Modern Russian culture and history is a particular strength of the program, and the Department places an emphasis on an integrated approach to the subject. In the creative arts, classes treat Russian achievements in fiction, film, poetry, and art, including the great novels in which Russian literature developed its distinctive focus on questions of moral responsibility and national identity. NYU’s faculty in the visual arts, especially the avant-garde, is unparalleled, with courses explaining the relationship between art, politics, and philosophy. While some courses offer an in-depth examination of a particular writer or topic (such as our classes on Dostoevsky and on Bakhtinian literary theory), others span a century of literary development, and still others are organized around historical and comparative topics (such as "Serfdom and Slavery in Russian and American Literature"). All of our course offerings reflect the wide-ranging interests of departmental faculty, whose areas of research extend from Golden Age poetry to 1990s detective fiction and post-Soviet films. History courses range from the broad surveys that aim to convey a sense of Russian development as a European and Asian state, at once central to world affairs and acting on the margins of a European or world system. More focused courses take up particular themes, be it the novel in historical context or the utopian impulse in Russian and European politics and culture.
Highly effective language instruction develops a practical skill useful to careers in international business, diplomacy, journalism, and other professions. Students from the Department of Russian and Slavic Studies perform exceptionally well in the nation-wide Russian-language writing competition sponsored by the American Councils of Teachers of Russian: in 2003, out of 276 essays submitted from the top 32 universities and colleges across the United States, NYU students garnered four prizes, including highest honors in the category of beginning learners. The department also offers courses specifically designed for heritage learners, who have performed similarly well in the nation-wide contest. Russian Club activities and monthly get-togethers for undergraduates provide an opportunity both to practice language skills and to foster the sense of community that is a prime advantage of studying in a small and cohesive academic department.
New York City is the center of Russian culture in the United States: Russian theater troupes, artists, actors, and musicians frequent the city; there are continuous exhibitions of Russian art in many galleries and museums near NYU; the New York Public Library has the best collection of Russian literature in the country; and émigrés from Russia and other Slavic countries have developed thriving neighborhoods and social institutions. The Department of Russian and Slavic Studies takes full advantage of the opportunities offered by NYU's location, helping students to connect their interest in Slavic culture to the life of the city.