Arctic as an Art 

Course unit code: Б1.ДВ3., Б3.ДВ4., Б3.ДВ6., Б2.ДВ3.

Department: Institute of Philology and Intercultural Communication, Institute of Humanities, Social and Political Sciences.

Type of course unit: Theoretical, optional.

Level of course unit: First (bachelor level); Advanced emphasis course.

Year of study (if applicable): recommended after completing at least one term of undergraduate studies.

Semester/trimester when the course unit is delivered: Spring semester.

Number of ECTS credits allocated: 10 ECTS

Name of lecturer(s): Anna N. Solovyeva, Mariya A. Lvova, Tatiana O. Konopleva, Ksenia V. Yartseva, Ksenia S. Mironova, Katerina S. Mikhailovskaya.

Course content:

The basic aim of the courseis to shape and analyze the representation of the Arctic from the inside and the outside by means of looking into various forms of art and knowledge which reflect geographical cultural and social uniqueness of the region. Using interdisciplinary methods, this course examines how the Arctic is represented in different types of texts (folklore, written, visual, material etc) and produced in different cultural contexts (Russian, European, Scandinavian and the North American; aboriginal, colonial, modern and postmodern).

Students will explore and analyze different types of text: written (author’s and folklore), visual texts (paintings, graphic, photography and films), accompanied by and reflecting other expressive cultural forms such as dance, art, song, various forms of traditional knowledge and material culture of the High North societies.

Learning outcomes of the course unit:

Upon successful completion of this course students should:

  • demonstrate their knowledge of the cultural heritage of the Arctic countries;
  • critically analyze interconnections between the geographical, social and cultural aspects of the life in the Arctic region;
  • be able to take part in a discussion concerning controversial issues of the Arctic representation;
  • be able to interpret different representations of the Arctic and analyze their relationship to changing social, political, and economic frameworks;
  • be able to see the links existing between the nations of the Arctic which have developed due to similarity of the environment;
  • be able to apply some aspects of traditional knowledge in present-day life for sustainable development of modern society;
  • acquire scientific interest in further analysis of the Arctic cultural heritage;
  • be able to search out and synthesize information stored on paper, electronically (computerized databases or recordings) or visually (videos);

Mode of delivery (face-to-face, distance learning): Face-to-face learning

Prerequisites and co-requisites: general English language requirements

Recommended optional programme components: other courses devoted to the historical, geographical, political and social issues of the Arctic region, preferably courses of Bachelor of Circumpolar Studies.

Course consists of 3 Modules

MODULE 1. Talking Arctic

Number of ECTS credits allocated: 4 ECTS

The module involves studying the representation of the Arctic created in different types of texts. Within this module students will discover different features of the so-called «northern identity», they will realize that the Arctic moulds the identity of «Northeners» even if they haven’t ever physically been in touch with the Arctic. They would have a different image of the world if they didn’t have this vast wilderness as part of their territory. Figuratively speaking the Polar regions are not only «the weather kitchen» of the northern hemisphere but also «the nordic character nursery».

Through critical studying such text types as memoirs, travelling notes, fiction, poetry and official documents students will look into the issues of changes in the perception of the Arctic (a shift from mythological to rational perception of the Arctic) and gendered image of the Arctic.

Required reading: all sources will be available in the form of compendia corresponding to a certain text type.

MODULE 2. Visualizing Arctic

Number of ECTS credits allocated: 4 ECTS

Emphasizing the specifics of the cinematic effort to map the Arctic world using geographical metaphors, particular attention will be given to the articulation of temporal and spatial coordinates that create perspective, meaning and a position for the viewer — «the Arctic Gaze». The module will be particularly focused on diversity of social codes of looking at the northern landscapes, produced in different cultural and social contexts: «the colonial gaze», «the explorer’s gaze», «the tourist gaze», «the aboriginal gaze».

Visual culture is understood not as a mirror that reflects regional (both national and transnational) identity, but rather a complex venue for its interpretation — a site through which populations come into consciousness as members of a particular northern community. The module provides students with the knowledge of the range of Arctic visions that have framed northern issues and shaped the interests of individuals and stakeholder groups during the course of modern history: «Arctic as homeland», «Arctic as frontier», «Arctic as a land of discovery and adventure», «Arctic as wilderness». The module also deals with social consequences of the Arctic nature and societies media representations and their usage.

Examination of the Arctic natural and cultural landscapes media representations is focused on emergence and transmission of enduring «Nordic» stereotypes; their relationship to changing social, political, and economic frameworks.

Recommended or required reading:

  1. Spofford, Francis «I May Be Some Time: Ice and the English Imagination» (Faber and Faber, London, 1996)
  2. C. Loomis, «The Arctic Sublime,» in Nature and the Victorian Imagination, U.C. Knoepfmacher, G.B. Tennyson, Eds. (Univ. of California Press, Berkeley, 1977) pp. 95-112.
  3. Morley, D. and K. Robins (1995) Spaces of Identity: Global Media, Electronic Landscapes and Cultural Boundaries. London: Routledge.
  4. Prins, Harald (2002) ‘Visual Media and the Primitivism Perplex: Colonial Fantasies, Indigenous Imagination, and Advocacy in North America’, in F. Ginsburg, L. Abu-Lughod and B. Larkin (eds) Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  5. J.B. Harley, ‘Maps, knowledge, and power’, in D. Cosgrove and S. Daniels, eds, The iconography of landscape: essays on the symbolic representation, design, and use of past environments (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 277–312;
  6. J.B. Harley, ‘Cartography, ethics, and social theory’, Cartographica 27 (1990), pp. 1–23;
  7. J.B. Harley, ‘Deconstructing the map’, in T. Barnes and J. Duncan, eds, Writing worlds: discourse, text and metaphor in the representation of landscape (London, Routledge, 1992), pp. 231–47

MODULE 3. Living Arctic

Number of ECTS credits allocated: 2 ECTS

Within this module the indigenous cultures of the Arctic are discussed in the context of 4 dimensions of «being-in-the-world»: intimate, interactive, social, and biophysical. Indigenous peoples of the North view themselves as an integral part of the surrounding world, not as masters of nature; such model of culture is known as ‘ecosystemic’. So, within this module traditional lifestyles will be described in terms of the ecological systems theory to human development.

Students will have an insight into the local systems of native knowledge and material culture (myths and legends; traditional calendars; herding, fishing, hunting traditions; beliefs and superstitions, natural signs; curing and preventing diseases; fortune-telling, attitude to the past, present and future, holidays and festive occasions; peculiarities of traditional northern cuisine; traditional folk costumes; traditional folk music; folk dances and songs, etc.) of the peoples of the North.

Recommended or required reading:

  1. Bergman, I. Folk Costumes in Sweden. Swedish Institute, 2001.
  2. Finland: a cultural encyclopedia. 2nd edition. Ed. by Olli Alho. Helsinki, Finnish Literature Society, 1999.
  3. Fossnes, H., Wesenberg, C.F. Folk Costumes in Norway. J W Cappelens Forlag AS, Norway, 1997.
  4. Nargi, L. Knitting Around the World: A Multistranded History of a Time-honoured Tradition, Vouageur Press, 2011. — 264 p.
  5. Pilon, A.F. Living Better in a Better World: An Ecosystemic Approach For Institutional, Cultural and Educational Development and Change. University of S. Paulo, Brasil, 2010.
  6. Pilon, A.F. Experience and Learning in the Ecosystemic Model of Culture: A Critical Approach to Education, Culture and the Environmental Crisis

Planned learning activities and teaching methods: lectures; seminars; presentations; group or individual (research) projects; workshops; excursions; screening sessions

Assessment methods and criteria: the results of essays, reports, projects and the exam are considered jointly and equally for the final grade: A-E=pass, F=fail

Language of instruction: English.

Work placement(s): N/A