Member Spotlight: Interview with Erin Dusza

Mucha n Me - Erin Dusza

This year the Fulbright Program celebrated 75 years. As a fitting end to 2021, the SSA interviewed Erin Dusza, a current Fulbrighter living in Brno, Czech Republic.

Erin Dusza: Indiana University, Bloomington

(Ph.D. Candidate)

Recent Publications:

Areas of Interest in Slovak Studies: Czech and Slovak Art History and National Identity (19th- early 20th century)

When/how did you first develop an interest in Slovak or Slovak-area studies? 

In my art history master’s program at Georgia State University, my advisor Dr. John Decker noticed my interest in uncommon works of art and architecture (rather than the traditional Western European art history cannon), and suggested I investigate Medieval Bohemia due to a lack of scholarship on this area in English. As I worked through my courses, a chance documentary viewing sparked an interest in the later career of Alphonse Mucha, where he made artworks that had vastly more accomplished narratives for the cause Czech nationalism. I focused on the role of Pan-Slavic texts, but also the connection between folk art and art nouveau. In my PhD coursework at Indiana University in Bloomington, I was able to study Czech language and combine history and art history courses to expand my research into a larger central European framework. After passing my comprehensive exams during the pandemic, I began researching my family history more and found my great grandmother’s place of birth in Spišské Bystre, Slovakia, which firmly set my own roots in the area. 

What is your current research/work project?

My dissertation is an examination of the presentation of nostalgic imagery as a foundation of national identity creation in the Czech lands leading to the formation of Czechoslovakia at the end of the long nineteenth century/early twentieth century. The purpose of this study is to examine how nostalgia and the vernacular were used to both reconstruct and construct an idea of shared historical identity during the nation building process, showing the positive and negative effects this tactic had. The Czech case is specifically chosen because they had a recent development of national identity, formed under foreign rule, and with very little tangible evidence to base their claims. Key to this examination will be comparative discussion of similar processes in other post-Hapsburg territories Poland and Hungary, which is uncommon in academic studies. 

Please say a few words about any activities or projects you’re involved in that link academia with society at large.

I am currently living in Brno, Czech Republic for the next eight months on a Fulbright fellowship conducting research for my doctoral dissertation alongside the scholars of the ERC funded research group CRAACE(Continuity/Rupture: Art and Architecture in Central Europe 1918-1939). Using archival and iconographic methodologies and visiting sites of public art, I intend to study how national identity is formed and visually displayed to the public.

What Slovakia-related book or article would you recommend to readers who wish to learn more about some of Slovakia’s most pressing issues?

  • Association of Slovak Writers and Artists in Hungary, Free Organization of Slovaks in Hungary, Position of the Slovak National Minority In Hungary. Hungary: The Association, 1995.
  • Baumgarten, R. Vladimir., and Joseph Stefka. The National Slovak Society: 100 Year History, 1890-1990. [Pittsburgh, PA]: The Society, 1990.
  • Brock, Peter, The Slovak National Awakening: An Essay in the Intellectual History of East Central Europe. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976.

What is your favorite place in Slovakia to visit and why?

In December 2019 I was lucky enough to visit Košice, Slovakia to present a paper for the conference ‘Multiple Modernities’ held by the ERC funded research group CRAACE (Continuity/Rupture: Art and Architecture in Central Europe 1918-1939). My paper, titled “Fire and Desire – The artwork of Josef Čapek,” explored the use of vernacular imagery as a means of modern art expression and healing in the interwar period leading up to the second world war. Košice in December is breathtakingly beautiful and idyllic with its neo-baroque, rococo, and art nouveau architecture, colorful buildings, and imposing gothic church in the center of downtown. At Christmas time with the decorations, market stalls and a warm mulled wine it was a short but very memorable experience. I am looking forward to returning soon.



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