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Cults of Personality
/ COMP 215
First uttered by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1956, the phrase “cult of personality” was formulated to discredit the hero-worship that accompanied Joseph Stalin’s iron-fisted rule of the Soviet Union. Since then, the phrase has gained currency as a condemnation of a variety of seemingly all-powerful leaders in oppressive political regimes, including China’s Mao Zedong, Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, and the ruling Kim family in North Korea. In this course, we will examine the phenomenon of the cult of personality from a variety of perspectives, beginning with the cult surrounding Stalin and ending with that of Vladimir Putin. Our course material will encompass scholarship from multiple disciplines, including history, sociology, political science, cultural and media studies, as well as artistic expression typically labeled propaganda in literature, the visual arts, and film. Although our course will begin in the Soviet Union and end in contemporary Russia, we will explore how the cult of personality has been adapted and updated for different cultural and political purposes in fascist Germany, Italy, and Spain, China, Iran, North Korea, and Cuba. All readings will be in English, and all films will have English subtitles.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
completion of weekly reading and writing assignments, as well as active engagement during tutorial sessions
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
Students will be writing papers (5-6 pages) every other week and receiving detailed feedback on their writing with the expectation that they will identify areas in need of improvement and work on these throughout the semester. The course will also require that students write one paper together with their tutorial partner and that they rewrite two different papers, one at midterm and the other at the end of the term.