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Doctor of Philosophy


Comparative Literature


Vladimir Tumanov


This thesis focuses on novels, essays, films, and popular culture miscellanea representative of Central and Eastern Europe, in the attempt to explain how nostalgia developed in this area since the fall of the Iron Curtain. Post-socialist Central and Eastern Europe has undergone a major - and, for many, unsettling - historical shift, thus, perhaps not surprisingly, nostalgia for the former communist regime does not lack in popularity. Due to the region’s turbulent past cum present, millions of Eastern Europeans have migrated westward; homesickness is only one of the feelings they share. The region is also a cauldron for far-right ideologies, which carry their own nostalgias. Obviously non-exhaustive, this dissertation takes on a series of study cases representative of two fundamental forms of nostalgia: personal and collective. I am examining two essential aspects that define each form of nostalgia: firstly, nostalgia’s relationship with suffering; and, secondly, nostalgia’s ability to be toxic or useful. Among the authors discussed below are Andrei Tarkovsky, Milan Kundera, Mircea Cărtărescu, Filip and Matei Florian, Cezar Paul Bădescu, Gabriela Adameșteanu, Wolfgang Becker, Dubravka Ugrešić, and Dan Puric.

This study emphasizes nostalgia’s complexity, which is not only given by its various forms but also by its fluidity. Personal and collective nostalgias often overlap, childhood nostalgia is enhanced by nostalgia for a place, and harmful nostalgia may prove useful sometimes. The map drawn here, which places nostalgias along personal and collective, painful and bittersweet, and temporal and spatial lines, offers a better understanding of how nostalgia unfolds nowadays, when migration, political extremism, and populism are on the rise.

Summary for Lay Audience

This thesis examines how nostalgia developed in post-socialist Central and Eastern Europe, and especially in Romania. Each chapter focuses on different forms of nostalgia: homesickness, nostalgia for childhood, for a beloved person, for communism, or right-wing nostalgia. Each nostalgic form is analyzed by comparing some of the following novels or films: Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Nostalghia, Milan Kundera’s novel The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Mircea Cărtărescu’s novel Nostalgia, Mircea and Matei Florian’s novel The Băiuț Alley Lads, Gabriela Adameșteanu’s novel Fontana di Trevi, Wolfgang Becker’s film Good Bye, Lenin!, Dubravka Ugrešić’s novel The Ministry of Pain, and Cristian Mungiu’s film Occident. Nostalgia’s relationship with suffering and its ability to be toxic, useful, or both are the elements that are chiefly examined in the case of each comparison. The final goal is to feature nostalgia’s complexity given by the complicated historical, political, and economic context that developed in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License