Medieval Epics and Modern Forgeries: The Igor Tale In Its Contexts

SLAV 525, Section G - Spring 2022

Since its discovery in the late eighteenth century, the Slovo o polku Igoreve (the Igor Tale) has occupied a central but isolated place in Russian literary history. Received as a secular national epic, Slovo stood out as unique in the canon of medieval Russian literature and as singularly important to the forging of a modern Russian national literary identity. These features led to suspicions concerning the authenticity of the work from the very beginning. In this course, we will read the text of Slovo closely (in the Old East Slavic/OCS) and examine its features as a literary work in comparison to related Kievan period texts, to other “authentic” medieval epics (Song of Roland, Saga of the Volsungs), to oral epic traditions (byliny and S Slavic oral epics), and to later “forgeries” (Ossian, Czech manuscripts). We will examine the debates over Slovo’s authenticity and explore how arguments on both sides shed light on the nature of medieval literature and how that literature was received (and transformed) in the age of developing nationalism.


Instructor: David Cooper

W 2:00 - 4:20 pm, 1112 Foreign Languages Building