From 15 till 17 September 2022, the second EUTIM Annual Conference “Time Out of Joint: Literary (Re)Visions of Time in Eastern and Central Europe” will take place at Potsdam University. The event is curated by Alexander Wöll, Principal Investigator at EUTIM with the Focus theme “Small Literatures and Neighborhood”.
This conference will explore literary imaginations of time in Eastern and Central Europe in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. At the centre of this investigation will be the pregnant notion of “non-simultaneity”, which calls into question the many assumptions commonly attached to time such as: that it is distributed equally, that it unfolds in a linear fashion, that the progression of time inevitably engenders progress and brings closer the future, and that the past remains behind. In this conference, we seek to problematise these ideas by focusing on the literatures of Eastern and Central Europe and regarding the temporalities that they offer in their own right.
The region’s unique history of political and aesthetic experiments, ideologies and utopias, dissidence and revolutions, rise and fall of empires and the transformation of nations provides a particularly valuable ground for the study of time-related disparities. The communication – of political power, culture, languages – between political centers and perceived peripheries, between East and West is most often considered in spatial terms. Yet the distance between them, above all the distance of experiences, brings about significant temporal asymmetries, which merit deeper examination.
The events of the most recent and even ongoing history, such as the annexation of Crimea and the war in the Donbas, which has now turned into Russia’s full-blown horrifying war against Ukraine, the mass elation and the subsequent brutal repressions in Belarus, the neo-Stalinist turn in Russia, serve as painful reminders that “the end of history” is not in sight and that the questions of (neo)imperialism and national identity are far from being irrelevant. As the farthest cry from the current reality one reads Fredric Jameson’s shortsightedly optimistic proposition that “we no longer are encumbered with the embarrassment of non-simultaneities and non-synchronicities. Everything has reached the same hour on the great clock of development or rationalization”.
The recent historical events have unequivocally shown that for Eastern and Central Europe, especially the present is firmly steeped in the past: In tradition and cultural heritage, but also in archaisms, unresolved traumas and incomplete projects such as modernism brought to an abrupt end through political violence. Rather than flowing smoothly, time shrinks and accelerates, breaks and heals.
This conference seeks to explore, through the analysis of Belarusian, Czech, Crimean Tatar, Jewish, Polish, Ukrainian and other texts, how literature articulates these perceptions and transformations of time, and what themes, aesthetic strategies and genres the prose, drama and poetry from this region employ and bring to the fore. What place is reserved for postmodernist irony, moral relativism and dissolved subjectivity? How much room is there for the sublime, transcendence, ethical urgency and the pursuit of authenticity?
Instead of seeking to smoothen out temporal ruptures, discrepancies and continuities, and bringing them to the “the same hour”, this conference will place them at the focus of inquiry, studying the very time difference and temporalities that arise from the experiences in Eastern and Central Europe – not as a deviation from a “normal” course of history, but rather as a temporal modality of its own.
Venue: Senate Hall (Senatssaal) of the University of Potsdam, Campus Neues Palais, Haus 9, Room 1.03