Remembering Poland and Eastern Europe: Nostalgia, Memory, and Affect in Diasporic Women’s Writing
This project analyzes representations of Eastern Europe in fiction and autobiographies from the 1980s to the present, written in English by female authors who emigrated from the region, or whose parents emigrated after WW II. The complex history of this region puts high demands on contextualization of literary analyses, and so the project begins more narrowly with an initial focus on the rich variety of work produced by women writers of the post-WW II Polish diaspora. Two such writers are key: Eva Hoffman and Lisa Appignanesi. After the publication of analyses of their and other works, the project will widen to include writing by other Eastern European diasporic writers.
The focus is on literary renditions of emergent ethnic identities, on diasporic or exilic affect. What images of war-time and post-war Poland, what understandings of Eastern Europe emerge? How do writers remember exilic and diasporic experiences? What roles are played by nostalgia, by personal and cultural memory, and by history in their literary treatment of Poland and Eastern Europe? Of their adopted countries? What do these works tell us about the emotions of homesickness, of belonging, displacement, and disjunction? How do women writers think and feel about returns to their (or their ancestors’) homeland? How do representations of emotional registers change over time? What aesthetic choices do these authors make in their work? How is Polish ethnicity constituted—if it is—in their new locations? How does ethnicity travel? How are intimate relationships affected by the act of emigration, immigration, the condition of exile? How have the events of 1989 affected literary understandings of the region, and how have they affected the self-understandings of these writers? These are the large questions that guide the analysis of women writers of the Polish and Eastern European diaspora.