Anna Barker
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Russian Literature
Email: anna-barker@uiowa.edu
Phone: 319-335-0169
Office: 635 PH

100 Days of Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” – August 15, 2022

“Les Misérables” is a miraculous book. Thirty years in the making, the most anticipated novel of the 19th century was written by Victor Hugo, the greatest French author, who was living in exile. He was away from his beloved France, ruled by Napoleon III, his arch enemy. Why read a 365-chapter book that sprawls more than 1,300 pages divided into 5 volumes, the plot of which can be summed up in one paragraph? Because it is filled with stunning and boundless wisdom and philosophical insight that helps us, poor miserable wretches that we are, cope with the unresolvable contradictions of our own flawed and ever rebellious humanity. [More on Facebook]

100-ish Days of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, June 1 – August 31, 2022

“The count of Monte Cristo is a dark character. A dark, brooding, mysterious, and vengeful character. A literary link between Milton’s Satan and DC’s Batman, Monte Cristo may be considered the first avenging superhero who conceals shocking secrets and has power over characters whose lives he wishes to control. At the time of its publication (the novel was serialized 1844-1846), “The Count of Monte Cristo” was the most popular book in Europe and its appeal has not diminished over the years.” [More on Facebook]

Recent News Media

  • University of Iowa professor: Why I’m excited to introduce audiences to Dostoevsky,” Iowa City Press Citizen, 8 Oct 2021. Excerpt: “I am deeply honored to be the curator of “From Revolutionary Outcast to a Man of God: Dostoevsky at 200.” The exhibition, housed in the UI Main Library Gallery, is the product of more than a decade of teaching Russian literature and culture at the University of Iowa, numerous trips to Dostoevsky museums and research centers in Russia, and two years of work with staff of the University of Iowa Libraries and Special Collections.” [View]

Related Facebook Pages

  • 100 Days of Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” [View]
  • 100 Days of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo [View]
  • 100 Days of The Brothers Karamazov [View]
  • 100 Days of War and Peace [View]


Anna Barker received her Ph. D. in Comparative Literature in 2002 with a dissertation in translation studies. At the University of Iowa she has taught courses in the English Department, in Cinema and Comparative Literature, and in Asian and Slavic Languages. She has translated the works of numerous International Writing Program writers, and several of her translations have appeared in 91st Meridian and International Accents. Her essay on Helen Maria Willims’ translation of Paul and Virginia will appear in Women and Translation (University of Ottawa Press, 2010). Her areas of interest include translation, 19th-century European and American literature, and women writers. In recent years, she has regularly taught the authors course “Tolstoy and Dostoevsky,” organizing, in fall 2010, a campus-community celebration to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Tolstoy’s death. The celebration featured an open-air reading of Anna Karenina (all 816 pages) in downtown Iowa City over four days with dozens of participants.

Past News Media

  • Fresh Air for Dostoevsky,” Daily Iowan, 4 Oct 2016. [View]
  • Iowa City Book Festival begins with classic reading,” Press Citizen, Zach Berg, 2 October 2016 [View]


First-Year Seminar

Cool Places and Hot Spots

Are you ready to go on an exhilarating journey around the world in 16 weeks? If your answer is an enthusiastic "YES", then this one semester-hour course is custom-made for you! Join a group of internationally-minded first year students for an exciting romp through world cultures, customs, arts, and traditions, as well as discussions of the what, where, and why of specific global issues. This class will help you familiarize yourself with many of the international programs on campus (Division of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, International Writing Program, Translation Studies, University of Iowa Libraries and Special Collections, Study Abroad, University of Iowa Museum of Art, and others) and off campus (Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature). Find out about research, study abroad, and funding opportunities and learn how language acquisition can enrich your lives and lead to exciting career opportunities after graduation. Assignments include short readings, four short written reflections, and a presentation.

Book: Homer’s The Odyssey will be available through the Prairie Lights bookstore on Dubuque Street.

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Honors First-Year Seminar

Superheroes Unleashed:
3,000 Years of Heroes, Villains,
and a Mad Race for Immortality

With the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, and X-Men: Apocalypse, 2016 has been an exciting year for superhero fans! Superheroes Unleashed offers students an opportunity to examine not only the comic book roots of their favorite pop culture icons, but delve much deeper into the archetypal nature of all heroic narratives.

What do Gilgamesh, Achilles, Odysseus, Aeneas, Penthesilea, Hippolyta, Camilla, King Leonidas, and Beowulf have in common? In so many ways they are the superheroes of Western history, literature, and art from the past three thousand years! Their cultural impact is undiminished and permeates the pages of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Marvel Universe characters, Spiderman, X-Men, The Matrix, Watchmen, and Frank Miller’s 300. Students are required to read four graphic novels and a number of short excerpts (20-40 pages per week) that will help them explore the fabric of academic inquiry and delve into the nature of art and culture of the past and their relevance in today's world. Assignments include weekly readings, two short papers, and a presentation.

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Russian Lit in Translation 1860-1917

Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov

2016 marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of one of the most thrilling and introspective Russian novels of the 19th century, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Students enrolled in this course will get the opportunity to attend a number of Crime and Punishment related events such as film screenings, a panel discussion, a concert at the Old Capitol Museum, as well as participate in the public reading of the entire novel during the UNESCO City of Literature Book Festival in October.

In addition to reading Crime and Punishment, the students will get a chance to visit the Russian countryside (“The Seagull” and “The Cherry Orchard” by Chekhov), explore the urban labyrinth of St. Petersburg, (“The Nose” and “Nevsky Prospect” by Gogol), meet hard-core Russian nihilists (Yevgeny Bazarov from Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons) and socialists (Ivan Karamazov from Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov), contemplate the outpourings of Tolstoy’s soul (Confession and “The Kreutzer Sonata”), and eavesdrop on a conversation between Christ and Anti-Christ! Hey, why not, it’s RUSSIAN literature after all!

Knowledge of Russian is not required. Students are evaluated on the basis of attendance and class participation (20%), 10 1-page responses (20%), two tests (20% each), and a 10-page research paper (20%).


Books available through the Prairie Lights bookstore:

  • Pushkin, Boris Godunov (Penguin)
  • Gogol, The Collected Tales (Pevear/Volokhonsky translation)
  • Chekhov, Selected Plays (Norton)
  • Tolstoy, Confession (Dover)
  • Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories (Pevear/Volokhonsky translation)
  • Turgenev, Fathers and Sons (Edmonds/Penguin)
  • Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground (Pevear/Volokhonsky translation)
  • Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment (Pevear/Volokhonsky translation)
  • Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (Pevear/Volokhonsky translation)

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Comparative Literature Listing...

Slavic Languages Listing...