Monash University

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Kosovo mythology: imagining Serbian national subjectivity in cultural productions from the fourteenth century until today

posted on 2017-02-26, 23:36 authored by Jakica, Lara
This thesis seeks to examine the development of Serbian national mythology and the formation of a national sensibility as it relates to the 1389 Kosovo battle. In Serbian political and cultural discourse, Kosovo is often used as a metaphor for patriotism and addressed as a foundation stone of Serbian national identity. References to medieval Kosovo can be found everywhere, in literature, music, art, religion and politics, which incorporate the Kosovo signifier into the symbolic order of Serbian national discourse. Many Serbian heroes and noblemen who took part and died in the battle of Kosovo have been canonised by the Serbian Orthodox Church, while their deeds have become a moral codex encrypted in the poetry of the oral tradition of story-telling. There are many historical, anthropological, religious and political approaches which examine the significance of this event, including literary and art criticism in which the story of Kosovo has taken a particularly important place. This thesis considers and acknowledges different approaches to this topic and offers detailed readings of specific elements of texts of popular culture – film, poetry, popular songs, and the whole semiotics of nationalism in public life – produced in the Milošević era up to the present, which incorporate the Kosovo mythology with a specific cultural or political agenda. While this agenda is not difficult to decode – it serves the function of rousing popular support for groups and parties which have very little else to offer except jingoistic nationalism - the questions raised and answered in this thesis concern the political and cultural unconscious which makes the exploitation of the historical myth of Kosovo still possible and effective in the era of post-Communist, post-capitalist Serbia. In order to tackle the historical unconscious which grounds popular culture texts from 1989-2013, the thesis relies on the theoretical apparatus of psychoanalysis, in particular the theory of subjectivity of Jacques Lacan, supplemented by the theory of memory of theorists such as Duncan Bell, Dominick LaCapra and Aleida Assmann for example. Understanding the impact of Kosovo mythology in contemporary popular culture texts in Serbia involves close reading and analysis of specific texts, such as early literature and poetry on the battle of Kosovo as well as more recent texts based on reference to medieval Kosovo. This dissertation is the first study to apply a Lacanian psychoanalytic reading of Serbian epic poetry and its traces in contemporary poetry and visual art, and will produce a richer picture of the way Kosovo mythology operates in subject formation in contemporary Serbian culture.


Principal supervisor

Christiane Weller

Additional supervisor 1

Slobodanka Vladiv-Glover

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics


Doctor of Philosophy

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Campus location



Faculty of Arts

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