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Cutures of Memory and Identity

Option coordinator: 
Dr Clemens Ruthner (Department of Germanic Studies) 


The dual aim of this course is to bring together selected chapters of Central European area studies with central notions of cultural theory such as space, memory, nation and identity, transformation/transition, etc. This should lead to a better knowledge of the CEE countries on the one hand, and, on the other, provide an introduction to some crucial approaches in cultural studies to inform future projects of the student.

Working methods

The course will be team-taught by members of the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures as well as by some outside contributors, who have the expertise in the required fields. It will be a mixture of lecture and seminar, leading to student self-study (class preparation/reading assignments every week) and research projects given the postgraduate nature of this class. This is achieved in a way that a theory class introducing each section is confronted with comparative case studies from the region. A reader of selected excerpts from the bibliography will be provided.

Learning outcomes

Students should learn to identify and analyze the complexity of meanings attached to the concept of Central Europe and its cultural heritage. They will come to a critical understanding of core terms of cultural theory, which are used to illuminate the diversity of the region that could be described as Europe's "laboratory of transformation" throughout the last 100 years.


Weeks 1-2 : Section I: Introduction to Central European Studies 
Introduction to the cultural history of the region (stress on the last 200 years) 
Introduction of theoretical framework (memory, space, transformation, postimperialism)

Weeks 3-4 : Section II: Space(s) / Spatial Turn 
Theories of space, imaginary geographies etc. 
Case study (CS1): Mitteleuropa : Discourses on/of Central Europe from Palacky and Naumann to our times 
CS2: Borders and boundaries (e.g. Iron Curtain)

Weeks 5-6 : Section III: Modernities and Transformations 
TH: Modernity; the notion of transition/transformation in the social sciences 
CS3: Metropoles (e.g. Fin de siècle Vienna) and internal colonizations (Bosnia, Galicia) 
CS4: Economic, political and cultural transformation/lifestyles/Postsocialism

Week 7 : Study Week

Week 8-9 : Section IV: Empire, Nation, and other Identities 
TH: approaches to identity in cultural studies; intro empire; nationalism studies 
CS5: Split loyalities: multiethnic empires, immigrations 
CS6: on a particular process of nation building

Week 10-11 : Section V: Cultural Memory 
TH: Theories of memory (Assmann et al.), lieux de mémoire (Nora) etc. 
CS7: Shared Memories? (e.g. the Habsburg Myth) 
CS8: Contested Memories: Remembering the Holocaust and other traumas in the process of nation building (e.g the Genocide Museum in Vilnius; the House of Terror in Hungary)

Week 12 : Section VI: Student presentations (self-chosen projects) 
and Final discussion


Students will be required to give one presentation in class, and to submit one essay of 3500-5000 words on a selected topic . For essay deadlines please see Section 6 of the present submission.

Preliminary Bibliography

  • Ágh, A. (1998): The Politics of Central Europe . London. (LEN 320.947 N87) 
    Beller, Steven (2001): Rethinking Vienna 1900 . New York, Berghahn. (PL-356-960) 
    Csáky, M./ Mannová, E. (1999): Collective Identities in Central Europe in Modern Times. Bratislava: Akademia (not in library)
  • Ertl, A. (2008): Cultural Memory Studies. An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook. Berlin, NY: de Gruyter (not in library)
  • Goldsworthy, V. (1998): Inventing Ruritania. The Imperialism of the Imagination. New Haven: Yale UP. (ARTS 820.9 N893)
  • Gros, D. / Steiner, A. (2004): Economic Transition in Central and Eastern Europe. Cambridge: UP (338.0947 P61)
  • Judson, P. / Rozenblit, M. (2004): Constructing Nationalities in East Central Europe. New York: Berghahn. (HL-280-613)
  • Kamusella, T. (2009): The Politics of Language and Nationalism in Central Europe. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  • Le Rider, J. (1996a,b): La Mitteleuropa, Paris: PUF // Mitteleuropa. Auf den Spuren eines Begriffs. Wien (not in library)
  • Low, S./ Lawrence-Zunigais, D. (2003): The Anthropology of Space and Place. Locating Culture. London: Blackwell. (301.32 P35)
  • Müller-Funk, W./Ruthner, C.: Kakanien revisited. Das Fremde und das Eigene (in) der österreichisch-ungarischen Monarchie . Tübingen: Francke (not in library)
  • Münkler, H. (2007): Empires. The Logic of World Domination from Ancient Rome to the United States . London: Polity. (325.3 P72)
  • Ozkirimli, U. (2005): Contemporary Debates on Nationalism. London: Palgrave. (HL-279-709)