Understanding the motivation behind the compilation of a collected anthology prompts "not only a question of what we collect, but why," argued Olena Haleta, Associate Professor, Literary Theory and Comparative Studies, Ivan Franko Lviv University, Lviv, Ukraine, and Fulbright-Kennan Scholar, Kennan Institute. At an 8 February 2011 Kennan Institute discussion, Haleta expounded upon the history of anthologies in modern Ukrainian literature, as well as the politics behind compiling such canons.

The first modern anthologies in Ukraine appeared in the last quarter of the 19th century, Haleta noted, and as the amount of available literature increased, so did the number of anthologies. The first two anthologies published in Ukraine—the first in 1881, the second in 1900—followed a process of shaping the general idea about Ukrainian national literature, according to Haleta. The development of such collections of publications prevents an editor from being an unbiased compiler. As the authenticity of any canon of literature is shaped, Haleta explained the anthologist must select particular volumes for inclusion. Thus, the collection takes on a particular vision of the literature it contains, ultimately adding a degree of politics to the anthology.

Haleta emphasized that the evolution of literary anthologies in Ukraine has notable historical value—in analyzing which pieces are compiled within an anthology, the reasons why they were chosen for inclusion become clear. As these collections are naturally politicized, Haleta asserted that these anthologies can influence the understanding of Ukraine's national literary history.

In conclusion, the speaker noted that the debate over the tradition of literary anthologies in Ukraine is not exclusively historical in nature—indeed, the conversation is ongoing. "The first attempt to open this tradition for discussion was at the same time an attempt to create a new canon of literature," Haleta noted, adding, "The creation of anthologies was also a creation of literature."

By Amy Liedy
Blair Ruble, Director, Kennan Institute