On the Verge of History : Rupture and Continuity in Women’s Life Narratives from Hungary, Romania and Serbia

I. Agardi

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)


After 1989, with the end of communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe, narratives about rupture and change during a turbulent twentieth century have been told in many different forms, genres, and media alongside narratives of basic social and political continuities. Rupture and continuity emerged as two different narrative strategies that have sought to create coherence in these larger histories. Published histories and private narratives about the twentieth century in Central Europe share this characteristic: they both create cohesion between a multiplicity of processes and events by combining the two narrative strategies of emplotment. That is what this dissertation is about. Based on an extensive source material of narrative life interviews from the border regions of Romania (Northern Transylvania), Northern Serbia (Vojvodina), and Southern Hungary, I investigate how ordinary women in Central Europe, see the turbulent century which they have lived through. I analyze the different ways that they speak of historical transformation and how they place themselves into a sequence of change while maintaining their sense of integrity: how they talk at the end of their life about childhood in the Interwar era, their maturing during the Second World War, starting married life and work in socialism, and their retirement years after 1989. Throughout the analysis I address the forms that tropes of rupture and continuity take through the words of women who lived through several regime changes in the course of the twentieth century. The dissertation examines the relationship of personal life narratives to public narratives of history: how interviewees incorporate and appropriate public narratives and where they diverge from them in order to create their versions of historical narrative.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Waaldijk, Berteke, Primary supervisor
  • Petö, H.A, Co-supervisor, External person
Award date11 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2013


  • Specialized histories (international relations, law)
  • Literary theory, analysis and criticism
  • Culturele activiteiten
  • Overig maatschappelijk onderzoek


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