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Transatlantic Central Europe

Contesting Geography and Redefining Culture beyond the Nation


Jessie Labov

The concept of “Central Europe” has receded as a political and intellectual project, and the term has lost most of the weight it had in the 1980s and early 1990s. Proponents of a distinct cultural profile of this group of countries—all now involved in the process of Transatlantic integration—used “Central European” as an alternative for the geo-political label of Eastern Europe.

This book discusses the transnational set of practices connecting journals with other media in the mid-1980s that disseminated the idea of Central Europe simultaneously in East and West. The author employs a range of new methods, including GIS-mapping visualization, repositioning the political-cultural journal as one central node of a much larger cultural system.

What happened to the philosophy that “Central Europe” once evoked? In the early years of the transition era, the liberal humanist perspective shared by Havel, Konrád, Kundera, and Michnik was quickly replaced by an economic liberalism that evolved into neoliberal policies and practices. The author follows the trajectories of the concept into the present day, identifying its material and intellectual traces in the postcommunist landscape. She explores how the current usage of transnational, web-based media follows the logic and practice of an earlier, “dissident” generation of writers.

ISBN 978-615-5053-29-0
250 pages, cloth
$55.00 / €47.00 / £42.00


List of Figures

List of Maps

Introduction: Movements of Texts across Borders

Part One: Cross Currents and Its Transatlantic Central European Imaginary

Chapter One: The Political-Cultural Journal: The Case of Cross Currents

Cross Currents: A Yearbook of Central European Culture

Distribution and Diaspora

Why The New York Review of Books?

The Postcolonial Intersection

Cross Currents as Essay and Encyclopedia

Chapter Two: The Debate over Central Europe —from Jews to Yugoslavia

The Domains of Central Europe

Divergent Definitions of Central Europe: Miłosz and Kundera

Flight from Byzantium: Kundera vs. Brodsky on Dostoyevsky

The Lisbon Conference: May 7–8, 1988

The North–South Axis Returns: Central and Southeastern Europe

Two Yugoslav Entries: Vladimir Dedijer and Danilo Kiš

Part Two: Further Essays in Contesting Geography and Redefining Culture

Chapter Three: Borders, Editors, and Readers in Motion

The Need for New Geographies

Interwar Hungary beyond Its Borders

Parallel Routes from Independence through War: Giedroyc and Grydzewski, Part I

Polish Émigré Publishing after the Second World War: Giedroyc and Grydzewski, Part II

Reading Kultura from a Distance

Towards an Extra-Territorial Literature

Chapter Four: Transmedial Work-Arounds after 1989

Moving beyond Text and Context

Abuses of the Helsinki Charter in Yugoslavia (1989)

The Case of Radio B92/B2-92: From Analog to Digital Practices (1990s)

Ukraine, Belarus, and beyond Central Europe (2000s): From Online to Offline Work-Arounds

Conclusion: Redefining Transatlantic Central Europe Today