skip to content


Cambridge Ukrainian Studies


Paper SL 9: Introduction to the Language, Literature, and Culture of Ukraine

Taras Shevchenko Cambridge

'Ukraine is a country that is "in between" in all possible ways,' according to the Ukrainian intellectual Mykola Riabchuk. This paper introduces you to the rich language, literature, and culture of Ukraine and seizes upon the 'in-betweenness' of the second largest country in Europe - the historical permeability of its territorial, linguistic, and ethnic borders - as an opportunity to explore the interdependency of the cultures of Eastern Europe and the Black Sea region.

Ukrainian, spoken by over 40 million people around the world, is the official state language of Ukraine. For centuries its very existence was under threat from Russian Imperial and Soviet authorities; today, from the cafes of L'viv to the boulevards of Kyiv and Odesa, it is experiencing a revival. This paper offers an introduction to the fundamentals of Ukrainian designed for those with very little or no knowledge of the language. Through twice-weekly classes during the academic year, you will learn the principal grammar structures and vocabulary so as to acquire a basic proficiency in reading and speaking Ukrainian.

The literature and visual culture of Ukraine will be the focus of weekly lectures and fortnightly supervisions. The first part of the paper will trace the development of modern Ukrainian literature in the nineteenth century from the burlesque travesty of Kotliarevs'kyi and his epigones to the passionate romanticism of Shevchenko. The second part will chart the reverberations of what might be called the 'Shevchenko effect' - the resounding call for a commitment to national culture - in Ukrainian letters from the late nineteenth century to the present day.

The paper will also explore these themes and topics with a view to twenty-first century developments in Ukraine, especially the EuroMaidan Revolution and the current armed conflict with Russia.

Paper SL 9 has an online course companion with an enhanced syllabus and supervision guidelines on Moodle.

Key works include:

• Ivan Kotliarevs'kyi, Eneïda / Aeneid

• Nikolai Gogol', Evenings on a Farmstead near Dikanka

• Taras Shevchenko, Try lita / Three Years

• Ol'ha Kobylians'ka, Valse mélancholique

• Mykola Khvyl'ovyi, Selected prose

• Iurii Andrukhovych, Rekreatsiï / Recreations

This paper is open to students of all Departments of the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and available in both Part IB and Part II. At Part IB the paper is available both to former post-A-level students and to former beginners. No previous knowledge of Ukrainian is expected or required.

Click here for a more detailed description of Paper SL 9 on the Cambridge MML Faculty website.

Click here for information about Paper SL 10, 'Studies in Twentieth-Century Ukrainian Literature and Film.'

Course Adviser: Dr Rory Finnin

Course Instructors: Dr Rory Finnin and Ms Marta Jenkala

Keep in touch


Upcoming events

Latest News

Cambridge Explores Ukraine’s ‘Multilinguality’

6 November 2018

On 19 October 2018, Cambridge hosted the international conference Engaging Multilinguality: Language, Identity and National Cohesion in Ukraine , which was funded by the AHRC-funded project ‘Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies’ (MEITS) with support from Cambridge Ukrainian Studies. Convened by Rory Finnin and Ivan Kozachenko, the conference sought to examine language diversity in Ukraine from a host of disciplinary perspectives.

Cambridge Ukrainian Studies in 2018-19: Exciting Transitions

2 October 2018

Dr Olenka Pevny is succeeding Dr Rory Finnin as Director of the Cambridge Ukrainian Studies programme from 2 October 2018. Finnin, who will be on sabbatical leave from 2018-20 to complete a series of research projects, is the Founding Director of Cambridge Ukrainian Studies, an academic centre launched in 2008 to advance new approaches to the study of Ukraine.