Roundup: Eastern European Literature

If you had searched for the Hungarian novel, The Door, on Wikipedia before this year, you would have been disappointed with the lack of information. Now if you looked for it, you’d find the work of a student in Sibelan Forrester’s Spring 2017 course at Swarthmore College, Eastern European Prose. The student expanded the article to include the story’s plot, main characters, and critical reception. They also touched upon the autobiographical elements found in this story by Magda Szabó. The novel follows Magda, a writer, and her unique relationship with her housecleaner, an older woman named Emerence. Emerence is a mysterious and strong-willed character. She sets her own wages, hours, and chores and holds many secrets behind the closed doors of her house. Magda is fascinated by the woman and develops a close relationship with her over many years. The novel opens with Magda’s reoccurring nightmare, from which she awakes to say “I killed Emerence.” The rest of the novel serves as the narrator’s explanation of this sentence.

Another student expanded the article on Garden, Ashes, a Yugoslavian novel written in 1965 by Danilo Kiš. The novel, which follows a young boy whose father is sent to Auschwitz, is based on Kiš’s own childhood. Andi Scham, the young boy protagonist, insists that his father is not gone, but has only disappeared. Andi often imagines that his father is following him in disguise and invents stories about him. The boy’s imagination keeps the image of his father alive, but gives him both nightmares and haunting illusions. The student who expanded this article added more information about the autobiographical elements of the story, common themes and symbols, the origins of its title, and critical analysis.

When students contribute to Wikipedia through a Wikipedia assignment, they become creators of knowledge, not simply consumers of it. Their work has a worldwide audience and a measurable impact. In total, students in Professor Forrester’s spring course added 17,000 words to Wikipedia and their work has been viewed 30,900 times.

Students also gain critical skills that they take with them into their academic and professional lives through a Wikipedia assignment. If you’re interested in teaching with Wikipedia or in learning more, visit or reach out to

Image: File:Old Brass Door Knocker.jpgScrypted, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.


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