Slavisches Seminar

Between Philosophy, Literature and History of Ideas: The Women's Impact in East-Central European Intellectual History in the 20th Century

The main goal of the project is to rethink cultural history of East-Central Europe in the 20th century by acknowledging the blurred borders between philosophy, literature, art and literary theory in the local cultures and focusing on the female thinkers/writers/philosophers who innovatively contributed to the various streams of intellectual production in East-Central Europe, such as (Revisionist) Marxism, phenomenology, feminism, structuralism, and existentialism. 

Intellectual Production in East-Central Europe
Every reader of Jean-Paul Sartre’s and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novels knows that it is sometimes very difficult to draw a sharp distinction line between literature and philosophy, as well as other intellectual production: art and literary theory, literary criticism. The question of the blurred borders between philosophy, literature, art and literary theory is particularly visible in the case of Slavic cultures. However, one can see a quantitative and qualitative disproportion in the existing scholarship: whereas the case of Russian culture and intellectual production has been an object of various academic investigations for a very long time, East-Central European cultures (Hungarian, Czech, Polish, Ukrainian, etc.) remain in that respect somewhat neglected, even though one could observe similar tendencies there. Poets and writers from Prague, Lviv, Zagreb, or Warsaw raised genuinely philosophical questions in their literary works, whereas professional philosophers mastered such literary forms as essay, fable, or even fairy tale. What makes the intellectual production from 20th century East-Central Europe particularly unique, is its tendency not only to challenge the standard differentiation of disciplines, but also to raise urgent practical issues, acknowledging the immediate and direct experience while discussing such questions as ‘identity’ (national, ethnic, religious), ‘work,’ ‘crisis,’ ‘existence,’ or ‘culture.’ This was caused by the fact that it was primarily East-Central European territories (Czechoslovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus) that involuntarily became a playground for the 20th century ideologies put into practice. Witnessing and experiencing the ideologically motivated ethnic cleansings, genocides (Jews, Romani people), expulsions, and rapes had an enormous impact on the way of conceiving of the crucial theoretical concepts of the 20th century intellectual production.

Women’s Impact in Intellectual Production: The Case of East-Central Europe
The role of women in 20th century intellectual production already belongs to the well-established academic fields, fem nist philosophy and its branches being good examples. However, the intellectual production of women from East-Central Europe still awaits to be discovered for international scholarship. What deserves special attention here is the role of direct experience of the dismantling of social, political, gender, and religious structures that in the 20th century became an object of interest of various female authors, who innovatively contributed to the various streams of East-Central European philosophy, sociology, literature, literary theory, such as (Revisionist) Marxism, phenomenology, feminism, structuralism, existentialism. Authors like Erika Kadlecová, Zagorka Golubović, Maria Ossowska, Agnes Heller, Izydora Dąmbska, Maria Janion, Rose Rand, Jolanta Brach-Czaina successfully combined the genuine local experience with a universal approach, acknowledging (but not limiting themselves to) the female experience, including such issues as politicization of the body and sexuality in totalitarian systems (rape, abortion ban), intime experiences (sexual pleasure, maternity, miscarriage), as well as the concept of household work.

Projektdauer: 1. September 2022- 31. August 2023

Projektleiterin: Dr. Aleksandra Konarzewska, in Kooperation mit Anna Nakai (Central European University), Una Blagojević (Central European University)

Gefördert vom Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) und dem Wissenschaftsministerium Baden-Württemberg im Rahmen der Exzellenzstrategie von Bund und Ländern; Gefördert im Rahmen der Exzellenzstrategie von Bund und Ländern.