Post-Modernism in Literature and Culture of Central and Eastern Europe / Postmodernizm W Literaturze I Kulturze Krajow Europy Srodkowo-Wschodniej
Sywenky, Irene, Canadian Slavonic Papers
Both collections of essays (the English volume representing a translation from the earlier Polish edition) are the result of an international and interdisciplinary conference held in Poland, at the University of Silesia in November 1993, and serve as a timely contribution to the discussion of cultural postmodernism in the countries of the ex-Soviet bloc. The conference and ensuing publications attest to the "graduation" of Central and East European postmodernism from being a trendy scholarly controversy to a de facto status. Although postmodernism in the culture of this region, especially in its post-totalitarian stage, is often judged primarily through its long suppressed "desire" to join in the Western cultural paradigm (as part of a bigger socio-economic paradigm), its roots seem much deeper as a discourse oppositional to the inscribed normative code of literary/cultural expression in totalitarian society. In her introduction Halina Janaszek-Ivanickova stresses the preeminence of the socio-political factor as both an impetus and a shaping factor in the development of the Central and East European phenomenon of the postmodern. And although the features of postmodernist breakthrough she summarizes "from the point of view of Central and Eastern Europe" (the victory of marginal thought, a new comprehension of the ontological order and truth, rejection of determinism, pluralism, etc., pp. 10-11), do not, in fact, differ from how they are conceived of in the West, all of them at the same time acquire a distinct political coloring in the aftermath of 1989. Culturally, this breakthrough also implies shaking off primarily the doctrines of socialist realism as well as the ghost of the "already barren" historical avantgarde. Speaking in the context of the post-totalitarian society, Janaszek-lvanickova emphasizes that "postmodernism examined only as a literary sociocode together with appropriate preferences and idiosyncrasies... does not possess in our estimation the rank of a `Copernican breakthrough' tantamount to that enjoyed by postmodern philosophical thought" (p. 11). What cannot be underestimated is the "significance of the postmodern breakthrough for changing the social and philosophical consciousness of these countries" (p. 10).
The essays are grouped in four topical sections. The first, "General Discussion," presents an international perspective on theoretical aspects of postmodernism with contributions from D. Fokkema, M.E. de Valdes, A. Maur,va, T. Slawek, S. Morawski, and A. Zeidler-Janiszewska. This section, however, is somewhat disappointing, because-contrary to what the title of the volume might suggest-not all authors choose to explore the regional specifics of the "general" issues, preferring to remain in the domain of all-too-well-known names and theories. …