On Balkanism and Orientalism: Undifferentiated patterns of perception in literary and critical representations of Eastern Europe
Authors: Dix, H.
Journal: Textual Practice
This paper explores the extent to which Eastern Europe has been historically subject to a process of othering in the Western literary imagination; and how far the Western practice of Balkanism can be considered congruous with the wider practice of Orientalism throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and into the twenty-first. Drawing on theoretical work by Vesna Goldsworthy and Maria Todorova, it shows that in both fiction and literary scholarship Western writers have been unable fully to conceptualise Eastern Europe, with the result that their fictional portrayals are evasive and indistinct and their literary analysis unable to define a clear object. Malcolm Bradbury's novel Rates of Exchange (1983), Kazuo Ishiguro's The Unconsoled (1995) and Jim Crace's Six (2003) are explored alongside Edward Said's Beginnings and Fredric Jameson's Political Unconscious to show that this under-conceptualisation has continued to dominate literary representations of Eastern Europe during the late- and post-Cold War periods, thereby subjecting Said and Jameson to a rigorous critique of their own methods with regard to the Western practice of Balkanism of which they are uncritical.