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New Perspective on Polish Culture

Private Encounters, Public Affairs
Edited by: Tamara Trojanowska, Artur Placzkiewicz, Agnieszka Polakowska, and Olga Ponichtera


Advance Praise for New Perspectives on Polish Culture

“This volume takes a giant step towards filling a noticeable gap in the study of Polish culture. It is perhaps the first major English-language collection to cover a wide range of contemporary authors and critical approaches to culture, bringing North American Polonists into dialogue with the best literary critics working in Poland today. At the heart of New Perspectives lies a series of fundamental questions about the dichotomy of the public/private, the individual and collective life, as it is expressed in Polish literature. This topos is treated historically in terms of the legacy of nineteenth-century Romanticism and nationalism; metaphysically, as a key to the modernist struggle with selfhood and being; cathartically, describing contemporary Poland’s attempts to publicly narrate its traumatic past; and ultimately, transnationally, as part of a larger negotiation of identity to reconcile its diasporic elements with the national canon at home. Well-established scholars from both sides of the Atlantic write alongside exciting new voices in the field to bring figures under-recognized in English-language criticism into view—most notably Miron Białoszewski, the poets of bruLion, and a new generation of Polish playwrights and directors. Indeed, the most important contribution made by New Perspectives is that it will begin to redraw the outlines of the twentieth- and twenty-first-century Polish literary canon itself, particularly for an English-speaking audience.”
—Jessie Labov, Ohio State University

“This book presents the work of some of the most outstanding scholars of Polish Studies on topics of interest to the entire intellectual community working on both sides of the Atlantic. The book is well conceived and broadly representative of new approaches to Polish culture. The papers pertain to Polish poetry, prose, and drama, and cover the most salient areas of the landscape of Polish culture. All of the authors show a great familiarity with literary theory and philosophy, and with the literature of their fields. Faithful to their belief in interdisciplinarity, some of them also talk about history and politics, making the volume alive with passion and polemics. I believe this book will become an indispensable volume for anyone who works on or teaches not only Polish studies, but also contemporary European cultures in general.”
—Irena Grudzińska Gross, Princeton University

“The relationship between the collective and the private lies at the very heart of the modern sense of individual identity, and rarely has it been articulated more saliently then in the works of Polish writers over the last three hundred years. The essays collected in this wide-ranging volume constitute an attempt to rethink and recontextualize this relationship from a variety of theoretical and philosophical positions, but always with a view toward situating the specificity of its Polish reflexes within the broader discourses that inform late modernity. In bringing together scholars from Poland, the UK, and North America, New Perspectives on Polish Culture at the same time evinces the vibrancy, freshness, and intellectual engagement of contemporary Polish literary scholarship as it progresses into the twenty-first century.”
—Roman Koropeckyj, University of California–Los Angeles

“This volume of essays offers a wide array of original readings on the vigorous metamorphosis of Polish culture within the framework of European modernity. In their critical reinterpretation of Polish artistic oeuvres, the writers emphasize current and crucial issues while maintaining a cultural connection with the past, and at the same time they form original views of a collective and individual existence striving to recover what once was unsaid, silenced, or shattered in Polish society. The collection links the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries in Polish culture: from a noteworthy interpretation of Adam Mickiewicz’s masterpiece Forefathers’ Eve through significant discussions of works written by Witold Gombrowicz, Czesław Miłosz, Tadeusz Kantor, Sławomir Mrożek, and Tadeusz Różewicz to the poets of the bruLion generation. These essays examine, among other issues, ethical and aesthetic problems; the relation between the private and the public; the question of the personal and the historical; and reflections on World War II, the Holocaust, Communism, Solidarity, and exile. New Perspectives on Polish Culture constitutes important and valuable scholarship in the field of Polish Studies.”
—Anna Gasienica-Byrcyn, University of Illinois–Chicago

About the Editors

Tamara Trojanowska is an associate professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto whose specialities include the theory of theatre, discourses of identity, and Polish literature of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Artur Płaczkiewicz is a lecturer in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto who specializes in modern Polish literature, especially twentieth-century poetry. Agnieszka Polakowska is a graduate student at the University of Toronto whose doctoral dissertation examines the intersections between theories of literary ethics and historically referential Polish literature. Olga Ponichtera is a graduate student at the University of Toronto who is completing her doctoral dissertation on Tadeusz Różewicz’s late poetry.

Cover illustration by the late Jerzy Kołacz


New Perspective on Polish Culture, edited by Tamara Trojanowska, Artur Placzkiewicz, Agnieszka Polakowska, and Olga Ponichtera Published by PIASA Books, an imprint of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America.
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