The unification of Eastern Bloc cultures was intertwined with major shifts in institutional structures and the corresponding introduction of socialist realism in each state. This conference will comparatively examine processes related to the institutionalization of the production and consumption of literature, specifically cultural policies and aesthetic discourses in post-WWII East and Central Europe.
keynote: Dr. Hans Günther (University of Bielefeld)
Dr. Evgeny Dobrenko (University of Sheffield)
Dr. Tamás Scheibner (Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest)
Today, when nearly all major cultural and political projects have an international character, it is all the more vital to examine past attempts at the creation of a unified cultural and political sphere. The expansion of socialist rule into Eastern and Central Europe after the Second World War was not exclusively a political enterprise; to no less of an extent it was an exercise in transforming the national consciousness of the societies involved in the spirit of (forced) internationalism. In so far as literature is at the core of a nation’s identity, it is important to examine steps taken towards a unification of literary production and consumption following the introduction of socialist rule in East and Central European countries, a process that took nearly four decades.
At the same time, it is crucial to remember that only in a comparative context can researchers do justice to the complexity of the matter. Concentrating on a particular national context cannot give one a full idea of the cultural and political mechanics involved in the construction of the new totalitarian reality. For this reason the project will examine processes related to the institutionalization of the production and consumption of literature, specifically cultural policies and aesthetic discourse. Participants of the conference will investigate how similar events and procedures, because they were initiated and implemented by Soviet authorities, were adapted to specific cultural contexts, and how, in turn, the centralized cultural policy responded to the particularities of each country.
Contributors will introduce primary archival documents – openly published and secret reports of writers’ congresses; transcripts of meetings between writers, readers and party officials; materials of international literary and cultural events; and theoretical analyses and practical instructions related to the implementation of a unified socialist method of writing across Eastern Europe. By comparing and contrasting similar events and processes in the different cultural and political contexts, we should be able to achieve a fuller picture of the formation of socialist ideology in Eastern Europe, the foundations of the Cold War and, to a large extent, the building blocks of the recent cultural memory that is part and parcel of the European cultural heritage today.
Humanities Research Institute
The University of Sheffield
34 Gell Street
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