World Fiction, Post/Socialist. Eastern European Literatures and Cultures

The socialist project of creating a new world, fundamentally different from all previous ones and the capitalist in particular, was not restricted to the political and economic sphere. What is more, it aimed at revolutionizing people’s relationships to each other and to their surroundings. The many different ways in which literature and popular art forms create fictional worlds are particularly well equipped to observe what became of those goals and how their failure lives on in the cultures of Eastern Europe to this day.

Various projects investigate the complexities and ambivalences of these world fictions from a growing historical distance, overcoming the Cold War dichotomies of state repression and dissidence, totalitarianism and democracy, official and unofficial art. Exploring how the past is continuously reinterpreted and reappropriated in the post-socialist present—ranging from Manichean demonization to nostalgic glorification— their aim is to expand and revise common readings of aesthetic practices, artistic methods, popular genres, and cultural conceptions of the world in historical and comparative perspectives.

In collaboration with various colleagues, one project examines, for example, how documentary aesthetics in the 1960s radically altered the ways in which artists accessed reality, another how, in the production of socialist masculinities, bourgeois gender relations were disrupted. Using travel literature as yet another example, one can trace the emergence of new notions of the global in the postwar period. Drawing on post-socialist representations of history, one can explore how globalized cultures of memory and social media radically disrupt conceptions of the past. Post/socialist world fiction thus negotiates two things: the political fiction of a better world, increasingly becoming a fantasy estranged from reality, and the artistic production of divergent world concepts that articulate both fascination with everyday life and the horrors of it.


Fig. above: © Matthias Schwartz

since 2021
Head researcher(s): Matthias Schwartz


See also

Affective Realism. Contemporary Eastern European Literatures (Matthias Schwartz, project 2017–2019)


Matthias Schwartz

  • “Eine Welt ist nicht genug. Imaginationen alternativer Welten in sozialistischer Science-Fiction,” in: Johann Ev. Hafner, Lukas Struß (eds.): Strings, Sphären und SciFi. interdisziplinäre Zugänge zu alternativen Welten. Baden-Baden: Ergon 2021, 185–198
  • “Prosa der Verstörung. Zum 100. Geburtstag von Stanisław Lem,” in: ZfL Blog, 2 Sep 2021
  • “Die Traurigkeit des Golems. Stanisław Lems Figuration posthumaner Intelligenz als Poetik der Erinnerung,” in: Alexander Friedrich i.a. (eds.): Kosmos Stanisław Lem. Zivilisationspoetik, Wissenschaftsanalytik und Kulturphilosophie. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz 2021, 43–72
  • “Abschied von einer Utopie. Mediale Inszenierungen der Raumfahrt in der russischen Gegenwartskultur,” in: Tobias Haupts, Christian Pischel (eds.): Space Agency – Medien und Poetiken des Weltraums. Bielefeld: transcript 2021, 73–98
  • “Silberlöffel und andere Aborte. Marginalien zu Stanisław Lems Lokaltermin,” in: Jacek Rzeszotnik (ed.): Ein Jahrhundert Lem. 1921–2021. Dresden: Neisse Verlag 2021, 121–140


International Conference
16 Jun 2022 – 18 Jun 2022

Socialism’s Divergent Masculinities. Representations of Male Subjectivities in Soviet Constellations and Beyond

Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, Aufgang B, 3. Etage, Trajekte-Tagungsraum

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Panel Chair and Lecture
18 Nov 2021 – 21 Nov 2021

Panels with Matthias Schwartz at the 53rd Annual Conference of the ASEEES

New Orleans, LA, USA

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International Conference
11 Nov 2021 – 12 Nov 2021

Beyond Nostalgia. New Appropriations of Late Socialism in Contemporary Eastern European Cultures

Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, Aufgang B, 3. Etage

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Opening of the exhibition and discussion
28 Sep 2021 · 6.30 pm

Opening of the exhibition “Stanisław Lem – ein polnisch-jüdischer Science-Fiction-Autor und sein universelles Werk” with Matthias Schwartz

vhs, Bergheimer Str. 76, 69115 Heidelberg

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09 Aug 2021 – 13 Aug 2021

Matthias Schwartz: “Diener des Volkes”. Populärkulturen und Populismus im digitalen Zeitalter


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07 Jul 2021 · 1.00 pm

“Explosive Convergences. Popular Memory Images in Current Political Conflicts (Belarus, Lithuania, Ukraine, Poland)” (Panel with Matthias Schwartz a.o.)


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11 Jun 2021 · 5.40 pm

Matthias Schwartz: Ich, Du, Er, Sie: Populismus, Nationalismus und die postsozialistische Filmkomödie


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27 May 2021 · 10.30 am

Wenn die Geschichte die Literatur einholt (workshop with Matthias Schwartz and Viktor Martinowitsch)

online via Zoom

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International Conference
16 Jan 2020 – 18 Jan 2020

‘Firsthand Time.’ Documentary Aesthetics in the Long 1960s

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, Aufgang B, 3. Etage, Seminarraum

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12 Sep 2021 Audio
“Stanisław Lem – Science-Fiction-Visionär und philosophischer Pessimist”
Feature by Christian Blees with Matthias Schwartz a.o. in the program “Kalenderblatt” on Deutschlandfunk on the occasion of Stanisław Lem’s 100th birthday
© Deutschlandfunk

6 Sep 2021 Audio
“Das Geheimnis der Sterntagebücher”
Radio feature on Stanisław Lems “Star Diaries” on Deutschlandfunk Kultur with Matthias Schwartz and others
© Deutschlandfunk Kultur

31 Jul 2021 Audio
“Baustelle Kosmos”
WDR 3 feature with Matthias Schwartz on the occasion of the 100th birthday of Stanisław Lem, author: Sven Ahnert
© WDR 3

27 May 2021 Video
“Wenn die Geschichte die Literatur einholt”
Virtual workshop of the ABDOS (Association of Libraries and Documentation Centers for East, East Central and Southeastern European Studies) with Matthias Schwartz and Viktor Martinowitsch as part of “Leipzig liest extra,” an event of Leipzig Book Fair
© ABDOS e.V.