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Vera Faber (Universität Wien)

Fellow in Research Area 1: "Competing Communities"

March – August 2021

Multilingualism and the Literary Canon in (Post-)Soviet Ukraine

Vera Faber’s project at EXC 2020 juxtaposes different aspects of canon formation in Soviet and post-Soviet literary discourse. Using the example of Ukraine, this project investigates the representation and implementation of linguistic hybridity and linguistic boundaries during the transformation of the canon that took place against the backdrop of shifting cultural paradigms both before and after the collapse of the Soviet empire. The process of canon formation is a powerful instrument of regulation and standardisation, which often aims to enforce nation-building processes or imperial claims. Even though over the past decades linguistic boundaries have gradually dissolved in the light of an increasingly globalised world, the idea of a literary canon is still widely informed by the concept of (a singular) national language. Correspondingly, many traditional literary studies, with the exception of some more recent approaches in comparative studies, deal mostly with monolingual text corpora, thus neglecting or ignoring the work of trans- or multilingual authors. Although a paradigm of multi-nationality informed Soviet cultural policy – including the notion of a multi-national Soviet literary canon –, multilingualism was implemented merely on a conceptual level and remained widely disregarded during different phases of Soviet rule. Post-Soviet strategies of canonisation continued to be strongly marked by the concept of monolingualism. However, the strategies of canonisation in Ukraine represent a particularly interesting field. On the one hand, Ukraine is a highly hybrid territory which, in terms of culture and language, is marked by the synchronic and diachronic intersection of different languages. On the other hand, language policy in Ukraine has been dominated by different attempts of homogenisation, which again mirror various phases of nation-building. By drawing on methods from literary criticism and cultural studies (canon, network, centre-periphery, border studies, post-imperialism), the project analyses both linguistic hybridity and linguistic boundaries in current and former canonisation processes in Ukraine with a particular focus on blind spots, omissions, and systematic exclusions.

Vera Faber works at the intersection of (Soviet) Russian and Ukrainian literature, arts, and aesthetics. She has been teaching literature and aesthetics at universities in Austria, Croatia, and Ukraine. In addition, she has extensive practical experience in graphic design and photography. Her research interests include the history and theory of the avant-garde movement, word-image relations, photography, intertextuality, intermedia, centre-periphery relations, multilingualism, cultural memory discourses, and the interrelation of art and politics in the Soviet Union. Her doctoral dissertation (U of Vienna, 2017) analyses inconsistencies in the centre-periphery discourses of the late avant-garde in Soviet Ukraine. It was awarded the Doc.Award by the University of Vienna and the City of Vienna in 2018 and was published in 2019. Vera Faber has been a fellow of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Austrian Exchange Service, and the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. In February 2021, she was awarded a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship to conduct her research project “Soviet Ellipses” at the University of Oslo and at Humboldt University of Berlin.