Kitsch as a Contemporary Epidemic: A Case Study of Milan Kundera’s Philosophy
Presented by: Dr Olga Babenko
By: Public Relations
Dr Olga Babenko, a lecturer of the English Language Department, presented a weekly seminar on the topic Kitsch as a Contemporary Epidemic: A Case Study of Milan Kundera’s Philosophy and More.
The term “kitsch” was first used by Munich artists and art dealers in the 1860s, and referred to “cheap artistic stuff”.
In the Russian philosophical and literary tradition, kitsch had been condemned for at least a century and a half. The strongest criticism of kitsch in art, and kitsch in literature, in particular, had been found in the works of Vladimir Nabokov who condemned kitsch, not only because of its shallowness, but because of its nature of pretense as it is “not only the obviously trashy but mainly the falsely important, the falsely beautiful, the falsely clever, the falsely attractive” (Nabokov, 1957/1981). He wrote about the propagators of kitsch calling them “philistines”.
Milan Kundera is another author who profoundly contributed to the development of anti-kitsch stance in his writing and spoke about classified kitsch—Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Communist, Fascist, democratic, feminist, European, American, national and international, illustrating some of these types in his novels.
Explaining the meaning of “kitsch” in contemporary art and literature, and mainly engaging with Vladimir Nabokov’s and Milan Kudera’s oeuvres, the presenter talked about politicized kitsch and its significance in manipulating the masses. Finally, the seminar accentuated the crucial role of intellectual kitsch and its contagious nature with regard to contemporary cultural shifts in the Kurdistan Region.