International Conference
06.11.2015 – 08.11.2015

After Memory. Conflicting Claims to World War Two in Contemporary Eastern European Literatures

Ort: ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et.


A conference organized by
Matthias Schwartz (ZfL)
Nina Weller (Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies, LMU Munich)
Heike Winkel (Institute for East European Studies / Peter Szondi Institute of Comparative Literature, FU Berlin

Friday, 06.11.2015

14.00 Opening of the conference, Words of welcome

14.30 Keynote

  • Ernst van Alphen (Leiden): Legacies of Stalinism and the Gulag. Manifestations of Trauma and Postmemory

16.00 Panel 1: Beyond Socialism. Figurations of National Heroism
Chair: Matthias Schwartz (ZfL)

  • Valerij Viugin (St. Petersburg): Death of a Hero. WW II in Russian Fiction and Cinema under Putin
  • Davor Beganovič (Tübingen/Zürich): Conflicting Narratives. Contemporary Serbian Literature between Četniks and Partisans

18.00 Panel 2: After Oblivion. Post-Socialist Reinventions of a Contested Past
Chair: Stefan Willer (ZfL)

  • Aleksandra Ubertowska (Gdańsk): Zombie-Stories as Reinventing the Past. Holocaust (Post)Memory in Polish Literature after 1989
  • Eleonora Narvselius (Lund): United by History, Divided by Memory? The Volhynian Massacres in 1943–44 and Attitudes to Polishness in Western Ukrainian-based Intellectual Polemics

Saturday, 07.11.2015
10.00 Panel 3: Documentary Fictions. Changing Devices of Remembrance and Testimony
Chair: Aurélia Kalisky (ZfL)

  • Stephenie Young (Salem, Massachusetts): Bodies of Evidence. Memory, Forensics, and »Documentary« Literature about Ex-Yugoslavia
  • Dana Mihăilescu (Bukarest): The Thrusts of Ghost-Writing. Eastern European Survivors’ Memories of the Holocaust in Post-Cold War Western Societies. On Sara Tuvel Bernstein’s The Seamstress and Leah Kaufman’s Live! Remember! Tell the World!

12.00 Panel 4: Postmemory Literatures. Rewriting the Textual Space
Chair: Tatjana Petzer (ZfL)

  • Nina Weller (Munich): Demythologizing History. On the Phantasmatic Dismantling of the Leningrad Blockade Narrations
  • Stephan Krause (Leipzig): »… within the uselessness we have to get from somewhere to somewhere, if we see more sense in speaking than in silence…« The »Textual Space« of Holocaust and WW II Memory in Contemporary Hungarian Literature

15.00 Panel 5: Affective Media. Textual and Visual Representations
Chair: Erik Martin (Frankfurt/Oder)

  • Madlene Hagemann / Gernot Howanitz (Passau): Pictures from the Past. The Graphic Novel Alois Nebel as Drawn Postmemory of WW II
  • Matthias Schwartz (ZfL): Feeling History. Szczepan Twardoch’s Affective Revisions of National Representations

17.00 Panel 6: Beyond the Nation State. Reshaping the Memory of World War II
Chair: Yael Almog (ZfL)

  • Kris van Heuckelom (Leuven): Transnational Aspects of Postmemory in Third-Generation Fiction on WW II and the Holocaust. The (Contrapuntal) Cases of Piotr Paziński and Erwin Mortier
  • Tatjana Petzer (ZfL): The Legacy of the Holocaust and World War II in (Post-)Yugoslav Writing and its European Echo

Sunday, 08.11.2015
10.00 Panel 7: Postmemory and Affect. Post-Traumatic Refigurations of War Histories
Chair: Stephan Krause (Leipzig)

  • Joanna Niżyńska (Bloomington, Indiana): Traumatic Fantasies. Memory, Affect and Compensation in Contemporary Polish Literature
  • Heike Winkel (Berlin): Ambivalent Victims. Figurations of Expulsion in Contemporary Czech Literature

12.00 Panel 8: Beyond Postmemory. Comic and Dramatic Enactments of War Stories
Chair: Nina Weller (Munich)

  • Brigitte Obermayr (Berlin): (Im)Possible Modes of Laughter in Historic Narration of the Great Patriotic War
  • Magdalena Marszałek (Potsdam): War, Media, and Capitalism. Remembering WW II as Social Criticism (Paweł Demirski’s Plays)

13.30 Concluding discussion

Daily Scenes – An Eastern Travelogue

During the conference, video material from an ongoing art project by Matei and Andrea Bellu will be on view.

If you are interested in attending, please register for the conference in advance by .

The conference enquires into the fundamental shifts in the literary representations of World War II which have taken place in East-European literatures in the last decades. 70 years after the end of the war, the breakdown of state socialism in its specific instantiations and the vanishing of the generation of witnesses are causing massive changes in modes of remembrance. In Eastern Europe today, cultural memory is both post-socialist and post-memorial. This coincides with increased pluralisation and diversity in the region. Conflicting claims to an authoritative representation of World War II dispute the former hegemonic narratives of remembrance. At the same time literature has gradually lost its role as a key genre of collective and individual memory, as other, mostly visual media, have become more important—and not just in Eastern Europe.

The conference takes these observations as a starting point to explore literature’s changing role in shaping the memory of World War II in a comparative perspective. The conference panels discuss fictional representations of formerly marginalized or forgotten histories, constructions of traumatic, heroic or transnational histories as well as poetic devices, narrative strategies and affective models which form our understanding of the past.

Conference supported by:
Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung Berlin
Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies, LMU Munich
Institute für East European Studies, FU Berlin

More information about the project:
East-Western Cultures of Affect (in Engl.)
Ost-westliche Affektkulturen (auf Deutsch)


Matthias Schwartz, Nina Weller, Heike Winkel (Hg.)

After Memory
World War II in Contemporary Eastern European Literatures

Media and Cultural Memory / Medien und kulturelle Erinnerung Bd. 29
de Gruyter, Berlin 2021, 479 Seiten
ISBN 978-3-1107-1373-2 (Print); 978-3-1107-1383-1 (E-Book)