Hi/stories in Contemporary Greek Culture: The Entanglements of History and the Arts since 1989
Workshop at the University of Copenhagen, 23-25 June 2016
As in any nation, debates about history have occupied a central place in the Greek public sphere where authors, artists and intellectuals have played a prominent role in shaping narratives about the past. Much has been said and written about the specific meaning of history in Greece given the fact that the country’s acclaimed ancient history, both Classical and Christian, is considered not only national history but also the foundational history of the entire Western world.
Have these circumstances led to a particular sensitivity in Greek culture vis-à-vis narratives about the past, or have they rather created a numbness and unwillingness to engage critically with such narratives? What do fictionalized accounts of the past tell us about Greek historical consciousness? This workshop aims to bring together scholars who are engaged in mapping and discussing Greek history and culture as it is expressed in contemporary literature, film and other narrative genres.
While the classical past weighed most heavily on Greek national self-perceptions in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, more recently the Byzantine, Ottoman and modern European legacies have generated many more examples of representations of the past. 1989 marked a significant moment in the way European countries perceived their pasts and their futures. The end of the Cold War led to new quests for national identities in the former Soviet bloc, and for interpretations of the past and visions of the future in place of Communism, while western European nations could no longer represent Communism as the significant other against which to shape their identity and contemporary purpose.
In Greece, the EEC/EU membership (1981) and the new geo-political map following 1989 have rekindled debates about the country’s position between East and West, resulting in frequently inflexible discourses about the country’s Eastern/religious legacy on the one hand, and its Western/Enlightenment legacy on the other. The voices in these debates often come from historiography and other academic circles, but literature, cinema, theatre and other media have been important for negotiating questions of heritage and belonging. How has the past been approached by authors, artists and filmmakers since 1989? Which narrative techniques and cultural typologies have been used to approach, represent and interpret the past? Which specific pasts are chosen for such representations, and for what purposes, political, ideological? Is the purpose to challenge traditional narratives or to reinforce them? Do these representations of the past have the potential to heal collective traumas or is their function rather to create nostalgic spaces of remembrance (and forgetting)? What impact do such narratives of the past have on historiography and public debate? Why are so many of these accounts of such appeal to contemporary audiences in Greece, and in the Greek diaspora?
The workshop is intended to provide a scholarly forum to discuss and develop these and related questions. We therefore encourage presentation of research from diverse disciplinary backgrounds on contemporary literary narratives and cultural representations of the Greek past, whether episodic or of the long duration. We also invite consideration of the influence of such narratives and representations on historiography (including history text-books and documentaries) and related academic disciplines, as well as on institutions and sites of memory such as museums and monuments.
Possible topics include but are not limited to:
• Developments in Greek historical fiction since 1989
• Contemporary historical drama
• Uses of the past in Greek film and TV production
• Greek historical documentaries
• The relationship between academic history writing and the arts
• Biographies and fiction
• The intersection between national, global and local narratives
• Past, present and future in fictional accounts of the past
• Narrative techniques in historical fiction
• The melodramatic mode in Greek literature and film
There will be public lectures and events held in conjunction with the workshop, but the focus will be on scholarly discussion in a closed forum with pre-circulated papers. Paper abstracts (max. 400 words) along with a short bio should be submitted to email@example.com by 1st November 2015.
Trine Stauning Willert, Modern Greek Studies, Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen
Gerasimus Katsan, Department of European Languages and Literatures, Queens College, CUNY
Charles Lock, English Studies, Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies, University of Copenhagen
Catharina Raudvere, History of Religions, Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen
Mogens Pelt, History, The Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen