Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg


Manuela Bank-Zillmann

Telefon: +49 345 55-21004
Telefax: +49 345 55-27404

Universitätsplatz 8/9
06108 Halle


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The ‘Second World’ in Contemporary British Writing

Termin 16. September 2022 - 18. September 2022
Veranstaltungsart Tagung
Einrichtung Philosophische Fakultät II
Veranstalter Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik
Veranstaltungsort Melanthonianum, Hörsaal XX und Medienraum
Straße Universitätsplatz 9
PLZ/Ort 06108 Halle (Saale)
Ansprechpartner Prof. Dr. Katrin Berndt
Telefon +49 345-5523521


The conference investigates contemporary British writing published after the fall of the Berlin Wall, whose narrative focus lies on the Eastern and Central European past of the Cold War period – the so-called ‘second world’.

At a time marked by the congruence of dystopian anxieties and ‘the monotony of post-heroic’ liberal democracies (Krastev and Holmes 2019), post-1990 literary explorations of ‘really existing’ socialist systems of the Central and Eastern European past appear both at odds with the expectation that contemporary culture should respond to present-day concerns, and oddly significant. Since the end of the Cold War, an increasing number of British writers, including Julian Barnes, Martin Amis, Fiona Rintoul, Tom Stoppard, Tibor Fischer, Ian McEwan, Ella Hickson, and Francis Spufford, have employed characters and settings of the so-called ‘second world’, whose states had claimed to have structurally established idea(l)s that were once considered utopian. Moreover, the apparent desire to review and imaginatively revisit past ‘utopias’ has been conceptualized by Zygmunt Bauman as retrotopia, the desire to retrieve – through creatively engaging with ‘genuine or putative aspects of this past’ – the utopian potential that it represented.

While there is considerable research on representations of British writing on and during the Cold War period, scholars have paid much less attention to the ways in which British writing in the three decades since the fall of the ‘Iron Curtain’ has continued to imaginatively engage with what had been, and arguably still is, viewed as a possible alternative to both capitalism and democracy for many in the West as well. The keynote lectures and papers of the symposium explore narrative conceptions of the private, the political, and the civil in the second-world setting in general, and retrotopian perspectives on totalitarian ideology in particular.



For planning purposes, we kindly ask you to register for the conference by filling out the registration form and returning it by 9 September 2022 to:

There will be no fee for attending the conference.

If you prefer to attend only an individual lecture and/or session, please let us know via e-mail.


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