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From Pittnews.com

Russian fairy tales no ordinary lecture class (buffy and spike mention)

By Daveen Rae Kurutz

Thursday 3 February 2005, by Webmaster

The lights dim in the auditorium packed with students seated both in the balcony and on the first floor. A blond-haired female cues a film, which begins to play on the projection screen. The group of students watches as a black-and-white Russian film begins. "Andrei Rublev" starts out as another boring foreign film, in Russian and without subtitles, about Russian paganism.

But then the laser pointer comes out.

"Let me warn you, there will be nudity in this. So if it offends you, just close your eyes," the blonde with the laser pointer says.

The screen fills with images of men running through a forest. A bored look passes over some students’ faces, when suddenly a red dot appears on the screen.

"Naked," the woman says. "And he’s naked too," she adds, jumping her laser pointer to another body.

The woman is Lisa DiBartolomeo, and the class is Russian fairy tales. Offered through the department of Slavic languages and literature at Pitt, the class is a popular one, and it fulfills the non-western foreign culture requirement for Pitt students.

The 320 students enrolled are expected to read a multitude of fairy tales, which range in topic from brother-and-sister tales to the more-adult material assigned as the final class readings.

Instead of simply reading and interpreting the works, Dr. Di, as her students call her, also teaches them about Russia’s culture, art and history.

Some people enroll in the class because the topic sounds interesting. But for others, it’s because of DiBartolomeo.

"I’ve had Dr. Di before, and I wanted to have her again," said Carolyn Anthon, a junior enrolled in DiBartolomeo’s class. Anthon said she appreciated DiBartolomeo’s enthusiasm for teaching as well as her fondness for film clips, group activities and discussions.

"I’ve always been interested in folktales, sci-fi and vampires, even before ["Buffy the Vampire Slayer"] came out," DiBartolomeo said, sitting in an office filled with memorabilia from the show. "

DiBartolomeo incorporates her odd range of expertise into her teaching. In a recent lecture concerning the analytical methods of Sigmund Freud, for instance, she supplemented the lesson by showing a clip from a "Buffy" episode that begins with an explanation of the concepts of the id, the ego and the superego.

Sitting next to a life-sized cutout of James Marsters, who plays Spike on the show, she said students who expect her class to be a walk in the park are sorely mistaken.

"I think a lot of students take it because they think it’s easy," she said. "They think ’OK, I just have to read these tales,’ without realizing the critical aspect of the course. Aside from that, it’s kind of fun, and it fulfills a culture requirement."

Then there are students like senior Matt Davidson.

"Yeah, my friend was taking it, so I signed up," he said.

"The readings have no real point," he continued. "But she is interesting and funny and makes it bearable."

Leisel Greig, a junior communications major, said one of the reasons she is taking the class is because she is especially interested in Slavic and Russian studies. Having had DiBartolomeo before, she knows what to expect from the professor, and is pleased with the class.

"I don’t find it to be very difficult at all. It’s basically the same as any other class. Once you keep up with the readings and go to class, it’s straight, easy riding," Greig said.

DiBartolomeo agrees with her student and hopes others see it the same way.

"If you take the class, you’ll find out it won’t be bad if you can read just a few pages a week," she said.

And if nothing else, you can always just sit back and enjoy the movie clips.