Form and Instability

Cloth Text – $99.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3259-7

E-book – $34.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3203-0

Paper Text – $34.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3202-3
Publication Date
December 2015
Page Count
232 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Form and Instability

Eastern Europe, Literature, Postimperial Difference
Anita Starosta

How are we to read the world after the fall of the Berlin Wall? Form and Instability brings notions of figuration and translation to bear on the post-1989 condition. "Eastern Europe" in this book is more than a territory. Marked by belatedness and untimely remainders, it is an unstable object that is continually misapprehended. From the intersection of comparative literature, area studies, and literary theory, Anita Starosta considers the epistemological and aesthetic consequences of the disappearance of the Second World. Literature here becomes a critical lens in its own right—both object and method, it confronts us with the rhetorical dimension of language and undermines the ideological and hermeneutic coherence of established categories. In original readings of Joseph Conrad and Witold Gombrowicz, among other twentieth-century writers, Form and Instability unsettles cultural boundaries as we know them.

About the Author

ANITA STAROSTA has taught at Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design, Bryant University, and the University of California, Santa Cruz.


"Form and Instability is a remarkable new study of “Eastern European” culture by a brilliant  scholar. Putting the regional identity in question, Anita Starosta shows how its literature abets on our conception of Europe itself. Equally adept at reading works of literature, political events, critical theory, and philosophy, Starosta discusses works from across the entire region, with a special emphasis on a range of Polish writers spanning the twentieth century, from Sienkiewicz and Conrad to Gombrowicz, Kapuscinski, and Tischner. A major contribution to comparative literature and modern European studies." —Aamir R. Mufti, Professor of Comparative Literature at UCLA

“Anita Starosta’s compelling book shows how the strongest literature slips through and corrodes the bins (historical periods, political geography) that have conveniently kept Eastern Europe in its place. She turns Conrad, Gombrowicz, and the amazing Józef Tischner to face us head-on, inconveniently. Their rhetoric, ‘a one addressing a one,’ destabilizes our literary formations.” —Dudley Andrew, Comparative Literature, Yale University

"Starosta focuses on literature by 20th-century Polish authors, but the questions she poses extend beyond literary studies. As exquisite as her insights into fictions [are]... her call to readers is to meditate on how form... ensnares; one craves its protection yet also longs to overthrow it in the belief that something true and great will be set free... Scholars and teachers of all sorts of 'post' literatures should take heed, Starosta warns convincingly. Summing up: Recommended: Graduate students, researchers, faculty." CHOICE 

"In her timely, thought-provoking book, Anita Starosta sets out to challenge the dominant paradigms of knowledge production about and around Eastern Europe. Deftly combining a bold and sophisticated theoretical argument with careful close readings... Starosta engages with... projects that seek to understand post-imperial Eastern Europe as an existential condition in which 'the very distinctions between the abstract and the tangible undergo reformulation.' I would argue that Starosta's book itself is an outstanding example of such a productive intellectual exploration." 
Slavic and East European Journal