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The four-volume History of the Literary Cultures of East-Central Europe is the first transnational study of a complex region that is conceived here as a strip of land between the German and Russian hegemonic cultures, stretching from the Baltic Countries to Bulgaria and Albania and from the Ukraine and Moldova in the East to the Czech Republic in the West. This joint work of 150 contributors from Europe, United States, Canada, and Australia, sponsored by the International Comparative Literature Association, is not a chronological narrative of the period 1800-1989, but an experiment in writing literary histories that acknowledges ruptures as well as transnational nodal conjunctions. Hence the subtitle Conjunctures and Disjunctures in the 19th and 20th Century.
The History maps the literatures of the region from five complementary perspectives. Volume 1 (2004), which opens with a rationale of the project, reads the literatures against key political events, as well as in terms of periods and genres. The second, topographical, volume (2006) offers multiethnic literary histories of cities, border areas, sub-regions, and the Danube corridor. The third volume, The Making and Remaking of Literary Institutions (2007), considers the literatures in terms of their function in schools, universities, academies, theater, folklore, and publishing. The final volume, Types and Stereotypes (2010), focuses on such shifting historical and imaginary constructions as the national poets, figurations of the family, figures of female identity, figures of the other, figures of outlaws, figures of trauma, and figures of mediation. A post-1989 Epilogue considers the literary dimensions of East-Central Europe’s recent contradictory transformations.
The project challenges the isolation of national literatures, recontextualizes the literatures and cultures from a regional perspective, relativizes national myths, and recovers works, writers, and minority literatures that have been marginalized or ignored. In contrast to traditional comparative studies, it de-emphasizes West-European periodizations, and foregrounds the contributions that the region has made to European literature as a whole. In the current context of new interethnic conflicts and lingering divisions, the History of the Literary Cultures of East-Central Europe proposes alternative ways of identity formation in terms of regionalism and transnational interactions.
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