A three-week seminar for sixteen school teachers focused on the place of Eastern Europe in modern European history.
This seminar considers the minimal role that Eastern Europe plays in many conventional narratives of Europe since the eighteenth century and explores how this region might be incorporated in a more informed and expansive view of European history. The program is hosted by the Center for European and Mediterranean Studies at New York University (NYU) and led by its director, Larry Wolff, author of Inventing Eastern Europe (1994). Participants engage with the problems that arise from sundering the histories of Eastern and Western Europe from one another—an intellectual mapping underscored by the "Iron Curtain" of the Cold War—and from subsuming varied lands and peoples under the rubric of "Eastern Europe," despite great divergences in their histories. The first half of the program focuses on Western Europe's views of the East. Readings include Voltaire's letters to Catherine the Great and Rousseau's "Considerations Concerning the Government of Poland," excerpts from Rebecca West's Yugoslav travel narrative and ethnography Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, a Tintin adventure set in the fictional Eastern European country of Syldavia (King Ottokar's Scepter), and Winston Churchill's Iron Curtain speech, as well as secondary scholarship by the project director, Maria Todorova, Tony Judt, and Timothy Garton Ash. The second half addresses the East looking West. This segment considers "historical moments when the interlocking aspects of history in Eastern and Western Europe point toward a broader way of considering the continental whole," starting with the Defenestration of Prague and the Thirty Years War, but devoting the most time to the twentieth century, with its two world wars, the formation of the Communist Bloc, and the revolutions of 1989. Readings for this section include poetry by Adam Mickiewicz and Czeslaw Milosz, texts by religious figures from Jan Hus to Pope John Paul II, and essays by Vaclav Havel, Milan Kundera, and Croatian writers Slavenka Drakulic and Dubrarka Ugresic. Guest speakers Stefanous Geroulanos (NYU), Michael Beckerman (NYU), and Emily Greble (City University of New York) lend their voices to the exploration. Visits to subject-related museums and cultural sites, such as Ukrainian, Polish, and Hungarian cultural institutions and neighborhoods, and "museums such as MOMA that house works by Eastern European artists," round out the program.