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CHUM 323 – Documentary Fictions

How stable is the binary distinction between the documentary and the fictional? Is fiction’s claim to representing reality any less valid than that of non-fiction? How does creative non-fiction conjure the sense of the Real? Can an archival document convey the depth of spiritual, emotional, and aesthetically infused intimacy on its own? What happens when the documentary and the fictional overlap to produce competing versions of the Real? What is at stake in such an overlap when the competing versions of the Real vie for a definitive, true account of events past and present?

This class investigates various genres of storytelling that appeal to the documentary and the factual in pursuit of authenticity: propaganda, counter-propaganda, conspiracy theories, political and artistic manifestos, historical fiction and cinema, diary writing, autobiography and memoir, and documentary photography and film. Focusing geographically on East-Central Europe and Russia and chronologically on the last 100 years, the class will take up such thematic units as civil war, socialist realism, capitalist realism, the deaths of dictators, revolutionary hagiography, homefront narratives, and survivor testimony.

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