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CFP: Unrealized Futures: Post-Socialist Memory in German-language Literature (Sept. 30th, 2019)

For the panel “Unrealized Futures: Post-Socialist Memory in German-language Literature” (NeMLA March 5-8, 2020, Boston), we invite contributions on literary explorations of the socialist legacy in Eastern Europe in its relation to the present and the future. Much of the post-1989 scholarship has focused on Aufarbeitung broadly defined as a crucial trait of literature from and about the former East. More recently, some scholars have brought into view another dimension of literary engagement with Eastern Europe’s past: an engagement with the hopes and dreams that never came to fruition and the unrealized, alternative futures embedded in the socialist past. Rather than merely conceiving of these unrealized expectations or envisioned futures as failures if they did not come to pass, remembering them in literature not only creates new perspectives on the past but also offers a different lens to evaluate possibilities and pathways into the future. In line with Silke Arnold-de Simine, who defines nostalgic memory in literature “as a yearning for the dreams and possibilities that never became reality” and with Paolo Jedlowski’s “memories of the future,” which he defines as “recollections of what individuals and groups expected [of the future] in the past”, our panel wishes to explore this avenue of inquiry through critical discussions of the future-oriented quality of nostalgia.

Questions we hope to explore with this panel include, but are not limited to the following:

  • How (both thematically and stylistically) does literature about former socialist countries written in German remember and evaluate aspects of the socialist past positively? 
  • How can literary critiques of “real existing socialism” before 1989 lead to positive, future-oriented projections for a post-socialist world?
  • How do transcultural reflections on shared histories and memories in Eastern Europe contribute to a sense of unity in the present?
  • Can memories of pre-1989 Eastern Europe be adequately conceptualized by the various existing definitions of nostalgia and/or how can they be brought into conversations with critical discourses around utopia, hope, mourning, ‘Heimweh’, etc.? 

Please submit a 300 word abstract between June 15th and September 30th, 2019 via the NeMLA Submission portal

If you have any questions, please contact the panel organizers Michel Mallet, Maria Mayr and Kristin Rebien

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