The tug-of-war between truth and power is a constant in European history, whatever the regime or ideology. In authoritarian regimes, power tends to injudiciously impose its upper hand, while in a democracy, truth at least has a fighting chance. Truth and power can also unexpectedly coalesce for a brief revolutionary moment. Nonetheless, the relationship between the creative spirit and power is almost always a problematic one. What is the role of writers and intellectuals in the political and social spheres? Some authors have yielded to the allure of political action, while others were able to fundamentally influence continent’s politics without direct involvement. Writers and thinkers have been imprisoned and executed as collaborators with occupying regimes or, on the contrary, punished for their refusal to collaborate with the regime.
In Latvia, no one has better demonstrated the dilemmas faced by writers engaged in politics, the inherent conflict between truth and power, than the eminent literary couple Rainis and Aspazija. At the forefront of the romantic revolutionary New Current movement in Latvia at the close of the 19th century, Rainis and Aspazija were called upon to be prophets, priests, voices of the oppressed, and politicians. For a fleeting moment before the 1905 revolution, truth and power were one, and Rainis and Aspazija embodied both. Upon returning from Swiss exile to an independent Latvia in 1920 however, both writers found that they could no longer merge their literary and political personas in the same seamless way as before. In the new democratic state, an undetected line of demarcation between the role of the writer and the role of the politician had emerged.
In evaluating the past importance of authors in meeting the challenges of their eras in diverse cultural, social and political milieus, one naturally wonders what the interaction of the written word with today’s socio-political processes is. Is the relationship between the writer and power in contemporary Europe as pertinent a subject as it once was? How was this affected by the advent of globalisation and digitisation? What is the Europe envisioned by today’s writers, and how do these visions gel with those of their predecessors? How will the recent wave of populism and rekindled nationalism play out, and what are the possible exits writers see from what seems like a severe crisis of ‘European identity’? If ideas and ideals, not only of a common market and supra-national institutions, are essential to Europe, what form do these ideas take? We will seek the answers to these questions at this conference.
We encourage scholars of humanities e.g. history, literary studies and cultural studies to take part in the conference. The conference will discuss following topics:
Writers and power in Europe.
The relationship between authors and power in 19th/20th centuries and contemporary Europe.
The relations between political power and writers, and opposition to prevailing powers, are historically significant and remain relevant today. What was the role of authors in
the formation of ideologies and the legitimisation of political systems? What were the consequences for writers of opposition to diverse regimes? Writers have often come to share in political power, accepted or rejected positions in governmental structures,
and influenced the political process. What was their role in the development of today’s
Writers and the European identity crisis.
Writers, clashes and crises of ideas in Europe in the 19th/20th centuries and contemporary Europe.
Writers committed to political and intellectual freedom have been a major force in the triumph of democracy in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries, but this was by no means a simple process. Writers often found themselves caught in the conflicts of liberalism, nationalism, and socialism. How did they attempt to resolve these conflicts within and without? Can writers find or offer a way out of the current crises of ideas and identity?
Writers and justice in Europe.
Writers and the equality of nations, social groups and genders in Europe.
Writers have often helped marginalised and oppressed social groups be heard. How did writers assist in resolving issues stemming from conflicts between minorities and the majority in the past? What do today’s European writers have to say about inequality, discrimination, oppression, corruption, and poverty?
Writers and the future of Europe.
Writers’ hopes, fears and the narratives of the future.
What were the visions of a future Europe among writers in the 19th and 20th centuries? Did any of those visions come to pass, in whole or in part? Were any writers able to compose a coherent European narrative? Do we need a completely new narrative, or a continuation of what they wrote? What are the hopes and fears anent the future of Europe among writers today?
Who are today’s authors – writers, bloggers? What may be their role in building the power structure of the future? How they react towards contemporary challenges?
National Library of Latvia
Mukusalas iela 3, LV-1423
Visit the website at http://www.lnb.lv