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Shifting Borders and Shapeshifters: European/ Balkan/Russian Monsters 30 Years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall

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Organizer: Thomas Garza

Co-Organizer: Eva Hudecová

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The shift in the geopolitical landscape of Europe, the Balkans, and Russia following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 created new cultural and literary spaces for the creation of a new generation of monsters – both real and imagined. The regions that brought the rest of the world historical and literary vampires, werewolves, harpies, and golems has, in the 2000s, been fertile ground to grow new monstrous myths. J. Halberstam famously contented, “Monsters are meaning machines. They can represent gender, race, nationality, class, and sexuality in one body” (Skin Shows, 1995). 

Monsters are always part of the project of making sense of the world and our place in it; but the post-Soviet world offers a special case for the creation of the monstrous, a tool through which human beings imagine the new worlds in which they dwell. The monsters they create are tightly bound with many other systems of meaning-making, including religion, culture, literature, and politics. This seminar will engage research from across literary and cultural studies disciplines that intersects with the regions of Europe, the Balkans, and Russia. Its focus will be the discussion of the creation of the aberrant, the transgressive, the subversive – the monstrous – in works of literature, film, art, or other cultural products that were produced in the thirty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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