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Guest Lecture Series

31 October 2009

Centre for Advanced Study Sofia
7, Stefan Karadja St., vh. 3, ap. 23
October 31st, 16.00 h.

Zoran Milutinović is Senior Lecturer in South Slav literature and culture and Head of Department of East European Languages and Culture at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London. Before coming to UCL he taught at the University of Belgrade, Wesleyan University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the editor of Balkan Studies Library, a book series published by Brill, Leiden. His publications are mostly on South Slav literature, twentieth-century European drama and drama theory, and the theory of comparative literature.

The Construction of Europe in Serbian Culture 1913 -1945

The paper analyses the selected writings of leading Serbian writers and intellectuals who by the outbreak of the Second World War had constructed a discursive image of ‘Europe'. I do not inquire into the accuracy of the representation of Europe, but into the ways in which it was discursively constructed. Who constructed it, and with what authority? For whom was it intended? How was this representation validated? What purposes was it meant to serve?

The first half of the 20th century was the period in which the concept of Europe gained wider currency in Serbian culture: during that time travel writers stopped going to Germany and France, and began travelling to ‘Europe'. How was this conflation of different countries and cultures into one notion made possible? When and to what effect did ‘Europe' designate (a) a cultural pattern, (b) the processes of social modernisation, (c) imperialism and the policies of the Great Powers in the Balkans, or (d) secularism? What was assumed to be the opposite to ‘Europe'? Was it a geographical notion (Russia, the Orient), or a temporal one (the Middle Ages, or the past in general)? Which issues were raised in comparing ‘Europe' with Serbia, and why? Starting from the hypothesis that such representations were not referentially but intertextually constructed, I inquire into textual traditions from which their elements were borrowed: the discourse of French Enlightenment, the Russian ‘Eurasian' philosophy of Trubetskoi and Solov'ev, Spengler's and Simmel's Kulturpessimismus, and home-grown Orientalist discourse. I also examine the textual strategies these authors used to weave a rich fabric that roused feelings of admiration, envy, love, curiosity, hatred, puzzlement and identification.

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