LT 331 - Comparative Central European Literature I: Literature, Culture, History and Ideology in Hungary and in Eastern-Europe

The aim of this course is to promote dis-course between various modes human beings try to make sense of the world and themselves. We will adopt a basically “New Historicist” perspective to watch the interaction, from the middle of the 19th century to the 21st, between cultural phenomena, historical consciousness, prevailing ideologies and literature. In the East-European region, poetry, fiction and drama are especially interesting as they have often tried to refuse to be blind perpetuators of consciousness, fashioning themselves rather as disruptive and subversive forces, as major forms of resistance. We will read, in a rich historical, cultural, ideological and comparative context, mainly Hungarian pieces but we will also take a look at other East-European countries (Russia, Poland, former Czechoslovakia, Romania and Serbia) as well, and we will ask how an initially aesthetic reading of literature may inform social-historical understanding, and vice versa. The range of literary genres is equally wide: short-stories, poems (some by Wisława Szymborska from Poland, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996), dramas and two short novels (one by first Hungarian Noble-prize winner, Imre Kertész in 2002) will feature on the reading list. The course will consider creative pieces (poems, short-stories or mini-dramas) as highly adequate responses to the literature under discussion and, thus, instead of a midterm, a creative piece might be handed in, yet this will by no means be compulsory.

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