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Bosnian Literary Impressions

Produced by John Kwan, Venice High School, 1994


This unit will focus on various literary impressions of the Balkans. It is intended to examine the area through descriptions of the area in Literary works and thus move the discussion beyond the discussion of current events.


One objective of the unit is to familiarize students with the topography of the Balkans as well as historical perspectives of the area. Additionally, students will gain an international perspective of the area due to the fact that the literature encompasses authors from Russia, Bosnia, Ireland, and the United States.

Component 1: Jeopardy simulation to familiarize students with fictional literature that deals with the Balkans. Pass out copies of " A Reader's Guide to the Balkans." Kaplan proposes that the only way to understand current violence in the Balkans is to read books! Students read the article then formulate 10 answers and questions for jeopardy simulation.

For example:

  1. Answer: Dame Rebecca.
  2. Question: Who is the author of "Black Lamb and Grey Falcon?"
  3. Answer: Is the product of memory-sights, smells, sounds, exalted emotions, grim statistics and cruel ironies.
  4. Question: What is history?

Component 2: Students read aloud with the teacher then analyze handouts and then respond with a comparison and contrast essay. The Balkans and thus Serbia a boring or fantastic place? What according to the introduction is the basic horror of the novel? Is Russia's Backyard playground for the aristocracy as seen in Anton Chekhov's play The Wood Demon exciting or boring? Bram Stoker's Dracula: Strange lands and strange peoples. Discuss how Stoker uses the Balkans much like Joseph Conrad uses Africa in Lord Jim and Heart of Darkness as a place of wildness.

Component 3: Zlata's diary: Students read selections from the diary that appeared in Newsweek and generate questions for Jeopardy simulation.

Component #4: Nonfiction impressions of the Balkans: New York Times: "Bosnian Camp Survivors Describe Random Death." Students respond in their journals to the question., In what ways are the drive by shootings in Los Angeles similar and different to the Bosnian experience?
Students will divide into groups of 5 and develop questions for a quiz competition.

Component #5. : Lecture on the concept of the "Other." In literature, in religion, and in politics. Is it by nature or by nurture that we have determinants that separate us? "Imagine" John Lennon. Read the lyrics to the song "Imagine." Then play song for students to hear. Students respond in writing to the question," In what way does the song apply to the experience of Zlata?"


Components should last one school day. If the components are not completed during the hour students will finish journal writing or questions for homework. Students will write questions and answers for the readings, they will write informal responses in their journals. The only material from the institute that I will integrate into the unit is a discussion of the term "Balkanization" as a way of drawing parallels between the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia and maps provided by the institute.


  1. What solutions if any do you see to the problem of the "other?"
  2. What are the limitations to learning about the Balkans through literature?
  3. What is the difference between Zlata's Diary and the Diary of Anne Frank? Answer: One was written with the knowledge that it would be read and one was written without that knowledge.

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