This lecture will discuss the idea of Eastern Europe, as first conceived in the eighteenth century, and how that idea has been recently transformed during the generation since the end of the Cold War. Because the Cold War gave the idea of Eastern Europe its most concrete geopolitical meaning during the communist period, the post-communist period has witnessed a complex transformation of general ideas about the region, most notably in relation to the fall of communism and the entrance of so many lands of Eastern Europe into NATO and the European Union. The lecture will make use of images and commentary, principally from the media and recent popular culture, in order to attempt to demonstrate the ways in which the idea and imagery of Eastern Europe has been transformed— and in some ways has remained constant— during the last three decades.
Larry Wolff (NYU Florence) works on the history of Eastern Europe, the Habsburg Monarchy, the Enlightenment, and on the history of childhood. He tends to work as an intellectual and cultural historian. He has been most interested in problems concerning East and West within Europe: whether concerning the Vatican and Poland, Venice and the Slavs, or Vienna and Galicia. In the book Inventing Eastern Europe (1994) he developed the argument that Eastern Europe was "invented" in the eighteenth century, by the philosophes and travellers of the Enlightenment, who attributed meaning to a supposed division of Europe into complementary regions, Western Europe and Eastern Europe. Professor Wolff has analysed Western perspectives on Eastern Europe as a sort of "demi-Orientalism," negotiating a balance between attributed difference and acknowledged resemblance. In books about Venetian perspectives on Dalmatia (Venice and the Slavs, 2001) and Habsburg perspectives on Galicia (The Idea of Galicia, 2010), he has attempted to explore the meaning of "Eastern Europe" within imperial frameworks and the ideology of empire. His research on the history of childhood has included books on child abuse in Freud's Vienna (Postcards from the End of the World, 1988) and child abuse in Casanova's Venice (Paolina’s Innocence, 2012). His most recent book, The Singing Turk (2016), concerns Turkish subjects on the European operatic stage during the long eighteenth century, and analyzes musical and dramatic representations in the context of European-Ottoman relations. His current research concerns Woodrow Wilson and Eastern Europe. Professor Wolff also writes music and opera criticism.
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