Exploration Seminar in Romania 2013

Scars on Romanian Culture: Dracula and Ceausescu

August 26 – September 22, 2013

5 credits: Honors 394 (Interdisciplinary Social Science and Humanities, VLAP, I&S, and W (note:all Honors core class are "W" courses) OR Comp Lit 396 (Special Studies, VLPA and W)

All UW students are welcome to apply, priority given to College/Interdisciplinary and Departmental Honors students and Comparative Literature majors.

Information Sessions

  • Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 3:30 in Mary Gates Hall 211 B

About the Program

Photo of Ceausescu's Palace / Parliament
Ceausescu's Palace / Parliament

The program will present Romania's past and present, with an emphasis on how much communist remnants are still part of the everyday life and to what extent history plays an important role in justifying the present. During the Spring quarter, the three orientation sessions will offer students background information about Romanian history and geography, cuisine and mentality, culture and life, as a way of introduction to our exploration on the site.

In Bucharest, Brasov, Sibiu, and Suceava, the major stops of our journey in Romania, students will attend lectures offered by Romanian scholars and will also directly encounter artifacts, edifices, monuments, and artwork previewed in class. Lectures will address topics from medieval history to the 19th century transformation into a nation-state and 20th century literature (Blandiana, Cartarescu, Popescu, Manea), as well as the struggles of artists under communist censorship. In Bucharest, students will have the opportunity to meet award-winning directors (Cristi Puiu and Cristian Mungiu) and watch some of their internationally acclaimed movies.

Film screenings, city walks, field trips to Sighisoara and Bran, and museum tours will complete our experience and, at the same time, will offer students the opportunity to make connections with Romanian students and professors.

Students will upload their findings on the blog everyday, creating thus a pool of topics from which each student will choose one to develop into a 2,500-word article. Articles will be proposed for publication to the journals of our host universities.

To learn more about our host universities visit the following websites:

Center of Excellence in Image Studies, University of Bucharest: http://cesi.ro/ro/info/general.htm
University "Transylvania" Brasov: http://www.unitbv.ro/en/Home.aspx
University "Lucian Blaga" Sibiu: http://www.ulbsibiu.ro/en/despre_ulbs/
University "Stefan cel Mare" Suceava: http://www.usv.ro/index.php/en

Academic Credit

Students will receive 5 credits which will fulfill Honors Core requirements (Interdisciplinary Studies and Social Science) or writing for Comparative Literature.

Scars on Romanian Culture: Dracula and Ceausescu

Stamp depicting Ceausescu

5 credits
Honors 394 or Comparative Literature 396
Instructor: Ileana Marin

The course "Scars on Romanian Culture: Dracula and Ceausescu" will present one of the most oppressive authoritarian regimes – Romanian communism –crossing disciplinary boundaries, engaging history, politics, religion, ethics, literature, and arts.

We will read texts (in electronic format) ranging across every major literary genre. We will read and analyze excerpts from the second volume of Mircea Eliade's autobiography (1937-1960), which also became subject to censorship, in spite of the fact that some of his literary works were published in communist Romania. Norman Manea's case is one of the most intriguing in Romanian literature. He initially benefited from the relaxation of the communist restrictions of the 1960s and succeeded in publishing several novels and short stories in which he criticized the regime throughout the 1970s. However, in 1986, his novel The Black Envelope was substantially censored. It was this "massacre" of his work that made Manea leave Romania. From his work, we will read the uncensored version of The Black Envelope (1996). We will also investigate the reasons which impelled communist authorities to ban Ana Blandiana's poetry in the late 1980s. We will also discuss works by D.R. Popescu and Mircea Cartarescu. For this first part of the course we will take advantage of our stay in Bucharest and visit the Museum of National History and the Museum of Romanian Literature, where we will examine artifacts and manuscripts relevant to our discussions. We will also examine Romanian artworks in the National Museum of Romanian Art in order to get an idea how communist ideology impacted arts and how artists responded to censorship.

Photo of Sighisoara Citadel

The second part of our course will be dedicated to the myth of Dracula. We will compare Bram Stoker's novel, which in 1897 put Transylvania on the cultural map of the world, to a series of chronicles, and German and Slavic stories from the fifteenth century, in which Vlad, the ruler of Wallachia, was named "the Impaler". While there is historic truth in the fact that Vlad used to punish his adversaries as well as criminals by impaling them, there is no evidence of any "blood drinking" that could have inspired the vampire story. While we will reconstruct Vlad's portrait in accordance with historical data (we will also read excerpts from Dracula. A Biography of Vlad the Impaler by Radu Florescu and Raymond T. McNally) we will also look at a series of romantic paintings in which he is depicted. Alexandru Andries' Dracula Blues approaches the myth with irony in order to target communist authorities indirectly. Field trips to the Bran Castle, one of Vlad's residences, and to Vlad's native city, Sighisoara, will add to our artistic and literary experience the historical context.

In Brasov and Sibiu we will also learn about minorities' contribution to Romanian identity in spite of the fact that communism tried to annihilate ethnic diversity by displacing minority groups. Our set of lectures in Suceava will be dedicated to religion, as another relevant component of Romanian culture that was suppressed drastically under communism. We will analyze different forms of resistance and examples of survival of religious belief.

Photo of Sighisoara Citadel

The goal of this course is to provide a substantial experience of the cultural oppression and moral perversity practiced by communism. By immersing ourselves into Romanian culture we will increase our awareness about less explored cultural territories and thus transform the exploration of Romanian culture into an exploration of ourselves. Throughout our journey we will be writing a travel-blog in which we will record our experiences and research. We will upload pictures of our trip on the seminar website and the students will be expected to come up with a summary of their experience.

Housing in Romania

Students will be housed in a downtown hotel in Bucharest and in dorms in Brasov, Sibiu, and Suceava.

Program Staffing


Ileana Marin, Lecturer in Comparative Literature
Dr. Marin has taught Comparative Literature courses as well as interdisciplinary ones for the Honors Program. During her teaching career in Romania she made strong connections with the host universities for the Exploration Seminar 2013.

Yuko Mera, Graduate Program Advisor for Comparative Literature Dept.
Yuko’s interest in overseas travel has made her an avid world traveler: she has visited over twenty countries on four continents.

Program Expenses

This program will cost $3,000 per student. Course costs include accommodations, classroom and library use, field trips, admission fees to all museums and exhibits, group meals, and transportation in Romania. Students do not pay additional for tuition. Course fee does not include an IP&E concurrent enrollment fee ($300); airfare ($1,000-$1,200 roundtrip, depending on when and where you buy your ticket); personal spending money.

The Financial Aid office can provide student loans for not only the cost of the course, but also travel, food, and other related costs, such as travel after the class is over, provided you are a fulltime student. In addition, short-term loans are available to cover pre-travel expenses.

IP&E will automatically charge student accounts for all program payments and fees.

Financial Aid

Students may use their regular financial aid and scholarship funds for study abroad. The exception is any scholarship in the form of a tuition waiver. Tuition waivers cannot be used to pay study abroad program fees. You may want to check with the Office of Student Financial Aid in Schmitz Hall for more information.

There are funding opportunities through the Global Opportunities Program, and the Office of International Programs and Exchanges also maintains a funding opportunities list.

Getting There

Photo of National Architects Union
National Architects Union, Bucharest

To Bucharest

Participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements to Bucharest, Romania. The program will pay for train transportation within Romania. All transportation to scheduled program excursions is also covered. Act quickly to reserve the lowest fares; you may wish to explore budget fares offered on websites such as Travelocity, Cheapoair, Orbitz, and Expedia, as well as Council Travel on the Ave.

Within Romania

Students and instructors will take several excursions while in Romania. Planned excursions include Brasov, Sibiu, Sighisoara, and Suceava. The program fee covers these group travel expenses.

All participants must have a passport that is valid for not only for the duration of the program, but for 6 months after the program ends. It may take as long as six weeks to obtain or renew a passport.

Application Instructions

Selection to the program is competitive and acceptance into the program will be decided based on application materials, interviews, and student's demonstrated motivation to challenge themselves intellectually across academic disciplines and cultures and to work both individually and in groups. The program director is seeking students who are interested in exploring a completely new cultural territory about which they might have learned from novels and films: Romania of Dracula and Ceausescu. The perfect candidates will be adaptable and sociable, ready to take the challenge of immersing into a culture that may surprise them with a combination of Western and Eastern values.

For More Information

For more information about the Exploration Seminar in Romania, please contact:

A unit within Undergraduate Academic Affairs
211 Mary Gates Hall : Box 352800 : Seattle, WA 98195-2800
206.543.7444 : 206.543.6469 FAX
Creative Commons License Unless otherwise noted, all public content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License