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Postmodernist Literature in East and Central Europe

Option coordinator: 
Dr Justin Doherty (Russian and Slavonic Studies) 

This module sets out to explore the notion of postmodernity across a range of literatures and language cultures from among the former communist states of East and Central Europe. The principal zones of exploration will be the former USSR (Russia and Ukraine); Poland; East Germany; the Czech and Slovak Republics/former Czechoslovakia; Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia/former Yugoslavia; Bulgaria and other Balkan literatures. While most of the texts read on the module are works published after the pivotal date of 1989 (1991 in the case of the former USSR), and thus the end of Communism, in some cases texts published somewhat earlier will also be chosen. All texts will be read and studied in English translation. The module is aimed at students taking the Comparative Literature MPhil, but will also be of interest to students of Literary Translation, Textual and Visual Studies and European Studies.

The module aims to explore the peculiarities of postcommunist cultures and the postcommunist experience as expressed in recent key literary texts, with the texts chosen being examples of the type of self-reflexive, subversive and playful approaches characteristic of postmodernism generally. However, the module will also focus on the vestiges of both totalitarian thinking and the day-to-day realities of the former communist world, as well as the conflicted ideologies and confused identities of contemporary post-Communist East/Central Europe, as expressed in the chosen texts. Lastly, within the framework of post-colonialist theory, we will consider the questions of identity, both national and ethnic, in the cultures of the region, and explore ways in which the confused political aftermath of Communism finds expression and indeed may be resisted and subverted in recent writing across the region.

The module will be taught by staff from Russian and Slavonic Studies, as follows: Justin Doherty (Russian, Ukrainian, Czech and Slovak literatures); Aneta Stępień (Poland, East Germany); Frane Karabatić (Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia/former Yugoslavia); Dimitar Kambourov (Bulgaria, the Balkans). The first session of the module will be a theoretical overview with contributions from all staff involved.
The module assessment will consist of an essay submission. Students will also be asked to contribute a minimum of one seminar presentation (non-assessed).
Set texts will include some of the following: Viktor Pelevin, The Clay Machine-Gun (Чапаев и пустота, 1996); Andrei Kurkov, Death and the Penguin (Пикник на льду, 2001); Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Nesnesitelná legkost bytí, 1985); Christa Wolf, The Quest for Christa T. (1968); Olga Tokarczuk House of Day, House of Night (1998); Tadeusz Slobodzianek, Our Class (2009); Danilo Kiš, The Tomb for Boris Davidovich + Garden, Ashes; Miljenko Jergović: Mama Leone +  Sarajevo Marlboro; Dubravka Ugrešić, Baba Yaga Laid an Egg; Robert Perišić, Our Man in Iraq.