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Vera Faber (University of Zagreb)

Fellow in Research Area 1: "Competing Communities"

July – December 2020

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 the 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, mostly deal with monolingual text corpora, thus neglecting or completely 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 the Ukraine represent a particularly interesting field. On the one hand, the 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 the Ukraine has been dominated by different attempts of homogenization, 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 canonization processes in the Ukraine with a particular focus on blind spots, omissions, and systematic exclusions. In addition, the funding period of the research fellowship will also be used to prepare a research proposal on text, photo and everyday culture in the former Soviet Union.

Vera Faber works at the intersection of Russian and Ukrainian literature, arts, and aesthetics. She received her doctorate in Slavonic Studies from the University of Vienna in 2017. Currently she teaches literature at the University of Zagreb, Croatia. She has previously taught literature and aesthetics at Universities in Austria and in the Ukraine. In addition, she has extensive practical experience in graphic design and photography. Her dissertation analyses inconsistencies in the centre-periphery discourses of the late avant-garde in the Soviet Ukraine. It was awarded the Doc.Award in 2018 and published in 2019. Her research has been funded by institutions such as the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Austrian Research Association, and the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. Her research interests include the history and the theory of the avant-garde, word-image-relations, photography, intertextuality, intermedia, centre-periphery-relations, and the interrelations of art and politics.