Literature and Totalitarianism

International Conference
November 15‒16, 2023

Conference programme

Wednesday Thursday Download in pdf


15th November

  • 8:15–9:00


    Main Conference venue, room A21, Faculty of Arts (Arna Nováka 1)

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  • 9:00–9:15

    Opening Ceremony, Welcome Address

I. Theorizing Totalitarianism in Literature

Chair: Alexandra Ioannidou & Kostas Tsivos

  • 9:30–10:15

    Benedikts Kalnacs (University of Latvia) – keynote speaker

    The Brave New (Soviet) World and Its Alternatives: Totalitarianism and the Struggle for Cultural Diversity in 20th-century Latvian Literature

    Abstract and Bio

    In this paper, I will use biographical approach to trace some important literary trends in Soviet Latvia and in exile. Secondly, I will focus on the political history of the Soviet state, starting from the early decades of the 1920s and 1930s, when many ideological principles, later imposed in the newly occupied territories, and at least partially also in the Warsaw pact area, were already approved. Thirdly, one of the main aspects of my talk will be devoted to the attempts of recovery of the European cultural heritage under Soviet totalitarian regime. In particular, I will comment on the role played by ancient, especially Greek, culture. The four nodal points of my talk will be the formation of Soviet ideology up to the 1940s; the early 1950s, shortly before and around Stalin’s death; the late 1960s; and, in the context of exile culture, the 1980s.

    Benedikts Kalnačs is Senior Researcher at the Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art, University of Latvia, Riga, and Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Liepāja (Latvia). He received his Dr. philol. degree from the University of Latvia, Riga in 1993, and accomplished his habilitation in 1999. He is member of the publications committee for the Comparative History of Literature in European Languages (CHLEL) (2022–2024) and former Executive Committee Member of the European Society of Comparative Literature (2017-2019). His principal research areas are 19th and 20th century Latvian literature, comparative literature, Latvian and European drama, and postcolonial studies. Publications include: The Politics of Literary History: Literary Historiography in Russia, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Finland after 1990 (ed., with Liisa Steinby, Mikhail Oshukov and Viola Parente-Čapková, forthcoming, Palgrave); A New History of Latvian Literature: The Long Nineteenth Century (ed., with Pauls Daija, 2022, Peter Lang); Rūdolfs Blaumanis (1863–1908). Lettische Moderne und deutschsprachige Literatur (Hrsg. von Rolf Fűllmann, Antje Johanning-Radžienė, Benedikts Kalnačs und Heinrich Kaulen, 2019, Aisthesis); Rūdolfs Blaumanis. Frost im Frűhling. Die deutschsprachigen Erzählungen (Hrsg. von Benedikts Kalnačs und Rolf Fűllmann, 2017, Aisthesis); 20th Century Baltic Drama: Postcolonial Narratives, Decolonial Options (2016, Aisthesis).

  • 10:30–10:50

    Iordanis Koumasidis & Pateraki Maria (National & Kapodistrian University of Athens)

    Literature and Totalitarianism: Some Epistemological Aspects of a Relationship

    Abstract and Bio

    Through the proposed presentation we attempt to explore the relation between totalitarianism and literature from an epistemological point of view. More precisely, we will present and analyze through the combination of two concepts: the one emerging from the Art of Aesthetics (and more particularly from the theory of literature) and the other from political theory/philosophy. The first –obvious— concept, considers totalitarianism and literature as absolutely opposed to each other, the second considers totalitarianism as a governing power, controlling everything, whereas literature is considered a per se expression of absolute freedom. Our goal is to indicate the connection paths between the two concepts, i.e. the question whether every totalitarian regime has and/or intends to build its own literature or whether it oppresses all kinds of literature. In this framework we will discuss paradigms from the international and Greek literature. We will focus on the latest literary production, especially on dystopian novels, since we aim to trace a possible evolution from novels heralding totalitarianism to those polemicizing with it. Our key reference would be the works of Hannah Arendt and George Orwell. Additionally we will discuss the proceedings of other congresses with similar focus, especially the congress in Georgia in 2009.

    Iordanis Koumasidis is academic teacher at EKPA (Kapodistrian University of Athens). He is a p.h.d. holder from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. P.h.d. researcher at University Paris8 (2009-2011). Reviewer of post graduated theses at University of Liverpool, School of Arts (2018). Invited Lecturer at University of New York for 2024. He teaches courses about philosophy and literature theory from 2014 until now at four Greek universities. He has published five books of his own and four translations from English and French to Greek.

  • 10:50–11:10

    Dimitris Kargiotis (University of Strasbourg)

    Writing, Constraint, Configurations of Response

    Abstract and Bio

    The relationship between writing and constraint is a fundamental relationship in the history of literature. It is constitutive of artistic expression, and it creates, reinterprets and renews genres, forms, tropes or practices. In the modern times it even negotiates the very opposite of expression, which is silence. My paper aims to contribute to a cartography of possible configurations of response to the condition of writing under constraint, with a particular focus on the context of totalitarianism.

    Dimitris Kargiotis teaches Modern Greek Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Strasbourg. He is the author of Geographies of Translation: Spaces, Canons, Ideologies, Athens, K Publishing, 2017 [in Greek]; Critical Essays on Modern Greek Literature, Patras, Opportuna, 2018 [in Greek]; Occasional Poetry: An Essay on the Emergence of a Category, Athens, Gutenberg, 2021 [in Greek] (French Translation Poésie de circonstance : essai sur l’émergence d’une catégorie, Paris, Hermann (collection Savoir-Lettres, in print); Des voisins lointains : études sur la constitution des espaces littéraires, critiques et géographiques, de la Grèce aux Balkans (forthcoming). He has created the Database of the French Translations of Modern Greek Literature, Thessaloniki, Center for the Greek Language, 2012 [in Greek], guest edited the special issue Narrative and Authenticity, NALANS (Narrative and Language Studies), Trabzon (Turkey), 2018, [in English], and co-edited History of European Literature, vol. 2: From the Beginning of the 18th Century to the 20th Century, Patras, The Hellenic Open University, 2008 [in Greek].

  • 11:10–11:30

  • 11:10–11:35

    Coffee break
  • 12:00–12:20

    Alexandra Ioannidou (University of Macedonia)

    Censorship by the Censored

    Abstract and Bio

    Studying the phenomenon of censorship in literature, one notices a paradoxon: the censored often appear as censors in their own circles. In other words, they band together in a state of polemics that forces them to impose specific countermeasures to censorship from above, censoring themselves topics, attitudes, ideology, and style of writing among their comrades. For example: How legitimate or even acceptable is love literature in the leftist resistance circles of a dictatorship? How censored are non-political works by censors and how do they censor them? The proposed paper aims to highlighting the phenomenon through the example of the Greek communists in times of censorship, and to prove that the censorship of an authoritarian regime involves censorship tactics in the circles of the censored, meaning a generalized disaster in literature production.

    Alexandra Ioannidou, born 1966, studied Slavistics in Heidelberg (Russian and Polish Literature, Bulgarian Linguistics, PhD 1992). Dissertation about Russian Symbolism published in 1996 by Peter-Lang Verlag. Publications mainly in German, English and Greek on Russian literature, Slavic dialects in the Balkans, comparative literature. Translated from German, Russian and Polish into Greek several theoretical and literary books. Currently she is professor at the “University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki”. 2009 she was awarded the National Award for her book “The Granin Case” (Kastaniotis Editions, 2008). 2013-2014 guest professor at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena.

  • 12:20–12:40

    Danuša Čižmíková (Masaryk University)

    Re-membering: Testimony of the/a Body in the Works of Arab Women Writers

    Abstract and Bio

    This paper seeks to explore the representations of the body (or its parts) and the various meanings it acquires in literary texts that speak to/of Power. The paper discusses the works of Basma ‘Abd al-‘Azīz (Abdel Aziz) and ‘Adaniyya Shiblī (Adania Shibli) in order to elucidate the role that the narratives of the body and embodied experiences assume in challenging oppressive systems. The body can be understood as a means or a symbol; it can be perceived and narrated as a site of control, a site of protest, or a site of liberation; however, regardless of the function it assumes throughout the narrative, its experiences and actions always carry the consequences for the embodied self/selves as such. The paper looks at the intersections between memory and body in order to illuminate the techniques through which the traumatic experiences can be narrated and (thus) transformed.

    In her research, Danuša Čižmíková focuses on the works of Lebanese and Palestinian women writers and Arab women writers´ response to the conflicts in the region. Her other interests are cross-cultural psychology, environmental topics in Arabic literature and literary translation.

  • 12:40–13:00

  • 13:00–15:00

    Lunch Break

    Where to eat

II. Narrating Totalitarianism; Focus on the Greek World

Chair: Dimitris Kargiotis

  • 15:00–15:45

    Giorgios Andreiomenos (University of the Peloponnese) – keynote speaker

    Greek Intellectual Life and Literary Production in the context of Ioannis Metaxas's Regime (1936-1941)

    Abstract and Bio

    The close monitoring of every artistic and intellectual movement by Metaxas’s has repeatedly been discussed. This monitoring was not achieved only in a direct way, i.e. through the imprisonment of intellectuals, book burnings or state censorship, but also by the implementation of various indirect tactics. All these tactics targeted to the limitation of negative reactions by the then Greek intelligentsia – or, at least, to stifle direct protest against the régime. Simultaneously, many bourgeois writers and artists seem either to had grown weary due to the very long political instability and social division, and to had become skeptical about the further strengthening of the leftwing, or they were undoubtedly plunged into a greater confusion, viewing the development of a sharp patriotic (if not nationalistic) rhetoric which was identified with the rise of totalitarian and authoritarian régimes throughout the world. In any case, any pertinent evidence needs to be carefully studied, on the one hand to explore the literary and intellectual interests of Metaxas himself, and on the other hand to clarify his personal views and the relationships of the 4th of August régime with intellectuals and artists, as well as of these latter with the dictator and the program of his administration. Furthermore, all this needs to be placed within the context of the actions of Metaxas’s régime, the way it was ruthlessly harsh on followers of the left, especially the communists, thousands of whom were sent to prison or into exile. At the same time, the seeming support of those who took up public positions needs careful analysis: each individual writer and artist had mixed motives and often considerable ambivalence, and each case needs exploration in its own terms.

    George Andreiomenos [BA (Athens), PhD (Birmingham)] is currently Professor for Modern Greek Studies at the Dpt. of Philology, University of the Peloponnese, Greece, and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Cultural Studies of the same Institution. He has previously served as member of the teaching staff at the University of Patras and the Ionian University, Greece, and has repeatedly been elected in a number of academic posts (such as Vice Rector for Administration and Personnel and Head of the Dpt. of Philology at the University of the Peloponnese). He has published numerous books and papers and has participated in many conferences held in various countries.

  • 16:00–16:20

    Kostas Tsivos (Charles University)

    The Greek November of 1973 through the Refugee Press

    Abstract and Bio

    In 1973 the political emigrants of Greece completed a quarter of a century of forced exile in the host socialist countries. A new generation of political refugees, with no memories or only vague recollections of Greece, grew up and socialized in the environment of a hybrid People's Democratic Republic of Greece, which was entering its final stage of existence. The Communist Party of Greece - KKE had already gone through two splits, the politicized mass of emigrants remained divided between the pro-Soviet KKE and the so-called KKE of the Interior, while strong differentiations from Moscow had also intervened in the socialist countries that hosted refugees from Greece. While the early stages of the settlement of political emigrants in the host countries have been researched to a satisfactory degree, there is a gap in terms of the changes that occurred in the last stage of their stay in socialist exil, shortly before the beginning of their spontaneous repatriation. This paper aims to trace through the pages of the refugee press of two countries, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and related archival material the perception of the shocking developments that took place in Greece in November 1973. This by analysing official party discourse in relation to the situation in which the KKE and the communities of emigrants had found themselves after their repeated splits.

    Konstantinos Tsivos is Associate Professor at the Institute of Greek and Latin Studies and the head for Modern Greek Studies of the Faculty for Arts, Charles University in Prague. He teaches also with the Institute of Classics Studies in Masaryk University, Brno. His research focuses on Greek Civil War, especially the Greek Emigration, the history of Greek Communism, the Greek Crisis and the Greek-Czech relations. He teaches courses related to the new and modern Greek History, to Greek Realities, to the Byzantine History and courses of modern Greek language. He is author or co-author of books and articles in scientific magazines in Greek, Czech and English related with the modern Greek History, Greek Crisis and Czech-Greek relations. He also had translated to Greek language very known Czech authors from field of literature and the history.

  • 16:20–16:40

    Petros Marazopoulos (Masaryk University)

    Totalitarianism in times of Austerity; Dystopian Representations of Power in Contemporary Greek Fiction

    Abstract and Bio

    In my paper, I aspire to discuss the literary responses to the phenomenon of the economic crisis that erupted in 2008. In that sense, I explore literary representations of “Economy”, “Power”, “Europe” and “Work” in times of austerity, discussing them in the wider context of dystopian fiction and the theory of totalitarianism.

    Petros Marazopoulos is Assistant Professor of Modern Greek Studies in Masaryk University. He is the author of the monograph “Balkans in Modern Greek Culture; Negotiating a term”, Thessaloniki, Epikentro, 2023 (in Greek). His main research interests are related to modern Greek and European Literature, Balkans and Eastern Europe and Comparative Literature.

  • 16:40–17:00

    Niovi Zampouka (Humboldt University)

    From 'Realist' Translation to Translation Fiction: Two Case-Studies of Modern Greek literature in the Soviet Union

    Abstract and Bio

    The productive reception of Marxist ideas and appropriation of the socialist realist canon by part of the left-wing Greek literary production of the 20th century led through translation to its Soviet reception. While providing a historical overview of modern Greek literature translations in the USSR, the paper focuses on two exemplary cases of translated Greek authors in order to demonstrate main tendencies of canonization of literature within the Soviet literary field and their development over time: on Melpo Axioti, whose novel „Twentieth century“ was translated at the peak of the so called „theory of realist translation“ and on Mitsos Alexandropoulos, whose fictionalization of Maximus the Greek reflects a broader trend of fictional negotiations of Soviet translation practises in the late Soviet period.

    Niovi Zampouka is postdoctoral research associate at the Department of Slavic and Hungarian Studies of the Humboldt University of Berlin and author of the monograph Narrating and translating Socialist Realism. From the Soviet Union to Greece and back (De Gruyter, 2023).

  • 17:00–17:30


Evening Programme

  • 19:00


    Fabrik Urban House, Rooseveltova 9, 602 00, Brno-Střed

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16th November

III. Narrating the State and Power

Chair: Petros Marazopoulos & Niovi Zampouka

  • 9:30–9:50

    Vassiliki Theologou (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki)

    The Political Element in Thrassos Kastanakis' Work

    Abstract and Bio

    The multifaceted personality of Thrassos Kastanakis, his diverse work, his involvement with almost all literary genres, as well as his dynamic presence in the Greek and French intellectual scene make the Constantinople writer a particularly attractive figure in the field of Modern Greek Literature. If, next to these, one adds his political ideology, which can be detected in a large part of his work, and his militant attitude towards the crucial historical issues of his time, it becomes clear that Thrassos Kastanakis’ writing is distinguished among others and for its political dimension. The period that is clearly influenced by the surrounding atmosphere and expresses more his fighting spirit and his leftist ideology is the period of the Second World War. Therefore, the aim of the proposed announcement is to investigate the political element in the author’s literary work, as well as in his articles in various magazines, which despite the gloomy climate of that time and the forced change that occurred in the life of Kastanakis and his wife, was rich. More specifically, the focus will be on his short stories and novels that are inspired by the tragic events of the Second World War and reflect how crucial were those moments, as well as on his writings that were published in the press of the time and have as basic theme the war and the resistance of the Greek people.

    Vassiliki Theologou holds a PhD in Modern Greek Philology (2022). She got her MA degree in Modern Greek Literature in the Department of Medieval and Modern Greek Studies at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki upon completion of four semesters of study (2013), as well as her BA degree in Philology, with a specialization in Medieval and Modern Greek Studies (2009). She has participated in Conferences in Greece, Great Britain, Russia and Sweden. From 2018 until 2021 she has been a fellow of the State Scholarships Foundation (ΙΚΥ). From 09/10/2013 until 31/08/2015 she was a researcher in the Centre for the Greek Language in Thessaloniki. Her research interests involve 19th and 20th century modern Greek literature, the gender studies and Thrassos Kastanakis’ work.

  • 9:50–10:10

    Theopi Polizoidou (Democritus University of Thrace)

    State Violence during the Colonels' Regime; Literary Representations in Eighteen Texts, New Texts 1 and New Texts 2

    Abstract and Bio

    A direct consequence of the coup of the 21st April 1967 in Greece were mass arrests. Political persecution, torture and exile were regular practices which the Colonels resorted to in order to protect the nation, as they claimed. At the same time, they imposed strict censorship, which affected the Press, the publishing activity and any kind of artistic expression. The imposed censorship and the various forms it took led the writers of the time to an idiosyncratic attitude which involved performing a passive act of resistance known as "silence". At the end of July 1970 – after preventive censorship was lifted – the literary "silence" broke with the publication of the volume Eighteen Texts, which was followed by New Texts 1 and New Texts 2. In this paper I will study the textual body of the three volumes as an act of collective resistance against state authoritarianism. My primary aim will be to identify dystopian narratives which reflect the oppressive system of the Colonels focusing on the techniques through which the writers tried to capture the violence of the regime through the literary act. Secondly, I will detect the role of literature against political suppression and especially how literary texts can be put at at the service of resistance.

    Theopi Polyzoidou is a PhD candidate in Greek Philology at the Democritus University of Thrace. Her thesis is entitled Writers and Power. The Case of Eighteen Texts, New Texts 1 and New Texts 2. In 2019, she was admitted to the Master's Program "Texts and Culture" of the same Department, receiving an achievement scholarship during her studies. The subject of her MA thesis was the correspondence between Stratis Tsirkas and Manto Aravantinou between 1970 and 1973, kept in the author's archive, which belongs to the Hellenic Literary and Historical Archive (ELIA). Her research interests extend to questions of post-war poetry and prose and publishing practices of archival material.

  • 10:10–10:30

    Eleftheria Psaroudaki (University of Crete)

    The Silent Resistance in Pericles Korovessis’ The Method: A Personal Account of the Tortures in Greece

    Abstract and Bio

    The announcement will be based on the silent resistance and the triggered torture of the defenseless body in Pericles Korovessis’ "The Method: A Personal Account of the Tortures in Greece" ("Anthropofylakes" in Greek, 1969). Using Korovessis’ book as a vehicle, the first testimony that disclosed the atrocities against dissidents at the police headquarters in Bouboulinas Street at the time of the Colonels' military junta, light will be shed on the alienation of the body and the annihilation of the individual's identity, all those mechanisms mobilized by the junta during its interrogations. Through constant similes that aim to define the hitherto unknown pain, the tortured subject transfers to paper a piece of recent microhistory, verbalizing and integrating the personal traumatic experience into the polyphonic mosaic of the Greek junta. In the same context, the hideous methods of torture, applied to the vulnerable body aiming at its subjugation, will be highlighted. Finally, the mechanisms of the tortured in an attempt to maintain resistance and utter the “speech of silence”, which eventually divulges the deconstruction of the materiality of the body, will be mapped.

    Eleftheria Psaroudaki graduated from the Department of Philology at University of Crete and completed an MA in the field of Modern Greek literature. Her research interests focus on comparative literature and gender studies. Among others, she has participated in the 7th International Conference of Greek Studies in honor of I.I. Kovaleva, MSU Lomonosov (paper title: Aspects of the unreliable narrator in prose of the "Metapolitefsi") and the Conference in honor of Vassilis Vasilikos, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (paper title: Six afternoons of initiation: the fluidity of sexuality in "The Man with the Empty").

  • 10:30–11:00

  • 11:00–11:30

    Coffee Break
  • 11:30–11:50

    Sandali Maria (University of Athens)

    Literature and Ideology in Roman Times

    Abstract and Bio

    The Second Sophistic is defined as the period of letters "rebirth" and the "rewriting" of the Greek past. The emperors of the time, mainly the Flavians, contributed to this development by highlighting the art of rhetoric through the writing of works and the establishment of schools. The Romans were aware of Greek tradition and Greek models, which they promoted, wishing to promote their political ideology and propaganda. The rhetoricians of the time, the sophists, engaged with and imitated the earlier classical authors. The historical past was a topic of interest. The reworking of familiar historical and mythological themes was a preoccupation in the schools of rhetoric, the result of which were declamations, i.e. discourses of embellished presentation of the past. One of the rewriting subjects of the Greeks’ history was the Persian wars. Greco-Persian battles were extremely popular, as Spawforth and Swain note, ideologically serving both the Greeks and the Romans. The encouragement of this practice was accompanied by the provision of privileges and facilities, as literature was placed at the service and constituted a form of legitimization of the emperor’s and the imperial state’s role in protecting both halves of the civilized world.

    Sandali Aikaterini Maria is a Ph. D. Student of the University of Athens. She was graduated from the Faculty of Philology of University of Athens and she has also fulfilled her postgraduate studies in Faculty of History and Archaeology of the same university. Her interests are focused on the period of the Second Sophistic and its authors. Specifically, she examines the antiquity’s reception in the Roman times. Her Ph. D. research is about “The cult and the image of Achilles in Roman time” which is an effort to prove the literary image of Achilles under the Roman empire.

  • 11:50–12:10

    Grigore Ionela Iulia (University of Bucharest)

    Lepers from Spinalonga- Victims of the Totalitarian Regime

    Abstract and Bio

    The present paper aims to show how the establishment of the dictatorship in Greece during the years 1936 to 1944 affected the literature written up to that time about the lepers of Spinalonga, who lived in isolation on that island from 1904 to 1957. On the one hand, the books of Galatea Kazantzakis and Themos Kornaros (including Spinalonga and Community of the sick) were burned and the authors were sent into exile, not so much for the truth the books displayed, but because their authors were sympathizers of communism. Those novellas described the inhumane conditions in which the lepers lived on the island and provided a way for the authors to state their complains to the state authorities. On the other hand, if the dictatorship of the Metaxas brings with it the burning of books related to the lepers, the Italian-German invasion of Crete in 1941 will abrogate these people's previously obtained privileges (state pension, limited contact with the outside world) and many will die during that period due to hunger. Perhaps one of the most important aspects is the fact that the lepers managed to survive only by discussing their hardships with journalists like Petros Pikros, but once the dictatorship was established, these journalists were no longer allowed to publish anything about this subject. The works of these authors were only republished in 2010 due to the success of the novel The Island, by the British writer Victoria Hislop. In conclusion, my contribution to the research of this theme consists in comparing the literary sources which describe the changes that occurred in the lives of lepers at the political, social and economic level with the establishment of Metaxas's dictatorship and continuing with the Italian-German occupation. From this comparison, it appears that all the benefits they obtained during Eleftherios Venizelos' leadership were revoked once the dictatorship was established.

    Iulia Grigore studied Philology at the University of Bucharest, her Major being Neo-Greek and her Minor being English. Then, she obtained the master's degree in Latin-Romanic translations (Greek language). Currently, she is a PhD student at the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, at the University of Bucharest. She is interested in researching the way the leper colonies in Greece and Romania managed to survive from the 20th century until today. The research involves an in-depth analysis of the social, economic and political components of the colonies. Also, the research involves the social, anthropological, political, historical analysis of these colonies of people who lived in isolation for most of their lives.

  • 12:10–12:30

  • 12:40

    Closing Remarks

Afternoon Programme

  • 15:00–17:00

    Brno City Tour

Wednesday Thursday Download in pdf

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