Vassiliki Kaisidou

Vassiliki Kaisidou

Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

Title of thesis:  The Wars of Memory: The Reception of the Greek Civil War and its Aftermath in Modern Greek Fiction (1974-2015)

Supervisor: Professor Dimitris Tziovas

Qualifications

  • 2015-2016: M.St Modern Languages (Greek), University of Oxford (Pass 68.9/100)
  • 2010-2015:BA Modern Greek Studies, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (Distinction, 9,49/10)

Biography

I received my BA from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. From today’s perspective as a PhD student, I could not ignore the influence my undergraduate years had in my development. The courses I took during my bachelor’s degree provided valuable insights into the different approaches to Modern Greek Literature and widened my knowledge of a variety of related matters such as History, Psychology and Greek Culture. Similarly, when I participated in the course in cultural criticism, I was intrigued as to the new perspectives this interdisciplinary scholarly field offers. This course cultivated my intellectual curiosity and amplified my interest not only in literature but in cultural phenomena in general. In this light, I sought to attend the seminars ‘Approaching the Cultural Studies’, which allowed me to set literature in a wider framework and apprehend its different uses by influential schools of thought (post-structuralism, deconstruction and the tensions between ‘high’ literature and pop culture were the theoretical strands I found particularly engaging). Additionally, the aforementioned academic and theoretical endeavours have led me to pursue activities where I could effectively apply the knowledge acquired thus far. To this end, since 2015, I have been writing literary reviews and articles in two online journals (http://www.artic.gr and http://www.24grammata.com) on a monthly basis. This activity has been essential, for it has taught me how to leverage my expertise in literature in order to address a wider, non-academic public.

The course in cultural criticism cultivated my intellectual curiosity and amplified my interest not only in literature but in cultural phenomena in general. In this light, I sought to attend the seminars ‘Approaching the Cultural Studies’, which allowed me to set literature in a wider framework and apprehend its different uses by influential schools of thought; post-structuralism, deconstruction and the tensions between ‘high’ literature and pop culture were the theoretical strands I found particularly engaging. Additionally, the aforementioned academic and theoretical endeavours have led me to pursue activities where I could effectively apply the knowledge acquired thus far. To this end, since 2015, I have been writing literary reviews and articles in two online journals (http://www.artic.gr and http://diastixo.gr) on a monthly basis. This activity has been essential, for it has taught me how to leverage my expertise in literature in order to address a wider, non-academic public.

The solid academic background provided by my undergraduate only strengthened my wish to deepen my knowledge and understanding of literature as a socially and politically embedded phenomenon. Thus, in in 2015-2016, I embarked on the Master’s in Modern Greek Literature at the University of Oxford. My dissertation explored the articulation of traumatic memory in fiction that touches upon a highly undocumented facet of the Greek Civil War; namely, the educational institutions of the ‘Childtowns’ (Παιδοπόλεις) set by Queen Frederica in 1947 to accommodate orphans and destitute children whose parents were partisans during the Resistance and the Civil War. In that way, I hoped to work on a topic that will also prove useful for my doctoral project. Overall, working under the strong academic framework in Oxford has not only cultivated my intellectual skills through demanding work, but it has also encouraged me to be active at an academic level, undertaking positions of responsibility and personal involvement. For instance, I co-organised the graduate workshop in Modern Greek Literature in March 2016, and I was also elected as the academic representative within the Modern Languages Committee, coordinating a number of social and academic events for graduate students.

Albeit being at an early stage of my doctoral research, I am certain that the Ph.D in Modern Greek Studies is the most appropriate choice for my academic pursuits and will successfully compliment the academic background of my Master’s. The University of Birmingham provides the unique opportunity of working in a rigorous academic setting, which will offer further teaching and research opportunities. 

Doctoral research

PhD title
The Wars of Memory: The Reception of the Greek Civil War and its Aftermath in Modern Greek Fiction (1974-2015)
Supervisor
Professor Dimitris Tziovas
Course
Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies PhD/MA by Research (On-Campus or by Distance Learning)

Research

The research objective of this proposal is to examine the ways in which the Greek fiction published between the years 1974 and 2015 has renegotiated the memory of the Greek Civil War (1943-1949). Drawing into memory and trauma studies, while taking into consideration the cultural and political specificities of modern Greece, I aim to investigate the complex interplay between fiction, historiography, and the politics of memory of the civil conflict. This thesis will argue that in post-1974 civil war fiction can be traced a transition between two different ways of memorialising the war: from the poetics of rupture to a rather realistic depiction of the past. More precisely, between the years 1974 and 2000 writers narrativised the war as a traumatic, lived experience and challenged the hegemonic (political and/or historical) discourse of the civil strife. During the years 2000 and 2015, however, the authors engage with the postmemory of the civil conflict and its human costs, restaging an unsettling past which still remains for some an ‘unfinished business’.

The end of the Colonels’ Junta, in 1974, is regarded as a turning point for Greece’s political and cultural agendas. The transition to democracy (known as metapolitefsi) gave birth to the emergence of new stances vis-à-vis the country’s traumatic past and enabled artists and researchers to engage with the hitherto silenced topic of the Civil War. In the cultural sphere, Ares Alexandrou’s emblematic allegorical novel, The Mission Box (1975), is regarded as the milestone that heralds a differentiated approach to civil strife; namely, the shift from the fervent representation of the Civil War as a lived experience, to a rather deromanticised portrayal of the war, which destabilised the prevalent Right-Left polarisation. Similarly, since the metapolitefsi the historiographic interest in the Civil War was revitalised, following changing, often conflicting trends, which continued to arouse lively public interest on this issue. Therefore, important questions are raised about the currency and mutual relationship of dominant historical narratives and cultural discourses over the past forty years. There is little precedent on this topic and the relevant literature remains vastly unexplored. Extant studies concerned with the thematisation of the Civil War in Greek fiction cover the time span until 1994 or earlier, taking a rather descriptive approach (Vasilakakos 2000; Nikolopoulou 2008; Apostolidou 2010). My study’s focus upon the different ways of re-writing the Civil War experiences since 1974—while breaking with the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ ways of doing so—will therefore both address a thematic scholarly gap and contextualise existing historiographic work on this matter.

Throughout my thesis, I also aim to consider, as a framing discussion, the representation of the Spanish Civil War in Spanish fiction, on the grounds that both countries share significant commonalities in the politics of memory of the Civil War after the transition to democracy. Drawing a parallel between the literary discourses of the Spanish Civil War is immensely useful; the exploration of the historical, political, and cultural contingencies between the two countries will allow me to achieve a more nuanced understanding of the distinct modes of remembering the Civil War in fiction, while avoiding the pitfalls of ‘Greek exceptionalism’.

The main body of my thesis why map out the aesthetic and ideological transition between the two generations of authors, who commemorate the civil strife. I will firstly examine the works published between 1974 and 2000, arguing that the authors subvert hegemonic discourses on the Civil War and engage in the poetics of rupture which consist in bringing forward recollections of personal and collective traumas and showcasing that the fraternal struggle and its aftermath resist narrativisation. Then, I will turn to Thanases Valtinos’s Orthokosta (1994), a novel which signals a new round in the Civil War literature, ‘passing the torch’ to a new generation of writers, who has been able to work through political trauma due to temporal distance. Thus, I will explore the work of contemporary authors, who increasingly interested in the civil strife, renegotiate its memory between 2000 and 2015. More precisely, I will argue that they approach the civil strife from a postmemorial position as a ‘historical legacy’ that needs to be preserved through mediated and untrustworthy memories and they engage a rather realist mode of representation.

Overall, this study will argue that post-1974 fiction has functioned as a dense grid of narratives, where the public memory of the Civil War has been reclaimed and contested, mapping out two different modes of remembering the war. Hence, this thesis will enhance our retrospective understanding of the turbulent era of the Civil War, the different cultural responses it engendered and its relevance to the present. Furthermore, it will offer additional insights into the mutual influence between literary production and institutional discourses and how these (re)redefined the politics of memory of the Civil War and recent Greek history since 1974.

Other activities

2015- Present

Regular columnist in literature column of two online journals (http://www.artic.gr  and http://diastixo.gr )

10.2016- present

Secretary of the Postgraduate and Mature Student Association (PGMSA), University of Birmingham

2016

Co-organiser of the Graduate Workshop Renegotiating History in light of the 'Greek Crisis', University of Oxford

10.2015-08.2016

  • Treasurer of the Arts and Culture Club, St. Edmund Hall College
  • Associate member of the Medieval and Modern Languages committee

 

Awards and Funding

2016-present

A. S. Onassis Foundation Scholarship for the PhD in Modern Greek Studies, University of Birmingham

2015-16

Heath Harrison PGT Studentship for the M. St in Modern Languages, University of Oxford

2011-15

Papadakis Bequest for the BA in Philology (four-year scholarship)

2010

National Foundation Grant on merit of attaining 1st place in the BA programme of the Department of Philology

 

Eurobank EFG Award for the highest final grade of entrance in higher education

 

Conference Papers

2016

Between testimony, autobiography & fiction: Historical memory through personal experience in Yiannis Atzakas’s Tholos Vythos — Workshop “Hi/stories in Contemporary Greek Culture: The Entanglement of History and the Arts since 1989”, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, 23-25 June 2016.

 

Memories that Hurt and Console: The Marriage of Writing and Imagery in Yiannis Atzakas’s Tholos Vythos and Diplomena Ftera — Graduate Research Colloquium of the Society for Modern Greek Studies, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, 16 June 2016.

 

From the Crisis to the Metamorphosis: Past, Trauma and Loss in Christos Oikonomou’s Something Will Happen You’ll See and Dimosthenis Papamarkos’s MetaPoesis —Postgraduate Workshop Renegotiating History in light of the 'Greek Crisis', University of Oxford, Oxford, 17 March 2016.

2015

The Ethnosexual Other: Gender and Power Relations in Stratis Tsirkas’s The Club and M. Karagatsis’s The Great Chimera —International Pre-Conference Meeting “Identities: Language and Literature”, Democritus University of Thrace, Komotini, 8 October 2015.

 

The National Narrative of Greekness in Stratis Doukas’s A Prisoner of war’s story —International Conference on Modern Greek Language, Literature, History and Civilization “Modern Greek Queries”, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, 16-18 April 2015.

Publications

  • Between the Local, the Global, and the Political: Local Poetics and Social Activism in Yiannēs Makridakēs’s Work. In Diogenes (5), November 2016, pp. 13-29.