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Expatriate Spaces, Ex-Soviet Places: Narratives of Americans Abroad in Turn-of-the-Millennium Post-Communist Europe

by Hobbs, Burgsbee Lee

Abstract (Summary)
The arrival of countless young North Americans into post-Cold War Central and Eastern Europe coincided with a U.S. recession, the collapse of Soviet influence in the former Warsaw Pact countries, and the consequential easing of travel restrictions. I show how overlooked narrative representations of sojourning Western twentysomethings carving out a space for themselves and negotiating their role in a newly internationalized place demonstrate a redefining of the American expat identity as a performance. Relying on the overarching "monomythic" theory of Joseph Campbell, I investigate how several anti-heros' literal and psychological journeys in post-Communist Europe are constructed in visual, cinematic, and prose narratives. In historicized and psychoanalytic readings of works by American sojourners John Beckman, Nancy Bishop, D.A. Blyler, Robert Eversz, Johathan Safran Foer, Jonathan Franzen, Paul Greenberg, Richard Katrovas, Douglas Lytle, and Arthur Phillips, I examine how the transformation of character through the three integral phases of the monomyth--departure, initiation, and return--is revealed. Each of these sojourning writers, whose narratives are set in the unique period between the fall of Berlin's Wall and the fall of New York City's World Trade Center, commemorates and criticizes the "intentionally lost generation" of Americans living in 1990s post-Communist Europe. In Chaper One, I illustrate how the departure phase relocates protagonists from their "ordinary world" of residence in North America to the new "special world" of post-Communist Europe. In Chapter Two, American sojourners face the past in the form of xenophobia--the condition of fearing "the Other"--as articulated by themselves and the natives of their adopted culture as stereotyping and anti-Semitism. In Chapter Three, youthful sojourners overseas confront their profisional adulthoods, a spirit of the present expressing itself trhough persons Jeffrey Arnett identifies as "emerging adults" in a condition Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner label the "Quarterlife Crisis." In Chapter Four, the collective sojourner considers the aesthetic of a potential future, an unfortunate manifestation of economic and cultural glovalization that Benjamin Barber formulated as "McWorld." Chapter Five deconstructs the anti-hero's homecoming, which could be problematic or unredeemed. Reverse-culture-shock and Nancy Bishop's "rex-patriatism" characterized the faulty or non-return of some turn-of-the-millennium American expats.
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School:Indiana University of Pennsylvania

School Location:USA - Pennsylvania

Source Type:Master's Thesis

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Date of Publication:05/12/2008

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