“Our Embattled Humanity”: Global Literature in an Authoritarian Age

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During the Cold War, a large percentage of the world’s population was governed by authoritarian regimes. The practices and effects of dictatorship became central concerns of global literature, which was often obstructed by systems of persecution and constraint, although also inspired to evermore inventive forms of ideological and stylistic dissidence. Drawing on the burgeoning field of human rights scholarship, this chapter analyses some of the major genres and themes that characterised anti-authoritarian writing across the blocs, examining writers’ advocacy of gender equality, ethnic equality, creative freedom, economic justice and the equal right to citizenship and material well-being. As the chapter argues, literature did more than any official pronouncement in the Cold War era to establish universal rights in the global imaginary.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Cold War Literature
EditorsAndrew Hammond
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)9783030389734
ISBN (Print)9783030389727
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Cold War
  • authoritarianism
  • human rights
  • censorship
  • oppositional literature


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