Portrait of a man

Shame and Nostalgia: legacies of Stalinism and the Gulag

Welcome to this guest lecture with Ernst van Alphen, Professor of Literary Studies at Leiden University.

In discussions of second- and third-generation Holocaust literature and testimony, it is an accepted idea that the trauma of Holocaust survivors is often transmitted from the first to the second and later generations. In discussions about the legacies of Stalinist terror and the Gulag, the idea of transmission of trauma is absent or is explicitly negated (Etkind, Warped Mourning). Although in the case of Stalinism and the Gulag the trauma it caused manifests itself differently than in case of the Holocaust, this does not mean that the Gulag has not been traumatizing. In my presentation I will analyse, first, the differences between the Holocaust and the Gulag; second, how these differences translate into different symptoms of trauma; third, how these differences result in a different dynamic between a first generation of survivors and the generations after them. Two cases will be central Andrei Zvjagintsev’s film The Return (2003), and Svetlana Alexievich’s Secondhand Time (2016).

The lecture is free of charge and open for everyone.

About Ernst van Alphen

Ernst van Alphen has been a Professor of Literary Studies at Leiden University since 2000. In his research as well as in his teaching, he is particularly interested in issues that are central in modern and post-modern literature and in the relation between literature and the visual arts. The literary texts and art works on which he focuses are usually part of the movements of the historical avant-gardes, modernism, or postmodernism. He has for a number of years had a particular interest in literature and art representing the Holocaust, and he has published several books on this topic. He is still interested in problems related to trauma and memory and their role in literary and artistic representation, but no longer only in the context of the Holocaust. A perspective that is usually part of my research is that of gender studies, especially in relation to masculinity.

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