Julie Cassiday, Professor of Russian

1.) What is your field of study? And how does it relate to international issues?

I study Russian theater and cinema, as well as the theatricality of Russian life. Since I tend to focus on historical periods with intense political and even revolutionary activity, these forms of culture hold the potential to let us better understand how Russians construct and understand their own identity.

2.) What brought you to Williams?

I went to a liberal arts college myself and always knew that I wanted to teach at this type of institution. When a job opened up in my field at Williams, I leaped at the opportunity to apply even though I didn’t fit the description of the ideal candidate in the job ad. Luckily, the department’s idea of the ideal candidate changed during the hiring process, and fifteen years later, here I am!

3.)  If you could travel to one place, right now, where would you go and why?

I had the opportunity a few years ago to travel to Iran, and I’d give my eyeteeth to be able to return.  I spent two weeks touring amazing sites, meeting remarkable people, eating delicious food, and realizing how vastly different the U.S. media’s image of an theocracy is from the day-to-day existence of the people who live there.  I have the impression that I only scratched the surface of an extremely rich, complex, and beautiful culture, and I wish that political conditions were such that I could visit again for a longer period of time.

4.)  What are you reading at the moment?

I recently finished reading “La Regenta” by Clarin, which is Spain’s contribution to the 19th-century novel of adultery.  Unlike “Madame Bovary” and “Anna Karenina,” “La Regenta” waits until almost the very end for the heroine to break her marriage vows, which shifts entirely the focus of the book.  I was also fascinated that two different men—one of them a Catholic priest—spend some 500 pages seducing the heroine before she finally succumbs.

5.)  Do you see a difference in how international and domestic students approach their time at Williams?

Yes, I do see a difference.  Perhaps my perspective is skewed by the fact that I teach a foreign language, but I’ve noticed how international students tend to take on the study of a new foreign language more often than domestic students at Williams.  I have a disproportionately large number of international students in my language classes, and they tend, in general, to be very dedicated and successful language learners.  I can only attribute this to the fact that the vast majority of international students come from countries where English is not their first language, so they have concrete experience with what it takes to attain proficiency in another language and what this proficiency allows you to do.  They wouldn’t be a Williams if they hadn’t mastered English, and they understand that learning another language in college will let them travel to, live in, and study yet another part of the world.