SCAND 152 A: Latvian Literary and Cultural History

Spring 2023
MW 12:30pm - 2:20pm / THO 135
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):


Can you spot the reddish highlight on the world map? If so, take the course to bring the spot closer and explore this unique European country – small in size but impressive in its people and culture! 

Here are a few facts about Latvia😊 


  • stay up all night and jump over bonfires during the Latvian Midsummer (Jāņi or St. John’s Day), and there are more than 2,300 folksongs (dainas) about this night? 
  • gained their independence from the Soviet Union by joining hands and singing across the entire country in 1991? 
  • discovered Angel Falls in Venezuela (Aleksandrs Laime), painted some of the most expensive modern art pieces in the world (Mark Rothko), and invented blue jeans (Jacob William Davis), spy cameras (Walter Zapp), and holograms (Juris Upatnieks)? 

General Scope  

The central questions of the course are: What are the experiences, beliefs, and attitudes of Latvians, and how are these experiences, beliefs, and attitudes portrayed in various art forms (e.g., literature, cinema, paintings, music, and architecture)?  

We will work with different texts (literary works, interviews, statistics, maps, posters, songs, films, etc.) to discuss topics such as paganism and religion; the formation and challenging of the national identity; multiculturalism; the right to speak one’s own language; mental and physical freedom; Soviet ideology and power. Through our work, we will formulate what Latvian-ness means at the individual, state, and global levels and relate it to your own culture experiences. 


The course occurs across 19 classes in the classroom, with weekly home assignments posted on the course’s Canvas page. Classes are interactive, containing both the instructor’s lectures and joint discussions on the topic, work in pairs and groups, and the exchanging of knowledge, experiences, and opinions. Classroom activities include listening to music, viewing pictures, reading literary and informational texts, and watching videos. 

Evaluation and Grading  

All assignments are graded on a 100-point scale. The course has neither a midterm nor a final exam, as active learning is expected on a regular basis. Thus, the final grade is based on six components: 

Weekly home assignments – 20 points 
Participation in classroom activities – 30 points 
Three seminars – 30 points 
5-min-long presentation – 10 points  
Online quiz – 8 points  
Self-assessment and reflections on the course – 2 points 

Catalog Description:
Survey of Latvian literary and cultural history from the nineteenth century to the present. Authors include Pumpurs, Rainis, Aspazija, Blaumanis, Nesaule, Bels, and Zalite.
GE Requirements Met:
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated:
February 24, 2024 - 1:45 pm