Yuliya Komska

Academic Appointments

Associate Professor of German
Graduate Study Director, Comparative Literature, 2020-21

My teaching and writing mainly focus on the making and dismantling of borders between ideologies, territories, languages, and mediums.

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I am the author of The Icon Curtain: The Cold War's Quiet Border (University of Chicago Press, 2015), a book about a German wall that didn't fall in 1989. It tells the story of how contemporaries (German refugees, especially) dramatized an uneventful Cold War landscape, which stretched between West Germany and Czechoslovakia, and brings together travelogues, accounts of defaced Christian imagery, poems, and a host of archival sources. The book received Honorable Mention for the Modern Languages Association's biannual Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Studies in Germanic Languages and Literatures for 2014-15. A Chinese translation appeared with the Shandong Pictorial Publishing House in 2018.

Together with Irene Kacandes, I co-edited the volume Eastern Europe Unmapped (Berghahn Books, 2017), which pushes against the perception that for this part of the world, geography has been destiny. The topic of Eastern Europe beyond its geographical borders runs through my research on the Cold War broadcaster Radio Free Europe. Drawing on the station's corporate archive at the Hoover Institution, I have written book and journal articles about its meanings for televisual history across the Atlantic.

With Michelle Moyd and David Gramling, I co-wrote a programmatic book Linguistic DisobedienceRestoring Power to Civic Language (Palgrave Pivot, 2018). Its gist appears here and here. This project, which appeals to academics as much as to journalists, has been key for compelling me to think more deeply and collaboratively about the political aspects of language use and multilingualism, in particular. This work has grown into the public-facing initiative Political Language in Multilingual Societies. Recent events include a symposium on antifascist language and a workshop on countering the far right in translation. Please get in touch if you are interested in getting involved.

The book that I am currently writing is The Parents of Curious George: The Roots and Routes of Margret and H. A. Rey. It is a biography of the creators of Curious George, one of the world's most famous and successfully marketed literary characters, who were born German-Jewish in Hamburg but went on to live and work on three continents. Frivolous? Nothing of the sort. The book uses biography to probe several key topics deeply. How does the surplus of mobility affect human-animal relations, real and fictional? What role did German Jews play in colonial trade and settler colonialism? What links do popular stories, such as those about Curious George, have to the long history and the oft-racist semantics of commodifying primates in the arts, advertising, consumer goods, and zoos?

To view my academic articles, please go to https://dartmouth.academia.edu/YuliyaKomska

I am passionate about rigorous public writing and have published with The Washington Post, Reuters, The Guardian, The Smithsonian Magazine, Boston Review, Euronews, LA Review of Books, Pacific Standard, and Al Jazeera America. My most recent essay is "On the Wire above the Ruins," about the history and cultural significance of tightrope walking in postwar Germany, in The Cabinet Magazine. I am always thrilled to work with students interested in pursuing this kind of work and frequently assign various forms of public writing in my seminars.

I teach across the German Studies curriculum (including language) and in Comparative Literature, where I am also active in M.A. advising. My teaching interests include, aside from the core German Studies courses, critical animal studies, biography, graphic arts and book illustration, Cold War culture, German environmentalism, propaganda, science fiction under socialism, civic language and linguistic justice, multilingualism and monolingualism, and belonging in Germany.

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Bartlett 304
HB 6084
Comparative Literature
German Studies
Ph.D. Cornell University
M.A. Cornell University
B.A. Colby College

Selected Publications

Yuliya Komska, Michelle Moyd, and David Gramling, Linguistic Disobedience: Restoring Power to Civic Language (Palgrave Pivot, 2018).

Yuliya Komska and Irene Kacandes, eds. Eastern Europe Unmapped: Beyond Borders and Peripheries. New York: Berghahn Books, 2017.

Yuliya Komska. The Icon Curtain: The Cold War's Quiet Border. Chicago: Chicago UP, 2015

Yuliya Komska, “Trade Publisher Archives: Repositories of Monolingualism? Houghton Mifflin and the Rejected Refugee Manuscripts in the Age of Total War,” special issue of Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies (Fall 2017): 275-296.

Yuliya Komska. “Surveillance and the Senses in a Documentary Portrait of Radio Free Europe,” in Secret Police Files from the Eastern Bloc: Between Surveillance and Life Writing, ed. Alison Lewis, Corina Petrescu, and Valentina Glajar, 201-228. New York: Camden House, 2016.

Yuliya Komska. “The Blurred Object of Communist Nostalgia: The Case of Radio Free Europe,” Twentieth Century Communism 11 (Fall 2016): 159-173.

Yuliya Komska. “Sight Radio: Radio Free Europe on Screen, 1951-1965.” In Voices of Freedom—Western Interference? 60 Years of Radio Free Europe in Munich and Prague. Ed. Anna Bischof and Zuzanna Jürgens. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015.

Yuliya Komska. “Theater at the Iron Curtain.” German Studies Review 37:1 (Winter 2014). 87-108.

Yuliya Komska. “Introduction. West Germany’s Cold War Radio: A Crucible of the Transatlantic Century.” Special issue of German Politics and Society 32:1 (Spring 2014). 1-14.

Yuliya Komska, "Why Curious George Did Not Speak: The Conspicuous Multilingualism of Margret and H. A. Rey," German Studies Review 41:3 (2018). 505-528.

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