Form and Instability: Eastern Europe, Literature, and Post-Imperial Difference busies itself with the work of accounting for this discrepancy between ostensible historical change and the persistence of anachronistic ways of thinking, a discrepancy that remains unaddressed and eludes attention; and it goes on to propose that literature—not simply as an archive of representations or a source of cultural capital but as a critical perspective in its own right—offers a way to apprehend and to redress this problem.Historical situations such as the post-1989 transitions to capitalism and liberal democracy, as well as the “Eastern” enlargement of the E.U., not only entail empirical change; they also call for and provoke intense renegotiations of cultural values and analytical concepts. Through rhetoric, reading, and translation—terms central to this book—literature will be seen to expedite and redirect such re-arrangements. It will be shown to destabilize discursively fixed categories without imposing, in turn, its own fixity.
Located at the intersection of comparative literature, area studies, and literary theory, this interdisciplinary study has a twofold commitment: to Eastern Europe on the one hand and to literature on the other. It aims to intervene in the way we conceive of Eastern Europe by seeking to develop a more equitable way of thinking, one that avoids subordinating it to Eurocentric narratives of progress. At the same time, it marshals literature as both object and method of this rethinking, in order to extend existing conceptions of the usefulness and of the proper organization of literary studies. The three terms in the title of this book mark a passage—via literature—from “Eastern Europe” as an inadequate and obsolescent category to “post-imperial difference” as a more accurate, if provisional, account of the region. By way of original readings of particular texts, and by attending to literature as a critical