Gender as a Mediation between World Literature and National Literature

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Fatima Festic


I would introduce a specific interactive gender angle into the discussion between world literature and national literature (argued within the wider framework of the theory of post – diasporic dispersion [of cultural creativity], which I am developing). My focus is individual movement and societal amalgamation, consequently  – a hybrid multi – scaling of the pertaining literary production and responsiveness to it. 

As gender performs language and language performs gender, both as an own and each other’s medium, they also create/demarcate a resisting literary territory that in a fluctuating way can read as individual as much as national as much as world(ly) one, weaving its autonomy into layers and scales of identification and be – longing. 

This presentation probes such mediation of gender – lingual performance, exemplified comparatively in two major 20th century European (polyglot) women writers, the poetess Anna Akhmatova (Russian – Ukrainian[Tatarian]) and the prosaist/poetess Ingeborg Bachmann (Austrian[Carinthian]). Their utterly preferred writing languages, Russian and German, within two (re)‘imperializing’ post – World – War – I/II structures  – the socialist Bolshevik and the national(ist) Austrian, rewrite each of these structures from within. Furthermore, they do so from the opposite positions of an enforced immobility of Akhmatova and high mobility of Bachmann, one ‘staying in the native land’ (poems 1922 – 4) to witness to violent socio – political processes, the other leaving the native land, keeping her German language as her ‘house moving through all languages’ (1961 poem Exile). 

Related also to this ‘im – mobility condition’, I examine the dynamics of gender in each’s work  – Akhmatova employing the crashing power of femininity, Bachmann subverting gender roles (suspicious of the feminist politics efficacy) to expose the roots of the millennia – long victimization of women. It is the way gender evolves and mutates in each’s work that navigates national and worldly aspects of their production as well as their individual cogency in performing what could read as national and/or world literature.

Published: Nov 14, 2022

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World Literature and National Literature