will depend on what you choose; please consult with me before or after viewing if you have any difficulty developing your argument.
Questions you might consider: (if a comedy): what's so funny about communism? what is the author's purpose? (if a tragedy): whose fault is it: the system's, or individuals', or perhaps the culture? (for a film made during communism): what ways does the author find to critique communism -- for example allegory?
Films: All but one are available at the Media Library; many are also at Video Station.
Poland: Blind Chance; Man of Marble; Mother of Kings; Suspended; Top Dog; Camera Buff (this is available only at Video Station)
Czechoslovakia: Firemen's Ball; Larks on a String; Report on the Party and the Guests
Hungary: Father; Oh Bloody Life!; Riddance
#2. Short paper, due March 2. Minimum five pages. 15% of grade. Skidelsky and Kundera. It might seem strange to link a novel and an economic polemic -- but these two authors have a lot in common. Please compare and contrast their critiques of communism, paying particular attention to the role of the individual.
#3. Short paper, due April 6. Minimum five pages. 15% of grade. Gati and Waller on the fall of communism. In his introduction, Charles Gati poses a number of questions about the effect of Gorbachev's reforms on East European communism. Gati was writing in 1989; Waller is writing several years later. From his vantage point, what are the answers to Gati's questions? Is Waller asking the same questions, or are his and Gati's investigations fundamentally different?
#4. Research paper, due April 20. Minimum twelve pages. 25% of grade. You have two options: 1) A research paper based on primary sources, covering some issue in the communist period or the revolution in Poland, Czechoslovakia, or Hungary. 2) A study of recent scholarly debate on the revolution. I will have more to say about this later in the semester.
#5. Short paper, due May 8. Minimum five pages. 15% of grade. Morality and post-communism. Vaclav Havel, Adam Michnik, and many others envisioned a world where politics would be different -- more 'human.' Tina Rosenberg's investigations allow us to consider whether anything of this aim has been achieved. How would you assess the success of the dissidents' dreams? If they have failed, why do you think this is the case? In addition to evidence from Power of the Powerless, Stokes, and Rosenberg, you might consider what Skidelsky and Kundera would say.