Slavic Languages and Literatures | Interwar Central Europe: Cultural Florescence And Apocalyptic Vision
C565 | ALL | Volkova

Crosslisted in: Slavic Dept., REEI, Comparative Literature and West European

The years between the two world wars presented a curious paradox in the
heartland of Europe, Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland; for
this area of Europe presented both a particularly rich cultural florescence
and an especially acute apocalyptic perspective.

In the area of science and the arts, the region was especially fertile in
the decades between the wars: the development of Freudian and Jungian
psychoanalysis, the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, the linguistic,
semiotic and aesthetic theories of the Prague Linguistic Circle, to name
only a few, were achievements which were to be of signal influence on
scientific thought the world over. In the arts, the development of dada,
poetism, and surrealism, the achievements of modern cinema, the music of
Hindemith, Schnberg, Webern, Martin, Bartk, Kodly, Janek, were achievements
that placed Central Europe in the forefront of European art. On the other
hand, the frightening depression which hit the area perhaps with more
powerful blows than any other European region, the strident social and
political unrest, the Hungarian Civil War, the Austrian Civil War, the
growth of German Fascism, and finally the Anschluss of Austria, the Munich
pact and the occupation of Czechoslovakia marked a straight road that
pointed to the Second World War. It was in this paradox that the Central
European consciousness was formed.

The course adopts an intersystemic approach and attempts to link the
political threats hanging over the area and the scientific and artistic
achievements of the period without, however, reducing one to the other.
Special emphasis is laid on the role of the Jews in the crossemination of
the intellectual climate. The issue of crisis of human values is explored
and a syncretic and integrative picture of these years is focused on.

Readings will be predominantly from history books and novels (in English
translation). Excerpts from Dblin, Musil, Th. Mann, Broch,  S. Zweig, K.
apek, Kafka, Holan, Halas, Orten, Seifert, Witkacy, Schulz will be among the
assigned readings. There will be guest lectures and film screenings.

Requirements:  Paper (15 to 20 pages), class participation