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The Alternative Geo-Politics of Croatian American Diasporic Writers

Šesnić, Jelena
The Alternative Geo-Politics of Croatian American Diasporic Writers // The Annual Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association
Seattle, Sjedinjene Američke Države, 2015. (predavanje, međunarodna recenzija, neobjavljeni rad, znanstveni)

The Alternative Geo-Politics of Croatian American Diasporic Writers

Šesnić, Jelena

Vrsta, podvrsta i kategorija rada
Sažeci sa skupova, neobjavljeni rad, znanstveni

The Annual Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association

Mjesto i datum
Seattle, Sjedinjene Američke Države, 26.-29. ožujka 2015.

Vrsta sudjelovanja

Vrsta recenzije
Međunarodna recenzija

Ključne riječi
Transnationalism, diaspora, Croatian American, post-socialist, post-communist, literary geopolitics

There are at least two interconnected yet discrete models of reading pertaining to the corpus of writers from which I have decided to present the two mentioned here, namely, Neda Miranda Blazevic-Krietzman and Josip Novakovich. One is US-Americanist, and linked with it arguably also a Croatian Americanist perspective while the other is a Croatian Studies perspective. Sometimes their methodologies will interact, as I hope to show. I will briefly address the implications attending to each of these two (or two-and-a-half) reading procedures hoping that in the process of doing so some other positions, issues and approaches will become apparent. In arguing, as I do at the start, that it is the geo-politics of an interpreter that counts for apprehending this writing, both fiction and non-fiction, in a specific way, is to assert that both geography and politics are key factors in our readings of contemporary literature. In other words, it is not the same kind of text that will be recreated by one's reading of to use this as yet phantom category “Croatian American post-socialist writing” from an American Studies position and from its contrapuntal Croatian Studies position. Just to mention one example, it is very likely that the first perspective, conducted from the first geo-political positioning (within the disciplinary procedure of American Studies, while it is for the moment secondary if that examination is carried out from Croatia or from the United States) will systematically and inevitably try to reclaim texts like those produced by Blazevic-Krietzman and Novakovich (authors that also come to mind include Janko Deur and Mary Helen Stefaniak, for instance) in an expansive and appropriative gesture as part of US literary corpus. That appropriating gesture will be such no less so for masking itself as transnational, postnational, diasporic, ethnic and other related concepts nowadays in circulation, since it is predetermined by the geo-politics of reading. Croatian Studies perspective, on the other hand, will assume a defensive, while no less entrenched, geo-political positioning that can be read as similar in kind but vastly different in degree to the US perspective. (I must clarify here that Croatian studies perspective appropriates these authors by applying irreproachable criteria—the authors are claimed by way of their language of writing (somewhat tenuous when it comes to Novakovich), by their national origin that apparently overwrites their current civic status (recurrent migration in the case of Blazevic Krieztman, emigration/ exile in the case of Novakovich), the themes or thematic core of their work (Croatian and US-Croatian themes), and translations that even in the case of English as the writer’s main vehicle of expression nevertheless make the writer part of the Croatian (“homeland”) scene (as is the case of Novakovich). So much for now for the geo-politics of the initial critical position that is likely to change sides and maneuver in the course of its inquiries. Next, just a few words about the geo-politics in/ of the texts mentioned here as an extension of more inherently literary and textual (poetic) dispositions. For convenience’s sake, I will assume that the writers in question are agents that artfully project, impose and ascribe their “real” concerns onto various paper entities in their works (this role could be taken up by any given element of the text). To remain with our geo-political vantage, it is not surprising that Caren Irr, for one, considers the revival of the geopolitical novel as one of the mainstays in 21st-century US fiction. Similarly, the fiction and non-fiction of Croatian American diasporic authors has always had to reckon with politics, since non-democratic politics in a communist country invaded the civic space, hampered its independent growth, and forced the individual into internal exile. The physical act of emigration and going into exile becomes for the authors, as they repeatedly testify in their non-fiction, and for their fictional characters an existential response, a political gesture, and a creative move. Moreover, the Croatian American diasporic authors are inheritors of a complex, entangled set of images projected from the “West” (here, the United States) about the region to which they belong, variously designated as the East, South-Eastern Europe, Central Europe, and the Balkans. The authors mentioned here try to talk back to these Western inventions while necessarily incorporating some of their layered implications. Thus is the imagology of these authors supplementary to the official Cold War US history. Also, their intense and strategic, if reluctant and convoluted, attention to master plots of 20th-century global politics and its 21st century spin-offs, should be seen as a necessary and even pedagogic corrective to US self-image often complacently one-sided. Blazevic-Krietzman’s and Novakovich’s fictional and non-fictional writing (travelogue, essay, life-writing) thus painstakingly chronicles the interstices of major, overwhelming global events and processes (twentieth-century wars, the Cold War world order, the post-socialist condition, terrorism) casting them as intent, engaged, ironic and philosophical observers.

Izvorni jezik

Znanstvena područja


Projekt / tema
HRZZ-IP-2013-11-1543 - Kulturna povijest kapitalizma: Britanija, Amerika, Hrvatska (Tatjana Gregurić, )

Filozofski fakultet, Zagreb

Autor s matičnim brojem:
Jelena Šesnić, (236460)