Marci Shore

Marci Shore

Associate Professor of History, Yale University

Visiting Fellow
(July 2020 – June 2021)


Eyeglasses Floating in Space: Central European encounters that came about while searching for truth

As a dissident under communism, Václav Havel insisted on the imperative “to live in truth.” Thirty years ago, the Velvet Revolution ushered the dissident playwright into the presidency of Czechoslovakia. In his first speech to the United States Congress, Havel asserted, “Consciousness precedes Being, and not the other way around, as the Marxists claim.” Few of Havel’s American listeners had any idea what he meant. In fact, Havel, like other dissident thinkers, was not countering communism with liberalism, but rather countering a Hegelian-Marxist tradition with a phenomenological-existentialist one. The origins of East European dissident thought can be traced back to Edmund Husserl and T.G. Masaryk in the late 19th century, and the post-Enlightenment attempt to find a grounding for truth in the absence of God. After Stalin’s death, Heidegger’s philosophy became an antidote to what Czesław Miłosz named “the Hegelian bite.” This century-long arc reveals a path from epistemology through ontology to ethics, from a preoccupation with clarity and certitude through a preoccupation with determinism versus responsibility, to a preoccupation with authenticity as a moral stance.


Previous stays at the IWM:
June 2018 – August 2019, Visiting Fellow
June – August 2017, Visiting Fellow
May – July 2016, Visiting Fellow
June – July 2015, Visiting Fellow
June 2013  June 2014, Visiting Fellow
August 2009 – August 2010, Visiting Fellow


Former projects:

Phenomenological Encounters: Scenes from Central Europe

This projects explores the role of phenomenology—and later, beginning in the 1920s, of the existentialism that grows out of phenomenology—in East-Central Europe through World War II and the Stalinist years; the attempts in the late 1950s and 1960s to create a revisionist Marxism; and later, after 1968, to dissident intellectuals’ efforts to develop a post-Marxist, “anti-political” philosophy. Early 20th-century preoccupations with the distance between subject and object, and the role of the aesthetic object, came in time to seem less urgent than preoccupations with clarifying the boundary between determinism and responsibility, and later between truth and lies. What was at stake at these different moments and how did the stakes change?

The Self Laid Bare: Phenomenology, Structuralism, and other Cosmopolitan Encounters

This is a project about Central European modernism, which examines encounters among intellectuals occasioned by phenomenology and linguistic structuralism. I begin with the Viennabased Brentanoschule of the 1870s and 1880s and continue through the phenomenological influence on dissident intellectuals of the 1970s and 1980s. The book is envisioned as an intellectual portrait of Central Europe grappling with modernity and will explore why phenomenology “took hold” in Central Europe; why certain ideas generated at the fin-de-siècle proved peculiarly compelling throughout the whole of the dramatic 20th century.


Aliaksandr Bystryk: “Lukashenka is the abusive husband who beats his wife when she wants to leave. . .”

August 13, 2020
Aliaksandr Bystryk reports in an interview with IWM Visiting Fellow Marci Shore about the situation in Belarus.
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The Ukrainian Night. An Intimate History of Revolution

A vivid and intimate account of the Ukrainian Revolution, the rare moment when the political became the existential What is worth dying for? While the world watched the uprising on the Maidan as an episode in geopolitics, those in Ukraine during the extraordinary winter of 2013–14 lived the revolution as an existential transformation: the blurring …
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Birth Certificate: The Story of Danilo Kiš. A review

Birth Certificate is a book about one writer’s obsession with another writer. The author, Mark Thompson, is a British historian of Yugoslavia. Danilo Kiš was a Yugoslav novelist, as well as the translator of Anna Akhmatova from Russian, Endre Ady from Hungarian, and Raymond Queneau from French. He was a Hungarian Jew, a Montenegrin, and an Orthodox Christian—an “ethnographic rarity” that he believed would die out with him.
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Der Geschmack von Asche

Die Jahrzehnte kommunistischer Herrschaft in den osteuropäischen Ländern haben in praktisch jeder Familie Fragen aufgeworfen, die nach dem Fall des Eisernen Vorhangs irgendwie beantwortet werden müssen. Diese “posttraumatischen” Störungen in Ländern und Gesellschaften, die nach ihrer Identität suchen, sind das Thema dieses Buchs, das die Autorin Marci Shore gemeinsam mit Martin Pollack am 4. März am IWM vorgestellt hat.
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The Bloody History Between Poland and Ukraine Led to Their Unlikely Solidarity

On 20 February, the young Ukrainian activist Aleksandra Kovaleva posted an open letter to European politicians on Facebook. "Yanukovych fucks you all this time, he fucks us also, but we at least trying to resist," she wrote. "You’re too old, you’re blind to see what is happening, you are deaf and can not hear the screams." The letter was a cri de coeur, evoking the anger, hurt, and disappointment of thousands on the Maidan.
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Surreal Love in Prague

“Prague is a less glittering capital for a century, to be sure, than la ville-lumière, but then it was a very much darker century”, writes Derek Sayer in "Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century. A surrealist history ". In her review, published in the The Times Literary Supplement on January 8, IWM Visiting Fellow Marci Shore refers to his 600-page book as well as to Thomas Ort's "Art and Life in Modernist Prague. Karel Čapek and his generation, 1911–1938".
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Der lange Schatten des Totalitarismus

Die demokratischen Rückschritte in zahlreichen osteuropäischen Ländern sind eine Folge der nicht aufgearbeiteten faschistischen und stalinistischen Vergangenheit, sagt die Historikerin Marci Shore (derzeit IWM Visiting Fellow) im „Presse“-Gespräch.
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Rachelka’s Tablecloth. Poles and Jews, Intimacy and Fragility “on the Periphery of the Holocaust”

What does local participation in the Holocaust—victims who refer to their murderers by the diminutive versions of their names—teach us about intimacy? About the fragility of the border between good and evil? About what it means to be a human being? For Marci Shore, these are the central questions addressed by Agnieszka Holland’s film In Darkness, Jan Gross‘s and Irena Grudzinska Gross’s book Golden Harvest, and Tadeusz Słobodzianek’s play Our Class. These works reveal the extent to which Poles are coming to see the history of Jews—their lives and their deaths—as a history about themselves, and about all of us.
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The Taste of Ashes | The Afterlife of Totalitarianism in Eastern Europe

Marci Shore: The Taste of Ashes
In the tradition of Timothy Garton Ash’s The File, Yale historian and prize-winning author Marci Shore draws upon intimate understanding to illuminate the afterlife of totalitarianism. The Taste of Ashes spans from Berlin to Moscow, moving from Vienna in Europe’s west through Prague, Bratislava, Warsaw and Bucharest to Vilnius and Kiev in the post-communist east. The …
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The End of the State? Presentation of the Book “Thinking the 20th Century”

The nation-state faces more challenges than it has defenders. Wealthy citizens live their financial lives abroad, preventing the state from aiding others. The European Union has been halted in midcourse, with mixed sovereignty providing an excuse for nationalist demagogy among its members. In Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, those who claim to defend the traditional state ...
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