Vagaries of (Academic) Identity in Contemporary Fiction
Aim. The article attempts to look at question of academic identities through the prism the academic novel. This literary genre emerged in English and American literature in early 1950s and centers on the image of the professor. In Slavic literatures the genre of the academic novel appears roughly in early 1990s, which is directly connected with the change of the political order following the fall of the Berlin Wall and disbanding of the Soviet Union. Contemporary Ukrainian literature with its post-Soviet heritage presents a unique source for the study of academic discourse.
Methods. An interdisciplinary approach which combines sociological investigation of academic identity (Henkel 2005) and hermeneutic literary analysis is used for this study. In this respect three novels from the contemporary Ukrainian literature – “University” (2007) and “Kaleidoscope” (2009) by Igor Yosypiv, and “Drosophila over a Volume of Kant” (2010) by Anatoliy Dnistrovyj – are chosen for analysis.
Results. Analysis of the novels shows that the literary representation of academics’ lives goes in line with the sociological findings, which, in defining a successful academic, put a strong accent on a discipline and academic institution. The interpretation of Yosypiv’s novels about a Ukrainian nephrologist at the American Medical School suggests that protagonist’s academic success is rooted in the field of applied science as well as an American institution of higher education, while Dnistrovyj’s novel sees a failure of a philosophy professor in the crisis of the Humanities as survived in post-Soviet Ukraine.
Conclusion. The given novels of Igor Yosypiv and Anatoliy Dnistrovyj show that in case of academic identity theme, the academic novels support sociological studies, i.e. the discipline (Applied Sciences and Humanities) as well as the university rank (American vs. post-Soviet) play a decisive role in scholars’ academic life. This in its turn proves that the academic novel, like in the time of its emergence in the 1950s, continues to be a literary chronicler of higher education.
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