The 1990s and After: Migrations of Theories

Virve Sarapik (Estonian Literary Museum / Estonian Academy of Arts)

My presentation attempts to offer a comparative overview of some processes that occurred in the literary culture and art world after Estonia regained independence.

In particular, I am interested in the spread of ideas in literary and art criticism. It can be said that the different intellectual currents of the 20th century have found their place in local cultural consciousness in a fragmented, hybrid and mimicking form. The underlying reasons are certainly ideological (the need to hide, to refer to issues implicitly, to read between the lines), but not entirely. The 1990s are especially characterized by the arrival and intermingling of different theories. There are notably two positions: one that maintains that the theories of a certain school of thought are already well known and it’s time to move on, without recognizing the fact that the very first encounter might well have been superficial and skewed (which is, for instance, the case in the attitude towards postmodernism and existentialism), and the second position, which makes a fresh start in introducing certain schools of thought, as if the earlier experiences were forgotten; this gives way, on a positive note, either to a new reading or, on a negative note, to a totally new raw rendition of the thought. Especially ambivalent is the attitude among leftist thinkers. The practice during the 1990s was to integrate Marxist theories ‘without’ Marxism, apolitically. This initial reaction has undergone an evolution in the 21st century, but a certain fixation, the inclination to associate oneself with one or another extreme, has remained.

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