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  • Watersheds: Poetics and Politics of the Danube River eds. by Marijeta Bozovic and Matthew D. Miller
  • Christiane Fischer
Watersheds: Poetics and Politics of the Danube River. Edited by Marijeta Bozovic and Matthew D. Miller. Boston: Academic Study, 2016. Pp. 380. Cloth $92.00. ISBN 978-1618114877.

In the anthology's introduction, editors Marijeta Bozovic and Matthew D. Miller state that Watersheds is a contribution to the scholarship on the Danube. The book situates itself within this larger tradition; it takes the Danube as a framework to think productively about the many cultural histories Europe's second largest river represents. The Danube river "as the unifying artery" (xiv) brings these diverse geographies and nations together. Analogous to the river's function as a spatial link, the Danube is the scholarly pivot around which the essays are structured. The anthology's fourteen essays (totaling more than 300 pages) merge the perspectives of several different disciplines, with the Danube serving as their structural bond. Indeed, the Danube provides a shared imaginary space that links the individual contributions. Although Watersheds follows the Danube's flow through "utopian and dystopian waters" (xv)—dreams of empire(s) are narrated alongside traumas of bloodshed—the editors emphasize the notion of unification and transnationality over separation and nationality "to ascertain the prospects of peaceful coexistence along the river … to rekindle something of a lost concern for a larger social fabric" (xviii). Watersheds is a multiperspectival, multinational, and multilingual project that aims to "challenge [End Page 639] imagined divides" (xxvi). The structure of the book follows the Danube moving from west to east, "with many returns in between" (xxvii), whereby the river serves as the privileged site to rethink identity formation in conjunction with the idea of nation and nationality. By questioning mechanisms of exclusion, it is the essays' overall effort to conceive identity inclusively. Perhaps it is best to describe this book in its totality as a thought experiment constantly trying to construct "Danubia" while reaching the limits of this transnational ideal.

Because of Watersheds's richness, it is not possible to discuss each essay extensively. Instead I provide a guiding stream that thematically meanders through this manifold publication. The book unites contributions on music, film, German and Slavic literature, and (landscape) architecture. For instance, Micaela Baranello explores Viennese music as a site of integration, rather than understanding it as a vehicle of exclusion. Like the river, operetta is a fluid site in which German hegemony could be suspended in favor of the diverse cultures the Danube's flow connects. Robert Dassanowsky engages with significant Danubian films by Schell, Schwarzenberger, Forgács, and Rebić, among others. He investigates the cinematic representations of the Danube by tracing its development from Vienna's self-understanding as the river's symbolic center, to a more inclusive conceptualization of the Danube as "a conduit of transnationalism" (29). Jennifer Stob discusses shortcomings in Péter Forgács's 1998 experimental documentary The Danube Exodus. Dragan Kujundzić and Jessie Labov investigate the darker layers of the Danube's history in cinematic representation of the 1942 massacre of Novi Sad. For both authors, the massacre becomes a starting point to think about questions of national and ethnic identity, as well as the notion of guilt.

Many of the essays use literature and philosophy to inform their argument. For instance, Katherine Arens uses Josef Nadler's Literaturgeschichte to investigate the historiographic tradition of understanding the Danube as "hegemonic center of Germanophone culture" (3), and thereby traces the Germanic efforts of appropriating it as their river. Her essay demonstrates how a culture's self-understanding relies on the river's geography, while also realizing the impossibility of reducing the Danube to one historical narrative. Moving further east, Henry Sussman and Robert Lemon look at the relationship between Kafka and the fluidity of rivers. Using Kafka's Das Urteil (1913) and Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué's Undine (1811), Sussmann shows how the river's fluidity challenges a logocentric and terracentric system of thought. Robert Lemon demonstrates how in Kafka's Der Verschollene (1927) European stereotypes are transferred to the United States. Karl Ivan Solibakke draws attention to Austrian writer Elfriede Jelinek's effort to condemn...


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