William & Mary

Russian television provides opportunities for learning, collaborative research

  • Russian TV vs. American TV
    Russian TV vs. American TV  Global genres, reality TV, sitcoms, soap operas and game shows are part of both cultures. W&M students examine the role of Russian television in post-Soviet political and media culture during the international symposium, April 7-9.  Courtesy Photo
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Watching too much television is thought by some to be bad for you. That is, unless you’re a student in Assistant Professor of Russian Elena Prokhorova’s senior research seminar class.

Students in the class are studying the cultural significance of television programs, like the Russian version of Fran Drescher’s sitcom “The Nanny” – but this is no mere classroom exercise.  The course is designed around an end-of-semester scholarly symposium organized by the students themselves.

Jacob Lassin ’12, a Russian Studies major, has been working hard on organizing the conference, including the design for the official conference T-shirt. He’s in a three-member group that’s researching, writing and presenting a paper about the Russian version of “The Nanny.”

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“The paper is about adapting gender roles from an American sitcom to a Russian sitcom, and how gender roles are portrayed,” said Lassin.  One main difference is the way the Nanny is portrayed, he said.

“In the American sitcom, she’s this loud, Jewish girl from Queens and there’s tension between her British boss who’s high class and her low-class loudness,” explained Lassin.  “But in the Russian version, the nanny is Ukrainian – she has this horrible pronunciation of words and she talks a mile a minute.”

Their research is part of an international symposium, “Post-Soviet Television: Global Formats and Russian Power,” which takes place at the College of William & Mary April 7-9.  The event features many prominent scholars in the field of Russian Cultural Studies from around the world.  Symposium events, such as film and television episode screenings (some subtitled by W&M students), are open to the public.

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Will Sinnott ’11 said working on the symposium has broken some of the boundaries between faculty and students, and has led to real collaboration and research opportunities.

“It’s interesting to be treated not just as a student but as an actual participant in an academic debate,” said Sinnott.  “We’re expected to form our own opinions and create our own arguments, which is valuable experience for later in life, such as grad school.”

The synergy of coursework and real research, along with the opportunity to meet and interact with scholars in the profession, makes this a unique opportunity for William & Mary students in the Russian program.

“The students are involved in the most immediate way: They will present their papers; they are participating in all other panels and will be exposed to actual research that is happening in the field,” said Prokhorova, “And they are also involved in organizing this whole event.”

The symposium is sponsored by the Roy R. Charles Center, the Reves Center for International Studies, Arts & Sciences, Russian & Post-Soviet Studies and Film Studies.

For more information, including a list of participants and schedule of events, visit http://russiantv.wm.edu.