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Moskofian, Krikor (2010) Literature and survival: Literary criticism and the construction of cultural identity in Armenian printed press of diaspora 1919-1928. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00028732

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Abstract

The 1915-1918 Genocide unleashed a literary frenzy in Armenian communities in diaspora. It generated not only literary writing expressive of the urgency of the Armenian plight but also heated debates about the purpose, function and direction of Armenian literature, especially in the crucial period of 1919-1928. This thesis brings under scrutiny the discussions of Armenian literature in this crucial period - the formative years of post-Genocide Armenian diaspora in France, Egypt, and the USA. More importantly, it explores the role of literature and literary criticism in the formation of the Armenian cultural identity. The debates on the future of Armenian literature is found primarily in the printed press of the diaspora. Literary critical materials were mainly published in the form of articles in this printed press in the Western Armenian language, the "official" language of post-Genocide Armenian diaspora. The focus of this thesis is understandably on materials appearing in the post-Genocide Armenian printed press during the years 1919-1928, in Cairo, Paris, Boston and New York, which are the main sites towards which Armenians in general and writers and intellectuals in particular gravitated in the post-Genocide exodus from Ottoman Turkey, including former Armenian cultural centres, such as Constantinople and Smyrna. This thesis, in seven chapters, provides a picture the cultural, political and intellectual topography of the post-Genocide Armenian diaspora. It gives an account of the resilience of the people of culture in the aftermath of the Genocide, when concerted efforts were made in the reorganisation of the cultural and educational life, in order to maintain the Armenian identity. It then discusses the different perceptions of literature by Armenian literary critics in the context of post-Genocide struggle for survival. This is intended to demonstrate the ways in which literature was mobilised for the struggle for survival and the building of community. Literature was not only an aesthetic enterprise but also a social and political institution, a potent tool in achieving social and political unity leading to the coherence and maintenance of Armenian cultural identity. It finally discusses the ways in which critics looked at the future direction of Armenian literature of the diaspora. Debates among the critics at the time, such as Kourken Mkhitarian, Peniamin Tashian, Nigoghos Sarafian, Garo Sasouni, Hrand Palouyian and others, focused on the feasibility of promoting Armenian ethnic values in literature outside "homeland". These debates, it may be argued, comprised two strands of thought. One viewed literatiu-e as an important tool of preservation of the Armenian cultural identity in diaspora from nationalist perspective. The proponents of this trend were senior writers, such as Garo Sasouni and Kourken Mkhitarian. And the other, headed by a new generation of writers, such as Nigoghos Sarafian and Hrand Palouyian, advocated an innovative approach to literature. It promoted the idea of hybridisation of Armenian literature with other literatures. These two trends would become the two dominant schools of Armenian literary criticism from 1928 until today.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00028732
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:01
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/28732

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