Talk: Shards of Places, Shards of Time: Katja Petrowskaja’s Modernist Poetics of History

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Lilla Balint

November 16, 2021 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm


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A family story, a memoir, a travelogue, an intimate history of Jewish migration and persecution in the twentieth century—fitting into neither of these categories neatly, and yet resonating with all of them, Katja Petrowskaja’s Maybe Esther (2019; Vielleicht Esther, 2014) relates the narrator’s journey from Berlin to piece together her family’s history across Poland, the Ukraine, and Russia. This presentation considers fragmentation as the text’s key aesthetic quiddity to ask how Petrowskaja’s modernist mode engenders a poetics of transnational history—after 1989. While in memory studies the fragment is often taken to signify loss and trauma, the talk revisits this form to argue that Maybe Esther recuperates the fragmentary, the additive, the incomplete as differently valorized poetic possibilities in the face of twentieth-century atrocities. Reading Petrowskaja’s text as modernist is to also inquire into the configurations of time and temporality that fragmentation affords in our contemporary moment.

Lilla Balint is Assistant Professor of German at the University of California, Berkeley. She specializes in twentieth- and twenty-first-century German literature, culture, and intellectual history in its transnational European contexts. She is currently at work on a monograph—tentatively entitled After 1989—that examines the aesthetics and modalities of historical representation after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Before joining UC Berkeley’s Department of German, she held positions at Vanderbilt University and Hamilton College. Her work appeared in Gegenwartsliteratur, The German Quarterly, Telos, Studies in 20th & 21st Century Literature, and Die Wiederholung.

Cosponsored by the University of California Office of the President Multi-campus Research Programs and Initiative Funding, the UC Humanities Research Institute, the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, and the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies

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November 16, 2021
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
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