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Title: Czesław Miłosz, Milan Kundera, Joseph Brodsky, and the Task of the Émigré Critic
Authors: West, Timothy Wayne
Advisors: Gross, Irena G.
Contributors: Slavic Languages and Literatures Department
Keywords: criticism
Czesław Miłosz
Joseph Brodsky
Milan Kundera
Subjects: Slavic literature
East European studies
European history
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: As critics, Czesław Miłosz, Milan Kundera, and Joseph Brodsky sought to shape Western perceptions of their native literatures, the very traditions from which they had been excluded as Cold War exiles. This dissertation observes that a pervasive theme in their criticism is the way in which each respective literature (Polish, Czech, Russian) has coped with the disorientations of the modern era. Chapter 1 proposes that, for Czesław Miłosz, the particular historical problems confronting Poland in the middle of the twentieth century signify a broader civilizational problem confronting humanity in the modern era: having voluntarily surrendered his sovereignty to both Nature and History, man has made himself a slave to the necessity that appears to be at work in both. Chapter 2 claims that Milan Kundera’s central polemic aim—from his earliest essays in the Marxist literary press to his efforts on behalf of suppressed colleagues while in emigration—was always to rescue Czech literature from its own smallness; to prevent it from disappearing into provincialism and irrelevance in the broader European context, as writers inevitably wrestled with the political and cultural distractions of a century that offered little peace. Finally, Chapter 3 considers Joseph Brodsky’s assertion that literature’s purpose is “to save the next man, a new arrival, from falling into an old trap,” and it argues that we may regard his criticism as a history of how Russian writers have responded to that imperative.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Slavic Languages and Literatures

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