Skip to main content

Telling Men in the Yugoslav Historical Novel: Male Homosociality and Queerness in Ivo Andrić and Meša Selimović

Wednesday, March 15, 2023, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

This dissertation explores the poetic construction and narrative significance of normative and non-normative masculinity in four canonical male-authored Yugoslav historical novels: Ivo Andrić’s Bosnian Chronicle (Travnička hronika, 1945) and Omer Pasha Latas (Omerpaša Latas, 1977) and Meša Selimović’s Death and the Dervish (Derviš i smrt, 1966) and The Fortress (Tvrđava, 1970). Through the combined theoretical frameworks of masculinity studies, queer and literary theory, the thesis examines the ways in which novelistic depiction of social, political and historical change is hinged upon a variegated portrayal of masculinity. The project draws out the poetic usages of masculine gender and sexuality in each novel and rereads these canonical texts from the vantage point of the dynamics between male homosociality and queerness. It is from this perspective, I argue, that specifically gendered and sexualized modalities of masculine (non)normativity can be seen as the indispensable stage upon which the novel’s central themes unfold. By employing literary methods of close and surface reading, each chapter reconstructs and analyzes the creative processes and sources behind Andrić’s and Selimović’s particular portrayal of masculinity. More specifically, the thesis follows the ways in which Andrić’s drama of advancing modernity and Selimović’s tragedy of individuals opposing autocratic rule ultimately depend on the poetic utilization of hegemonic masculinity, inviolate manhood, homosexuality, friendship and camaraderie.

From a broader theoretical perspective, this project sets off from the recent critical reassessment of the conceptual limits that the overreliance on antinormativity imposes on the fields of queer theory and masculinity studies. While acknowledging the political and theoretical contributions that critical approaches to normativity have made in both fields, this thesis argues in favor of preserving and reframing the notion of “normativity” when it comes to male-authored literature. On the one hand, this dissertation points out the dynamic and mutable aspects of normativity when applied to both the authorial figure and to literary portrayals of masculinity. On the other hand, it makes the case for the relevance of what we can call anti-antinormative or post-antinormative queer approaches to canonical male-authored literature.

Defense committee
Supervisor: Jasmina Lukic, CEU
External examiner: Miranda Jakiša, Department of Slavonic Studies, University of Vienna
Internal examiner: Eszter Timár, Department of Gender Studies, CEU
External reader: Tijana Matijevic, Friedrich Schiller University of Jena and the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, Germany
Chair: Sanjay Kumar, Center for Academic Writing (CAW), Department of History, CEU