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2010 | 2 (19) | 1 | 10-25

Article title

NATIONAL LITERATURES AND DIASPORAS: TOWARDS A POLYCENTRIC CONCEPT OF CULTURE (Narodne literatury a diaspory: k polycentrickemu pojmu kultury)

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The present article argues that the expansive movements of creativity through exile, transplantation, and participation in trans-national projects have played a defining role in East - Central European literature. The literary cultures of this area have often used their diasporic expansions to reaffirm but also problematise their national distinctiveness. The interplay between national and diasporic, local and global, has called into question any organic or totalizing concept of East - Central European literary and cultural evolution. The contours of this cultural region have remained variable, open to alternative mappings. Exiled writers play a significant role in this continuous redefinition. The cultural projects pursued by them were often hybrid, allowing for trans-national agendas, as in the case of Emil Cioran, Witold Gombrowicz, Milan Kundera, Imre Kertesz, and others who followed a trajectory of the cultural detours and repositioning. The problematisation of national and ethnic/local identity has gone even further in the work of 'hybrid' minority writers, especially when confronted with the drama of exile and uprooting. Consider the case of the recent Nobel-prize winner, Herta Muller. Muller's fiction, published after her emigration to Germany, represents the difficulties of life under both totalitarianism and the exilic condition, emphasizing the conflicting facets of her identity. Her work tries to reclaim a more inclusive, borderless notion of East - Central Europe, cutting across former Cold War divisions. While the late nineteenth-century East - Central European exiles sought a redeeming narrative that could reconnect their present to a mythic past, the Avant-garde writers of the early twentieth century broke radically with the past, deconstructing both Eastern and Western traditions. In addition to encouraging contributions from various cultural 'peripheries' (Russian formalism, Czech structuralism, Romanian Dadaism, Hungarian and Serbian futurism), the historical Avant-garde managed to redefine the centres of Western cultural influence, bringing Europe closer to the idea of a polycentric culture. The collaboration between transplanted and native writers is equally important in post-1989 East - Central Europe, as the literary cultures of this area are submitted to a process of critical re-examination and cross-cultural reconfiguration.







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  • Prof. Marcel Cornis-Pope, PhD., Virginia Commonwealth University, Department of English, Richmond, USA


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