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Victimization and Its Cures: Representations of South Eastern Europe in British Fiction and Drama of the 1990s. In: Betraying the Event: Constructions of Victimhood in Contemporary Cultures, Fatima Festic (ed.), Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009, pp. 35 -65.

VICTIMIZATION AND ITS “CURES”: REPRESENTATIONS OF SOUTH EASTERN EUROPE IN BRITISH FICTION AND DRAMA OF THE 1990s

LUDMILLA KOSTOVA

In his extended reflection on twentieth-century history Hope and Memory (2000; English translation 2003), Bulgarian-French cultural philosopher Tzvetan Todorov singles out four major roles in “historical narrative[s] with an ethical dimension: benefactor, beneficiary, malefactor, and victim” (142). The roles of benefactor and victim are of particular interest to him insofar as they are central to two dominant forms of “historical narration”: “the heroic narrative, which lauds the triumph of ‘our side’, and the victim narrative, which relates its sufferings” (142). Todorov further remarks on the emergence of a morally ambiguous tendency within the postmodern context of latter-day Western democracies, which is closely related to the role of the victim. In the past, history was predominantly written by victors. In the present, however, “past suffering” is often viewed as a source of “power and privilege” (143) and writing “a history of the losers, the victims, the subjected, and the vanquished” is perceived as an ethically meritorious act (144). While Todorov does not doubt the need for such a history, which should shed light on aspects of the past that were previously erased or marginalized, he strongly objects to the uncritical idealization of victimhood and to its exploitation as a source of moral dividends (144). The moral stance he advocates instead involves “a critical examination of [our] own collective identity” (144) and uncovering “the weaknesses and wrong turns of [our] own community” (145).

At first glance Todorov’s moral message appears to



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Occidentalism: the West in the Eyes of Its Enemies. New York: The Penguin Press. Carrier, James G. 1996. Occidentalism. Images of the West. Oxford University Press. Churchill, Caryl. 1990. Mad Forest: a Play for Romania. London: Nick Hern. Ditchev, Ivaylo. 2002. “The Eros of identity.” In Balkan as Metaphor: Between Globalization and Fragmentation, eds. Dua[pic]an eds. Dušan Belić and Obrad Savić. Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press, 235 – 250. Edgar, David. 1995. Pentecost. London: Nick Hern. Fleming, K. E. 2000. “Orientalism, the Balkans, and Balkan historiography.” American Historical Review (October), 1218-33. Foucault, Michel. 1984. “What is Enlightenment?” In The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow. New York: Pantheon Books, 32-50. Gladstone, William. 1976. Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East. London: John Murray. Gray, Frances. 1993. “Mirrors of utopia: Caryl Churchill and Joint Stock.” In British and Irish Drama since 1960, ed. James Acheson. 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Veliko Turnovo: St. Cyril and St. Methodius Press. Kostova, Ludmilla. 2000. “Inventing Post-all Europe: visions of the ‘old’ continent in contemporary British fiction and drama.” In Beyond Boundaries, ed. Andy Hollis. Amsterdam: Rodopi Press, 83 – 102. Leask, Nigel. 1992. British Romantic Writers and the East. Anxieties of Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Radulescu, Dominica and Valentina Glajar, 2004. Introduction, In Vampirettes, Wretches and Amazons. Western Representations of East European Women, eds. Valentina Glajar and Dominica Radulescu. Boulder, CO: Eastern European Monographs, 1-22. Rady, Martyn. 1992. Romania in Turmoil: a Contemporary History. London: IB Tauris. Roessel, David. 2002. In Byron’s Shadow: Modern Greece in the English and American Imagination. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Said, Edward. 1979. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books. 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