Movement, Migration and Refugees NUBS 3.15
Jul 04, 2023 15:45 - 17:15(Europe/London)
20230704T1545 20230704T1715 Europe/London 2.14. Mnemonic Migration in Literature

This panel explores how memories travel through the aesthetic medium of literature and are translated into new communities of remembering. According to Ann Rigney and Astrid Erll (2009), fictional literature is a significant medium of cultural memory that has the ability of "sparking public debates on historical topics that had hitherto been marginalized or forgotten." According to Erll (2011), migrants can be seen as carriers of memory, understood as "individuals who share in collective images and narratives of the past." By expressing their mnemonic displacement – that is, their disorientation in the mnemonic framework of their host country together with their contrasting memories – migrant literature contributes to setting the agenda for future collective remembrance. This panel shall explore how this activity, which we would like to think of as mnemonic migration, contributes to transnational travel of local memories to global audiences.Crucially, the successful travel of memories depends on reception by members of a mnemonic community. Therefore, this panel is also concerned with the reception and recirculation of transcultural memories, asking if novels, due to the "transformative power of the arts and their capacity to mobilize individuals through imagination and affect" (Rigney 2014), may forge what Alison Landsberg (2004) has called prosthetic memory: that is, a deep-felt and empathetic connection to events one has not lived through.

Jessica Ortner

The Puzzled Reader: Gaps of indeterminacy in Bosnian war memory

This paper explores the capability of literature to transmit memories of the Bosnian war across cultural, mental and mnemonic borders. It asks which narrative techniques migrant authors from the former Yugoslavia use in o ...

NUBS 3.15 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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This panel explores how memories travel through the aesthetic medium of literature and are translated into new communities of remembering. According to Ann Rigney and Astrid Erll (2009), fictional literature is a significant medium of cultural memory that has the ability of "sparking public debates on historical topics that had hitherto been marginalized or forgotten." According to Erll (2011), migrants can be seen as carriers of memory, understood as "individuals who share in collective images and narratives of the past." By expressing their mnemonic displacement – that is, their disorientation in the mnemonic framework of their host country together with their contrasting memories – migrant literature contributes to setting the agenda for future collective remembrance. This panel shall explore how this activity, which we would like to think of as mnemonic migration, contributes to transnational travel of local memories to global audiences.
Crucially, the successful travel of memories depends on reception by members of a mnemonic community. Therefore, this panel is also concerned with the reception and recirculation of transcultural memories, asking if novels, due to the "transformative power of the arts and their capacity to mobilize individuals through imagination and affect" (Rigney 2014), may forge what Alison Landsberg (2004) has called prosthetic memory: that is, a deep-felt and empathetic connection to events one has not lived through.



Jessica Ortner

The Puzzled Reader: Gaps of indeterminacy in Bosnian war memory

This paper explores the capability of literature to transmit memories of the Bosnian war across cultural, mental and mnemonic borders. It asks which narrative techniques migrant authors from the former Yugoslavia use in order to allow western readers to get emotionally immersed in memories of this seemingly distant event. How do authors make other people's events "memorable" (Rigney 2021) for those readers and thus "translate" (Laanes 2021) memory of this war into western historical and social contexts? What may promote and what may hinder the transmission of these memories? According to classical narratology (e.g. Booth 1961; Prince 1973), authors address specific implicit, imagined or even ideal readers that are constructed within fictional writings. Presumed readers can be represented by figures that appear in the narrative plot and function as stakeholders for the empirical reader or be visible in allusions and implied hints. According to Iser (1976) the implied reader embodies "all those predispositions necessary for a literary work to exercise its effect-predispositions laid down, not by an empirical outside reality, but by the text itself." This paper will investigate the implied reader of four texts on the Bosnian war: Saša Stanisić' novel How the Soldier repairs the gramophone (2008). Aleksander Hemon's short story A Coin, Alen Mešković' Novel Ukulele Jam, and Nicol Ljubić' novel Stillness of the Sea. I will argue that these authors construct fundamentally different implied readers. For example, Ljubić explicitly provides his readers with predispositions to understand the historical background of the war and invents a figure that, just like the presumed German reader, is in awe about the realities of the war, whereas Stanisić's ideal reader is a puzzled one who cannot easily relate to the work he or she is reading, but is faced with numerous "gaps of indeterminacy" (Iser, 1971) and historical uncertainty that are difficult to counteract.


Tea Sindbæk Andersen

"It's a story from here": Reading Bosnian war literature within different frameworks of memory

The 1992–1995 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) cost more than 100 000 lives, forced more than a million people to leave their homes, and caused several hundreds of thousands of Bosnians to seek refuge elsewhere in Europe or North America. Since then, émigré authors like Saša Stanišić and Aleksandar Hemon with roots in BiH have published literary representations of the Bosnian war, contributing their insightful views from a partially outside perspective, aimed at readerships in their new homelands. Yet, some of these books have later been 'translated back' into Bosnian and thus made accessible for Bosnian readers as well.

Drawing on the idea that literature is a powerful medium for transmitting memory across borders and cultures, potentially creating common "prosthetic" memories (Landsberg, 2004; Rigney, 2014), we may presume that these works of fiction could contribute to sharing Bosnian war memories across national borders in Europe as well as within BiH itself. This paper investigates how readers in Northern Europe and in BiH reacted to Stanišić' and Hemon's fictional memory narratives of the Bosnian war. Based on focus group discussions in Northern Europe (Manchester, Berlin and Copenhagen) and BiH (Sarajevo and Banja Luka), the paper discusses to which extent readers appeared to engage with and take on these memory narratives as prosthetic memory, and how readers' reactions relate to the readers' social frameworks of memory (Halbwachs 1992; Erll 2011) in the form of premediations, presuppositions and available points of reference. I argue that reader reactions clearly show that literary memory narratives are able to create shared memories and to open discussions within highly political charged memory frameworks such as the ones in Bosnia. Yet, the interviews also demonstrate that existing memory frameworks are crucially shape the ways in which respondents read and engage with the memory narratives.


Julie Hansen

Multigenerational Memory in Soviet-American Memoirs

This paper examines mnemonic migration as depicted in three memoirs by writers who have emigrated from the Soviet Union to the United States. The selected works are A Mountain of Crumbs (2010) and Russian Tattoo (2015) by Elena Gorokhova, and Like a Drop of Ink in a Downpour: Memories of Soviet Russia (2022) by Yelena Lembersky and Galina Lembersky. These works tell about growing up in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, and the subsequent encounter with American society after emigration. They thus depict memories of two countries and cultures. They also bear similarities to the genre of language memoirs, defined by Mary Besemeres as memoirs that depict "moving between languages as a matter of learning to live with different concepts-with culturally specific, sometimes conflicting understandings of how to live" (Besemeres 2022, 3). The mother-daughter relationship is at the center of all three of these memoirs, adding a multigenerational perspective on the memories conveyed in them. As the memoirs were written in English for an Anglophone audience, it is particularly interesting to consider how they depict life in the United States from the perspective of newcomers. The analysis will examine what these texts convey to American readers about not only life in the United States, as well as in the Soviet Union.


Eneken Laanes

Translating Memories of Soviet Regime in Svetlana Alexievich: Oral History, Aesthetics and Politics

This paper explores the transnational travel of memories of Soviet regime and its legacies through the literary work of Svetlana Alexievich. It focuses on Alexievich's book Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets (2013) and explores transnational debate about Alexievich's practice of freely editing and rearranging the oral history interviews by literary montage in her "novels in vocies". While Alexievich's translators Ackerman and Lemarchand (2009) have discussed the creative use of oral interviews from the ethical perspective of working with testimonial material, Myers (2017) and Pinkham (2016) have dealt with the revisions from the perspective of the intended aesthetic and political effects Alexievich is aimed to achieve.

This paper proposes to inquire Alexievich's practices of editing and rearrangement as a process of translation. The paper explores three different aspect of this translational process. Firstly, as Alexievich often repurposes the interviews collected and published in Soveit period, the revisions reflect the changing social and political environments of remembering. Secondly, Alexievich work needs to be seen in the context of "warped" memory of Soviet regime in post-Soviet Russia. Thirdly, the paper is interested to what extent Alexievich's creative handling of her material has to do with growing international interest in her work and with the challenge to "translate" the legacies of Soviet regime to global audiences. 

Associate Professor
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University of Copenhagen
associate professor
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University of Copenhagen
Associate Professor
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Uppsala University
Professor
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Tallinn University
Associate Professor
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University of Copenhagen
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