Pritsak Book Prize Winner Announced by ASEEES

October 11, 2019
Cover of Book: Ukraine's Quest for Identity: Embracing Cultural Hybridity in Literary

Rewakowicz bookThe Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) has announced the first winner of the Omeljan Pritsak Book Prize in Ukrainian Studies. HURI congratulates Maria Rewakowicz for winning the prize for her outstanding book, Ukraine’s Quest for Identity: Embracing Cultural Hybridity in Literary Imagination, 1991-2011. Congratulations as well to the runner up, Nicholas Denysenko, The Orthodox Church in Ukraine: A Century of Separation (Northern Illinois University Press). It is wonderful to see so many strong publications in Ukrainian studies and we look forward to seeing you at the ASEEES convention in November.

The Pritsak Prize was established by HURI last year in honor of the 50th anniversary of Ukrainian studies at Harvard and one of the key scholars behind that initiative, Omeljan Pritsak. We are grateful to ASEEES for making an exception to their moratorium on new book prizes in recognition of the importance to represent Ukrainian studies.

Book description:

Ukraine's Quest for Identity: Embracing Cultural Hybridity in Literary Imagination, 1991–2011 is the first study that looks at the literary process in post-independence Ukraine comprehensively and attempts to draw the connection between literary production and identity construction. In its quest for identity Ukraine has followed a path similar to other postcolonial societies, the main characteristics of which include a slow transition, hybridity, and identities negotiated on the center-periphery axis. This monograph concentrates on major works of literature produced during the first two decades of independence and places them against the background of clearly identifiable contexts such as regionalism, gender issues, language politics, social ills, and popular culture. It also shows that Ukrainian literary politics of that period privileges the plurality and hybridity of national and cultural identities. By engaging postcolonial discourse and insisting that literary production is socially instituted, Maria G. Rewakowicz explores the reasons behind the tendency toward cultural hybridity and plural identities in literary imagination. Ukraine’s Quest for Identity will appeal to all those keen to study cultural, social and political ramifications of the collapse of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe and beyond.

Reviews (via Amazon):

This is Rewakowicz's third scholarly book and in it she examines several aspects of post-communist Ukrainian prose and poetry and individual and national self-formation. Rewakowicz (Rutgers Univ.; Univ. of Washington) proposes that multi-thematic, multiform literary creations reflect the sociopolitical and cultural growing pains that accompanied the two decades in which Ukraine shed its enslaving Russian communist rule. The postcolonial themes and attitudes of literary work reflect the deeply rooted inferiority complex engendered by the years of despicable references to non-native Russian speakers of occupied nations. Rewakowicz points out that the secondary role of native tongue is difficult to overcome, even when legalized as national language. The author analyzes several works, looking at national and political Ukrainian allegiance in the authors’ use of surzhyk patois; popular literature assumes the role of a signpost, directing readers' attention to the shaping of national cultural and linguistic identity. Offering postmodern feminist and post-imperialist perspectives, this is fine scholarship. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty. (CHOICE)

This is an ambitious and insightful work. It synthesizes much recent critical literature and provides an analysis of post-independence Ukrainian writing. By focusing on the concepts of hybridity and pluralism, Maria G. Rewakowicz demonstrates the different ways in which national identity is currently imagined—through local geography, women’s writings, Russian-language Ukrainian prose, and popular literature depicting national traumas, such as the Second World War and Chornobyl. What emerges is an account of the fascinating process by which cultural memory is constructed and an inclusive identity created. This study is an excellent introduction to contemporary Ukrainian writing and the prominent discourses that underpin it. (Myroslav Shkandrij, University of Manitoba)

In Ukraine's Quest for Identity: Embracing Cultural Hybridity in Literary Imagination, 1991–2011, Maria G. Rewakowicz surveys and analyzes two decades of Ukrainian writing on identity issues. Using postcolonial arguments and culturological tools developed by Pierre Bourdieu, she examines the ‘space of possibles,’ the cultural context from which post-independence Ukrainian literature arises. She discovers an intriguing and complex field where identities are actively explored, asserted, tested, molded, and, most importantly, compared, combined, and reconciled with one another. The range of issues involved in these explorations of identity include national identity, language, history, gender, religion, class, geography, age, crime, drugs, sex, and violence. Rewakowicz skillfully navigates the social and cultural currents of the contemporary Ukrainian literary landscape to uncover their characteristic multiplicity, fluidity, and hybridity. (Maxim Tarnawsky, University of Toronto)

Maria G. Rewakowicz has written the first comprehensive study of the development of Ukrainian literature since the Soviet collapse. Rewakowicz interprets major Ukrainian literary texts as construction sites for ethnic, regional, linguistic, and gender representations and concludes that the key feature of the post-communist Ukrainian literary scene—cultural hybridity—reflects the uncertainty of the nation’s warped post-Soviet transition. (Serhy Yekelchyk, University of Victoria)

Maria G. Rewakowicz provides here an insightful, critical survey of literature and writing about literature in Ukraine in the first two decades since independence. She chronicles the painful processes of cultural decolonization and the spaces opened for cultural hybridity and bilingualism as key components of an emergent civic identity and plural literary canons, including popular literature (detective novels). She also highlights the importance of women as writers, critics, and fictional character, language choice (Ukrainian vs. Russian), the role of place (region and city), history, and trauma in this comprehensive snapshot of Ukrainian culture in this momentous period in the country’s history. (Mark von Hagen, Arizona State University)

About the author:

Maria G. Rewakowicz, PhD (University of Toronto) teaches Ukrainian literature at Rutgers University – New Brunswick and is also affiliated with the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Washington. She is the author of Literature, Exile, Alterity: The New York Group of Ukrainian Poets (2014) and co-editor of Contemporary Ukraine on the Cultural Map of Ukraine (2009). She also authored a book of essays Persona non grata (2012) and compiled two anthologies of the New York Group poetry, all three published in Ukraine.

See also: Pritsak Prize