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Lecture Series Russia´s war, Ukraine’s resistance | A.Wöll & A. Achilli


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The current lecture series is aimed at revealing some of the aspects that pre-defined and framed the current occasions. On the one hand, the lectures will present the development of Ukrainian identity, nation and sovereignty in different historical context and under various, often contradicting factors. On the other hand, important part of the series is to show how Russia attempted to influence the country from several angles, often using media, culture and religion as tools of spreading narratives harmful for Ukrainian nation-building.

1. Lecture

Alexander Wöll, University of Potsdam
"Ukrainian modernism - Lesya Ukrajinka and Ol'ha Kobyljans'ka"

Ukraine differs from almost all other European literatures in that modernity begins with two very unusual women who have written themselves at the heart of the national literary canon: namely Lesya Ukrajinka and Ol'ha Kobyljans'ka. Along with Ivan Franko, Jurij Fed'kovych and Vasyl Stefanyk, both belong to the group of multilingual Ukrainian writers who had an impact on the politically divided entire Ukrainian linguistic and cultural area, and thereby positioned their own imagined, culturally unified country at the center of literary and cultural developments. With them both, the woman as artist and educator of her nation becomes the new paradigm and topos of Ukrainian literature. At the beginning of Ukrainian independence in 1991, the literary canon was redefined, with the three female literary scholars Solomija Pavlyčko, Vira Ahejeva and Tamara Hundorova in particular working out new feminist and queer points of view - a tradition that is different in Ukraine than in Russia and Belarus - could and can continue to develop very well to this day due to academic freedom. Although Ukrayinka had to travel a lot because of her illness, she spent most of her life in Kyiv, which was occupied by the Russian Empire. Nevertheless, the multicultural environment of Austrian Western Ukraine with its German-Ukrainian-Polish-Yiddish language mixture is omnipresent in her entire work - analogous to Kobyljans'ka - where different cultures and ideologies overlap, are connected and also come up against their respective limits that were both physical and psychological. In this context, both developed an open understanding of the Ukrainian nation, which at the same time should irredentistically unite all scattered Ukrainians and yet also be inclusive of other cultures and ethnic groups.

Alexander Wöll is a Professor at the Chair for Culture and Literature of Central and East-Europe at the University of Potsdam, Germany. His research focuses on the modern Central and East-European (CEE) literature, literary theory and intermediality under the frames of comparative literacy and cultural studies, gothic novels and "masculinity studies" and gender in Russia and CEE. Previously Prof. Dr. Wöll was a President of the Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder). Among his recent publications "The Importance of Being Provincial". Ol’ha Kobyl’jans’kas deutsch-ukrainisch-bukowinische Heimatvisionen (co-authored chapter in edited book Habsburgs Untergang ‒ Mitteleuropas Anfang, Literaturen eines zerissenen Kontinents, Thelem, 2021) and Svetlana Aleksievič/Светлана Александровна Алексиевич (2015) (chapter in edited book Nobelpreisträgerinnen. 14 Schriftstellerinnen im Porträt, de Gruyter, 2019).

2. Lecture

Alessandro Achilli, University of Cagliari
"Making Ukrainian literature national again: Serhiy Zhadan's evolution from elite to mass culture"

In this presentation, Dr. Achilli analyses the evolution of Serhiy Zhadan’s (b. 1974) writings as a mirror of the of strengthening of Ukrainian literature in the last thirty years. Zhadan began his literary career in the early 1990s with a neo-baroque, experimental poetry that was not intended for a mass audience, all the more so given his status of a Ukrainian-language writer in predominantly Russophone Kharkiv. Since the 2000s and especially after 2014, Zhadan has embraced accessibility as a way to be able to reach out to a large readership. This change reflects a more general and profound transformation of Ukrainian literature as an important nation-building actor in post-Euromaidan Ukraine.

Alessandro Achilli is a senior assistant professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Cagliari, Italy. He mainly deals with modern and contemporary poetry in the Slavic area, focusing with particular attention on inter-Slavic and Slavic-German literary relations. He is the author of the first monograph on Vasyl' Stus published outside Ukraine (La lirica di Vasyl' Stus: Modernismo e Intertextualità Poetica nell'Ukraine del Secondo Novecento, Firenze University Press, 2018) and co-editor of the volume Cossacks in Jamaica, Ukraine at the Antipodes: Essays in Honor of Marko Pavlyshyn, Boston, Academic Studies Press, 2020. Since 2021 he is a member of the editorial board of the journal "Ricerche slavistiche" (Sapienza University of Rome). Since 2018 he is vice-president of the Ukrainian Studies Association of Australian and New Zealand (USAANZ).

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