Issue 2/2015

Pamiętnik Literacki 2 / 2015

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Józef Ignacy Kraszewski Towards European Civilisation Progress. On the Margin of Travel Account

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Kraszewski’s understanding of progress is composed of many elements: knowledge of natural sciences, technical inventions awareness, supported by professional archive research in history and the processes that control it, observation of economical, industrial and social changes in Poland and in Europe, as well as perfect education in art history and the ability of defining the development of particular aesthetic styles. Kraszewski’s attitude to the quickly developing European civilisation evolved. He used the categories of progress to observe the social situation of Volhynia, where he lived, the arising in Warsaw consumerist lifestyle and the Western Europe economical development, the expressions of which are his memories entitled Kartki z podróży (Notes from Travels). In the collection Kraszewski highlights lifestyle unification and decline of national values. Under the cover of easier, more comfortable and more ordered than in the East existence, he finds scratches, cracks, bursts, and traits of future ruin. The novelist, as earlier the Enlightened critics of the idea of progress did, rejects the praise of progressivism based on appearances, and looks for solid ethical fundaments in the real manifestations of contemporary to him economical life, as well as in buildings and in monuments of national history. He is interested in the progress based on the best Mediterranean tradition which also respects individual and national realisations.

From Brazil to Poland. Peasants, Nation and Literature in Public Discourse at the Turn of 19th and 20th c. (Maria Konopnicka’s “Pan Balcer w Brazylii” <“Mr. Balcer in Brazil”>)

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The author interprets Maria Konopnicka’s Pan Balcer w Brazylii (Mr. Balcer in Brazil) as a voice in public debate at the turn of 19th and 20th c. about the issue of nationalisation of peasants. The analysis of selected literary motifs which organise the poem’s plot, as e.g. land (patrimony), religion, history, sacrifice, allow for discerning Konopnicka’s key categories of the notion of nation. The work also includes a metaliterary reflection which takes up the problem of function of literature in the nation-forming process. Factors contained in the text lead to a suggestion that it was not much a record of existing national relationships, but rather a project of their creation. Konopnicka’s poem is an example of “looking for folk tradition” by the intellectuals at the turn of centuries. The author of the paper tries to settle the problem referring to the reasons of the phenomenon’s intensification, and wants to describe its mechanism, circumstances, and meaning.

“And so we have a new shop...” A Picture of Modern Consumptionism Birth in Bolesław Prus’ “Lalka” (“The Doll”)

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The picture of consumptionism emerging from Prus’ novel is torn between yearning for past style of commerce and awareness of its inadequacy to the market reality contemporary to the author. Lalka (The Doll) understood in this mode may be regarded not only as a metaphor of 19th c. consumerist society, but also as a manifestation of reflection over daily life mechanisation.

At the same time, ethical values followed by the novel’s protagonist in his trade were both worthy of regard and necessary in the second half of the 19th c. society; they are tied to a universal ethical project realisable nowadays. Thus, Prus’ reflection over trade ethics may now become an indicator of the trader ethics evolution in the days of “consumerist society” heyday.

Bolesław Prus and Doubtful Glare of Progress

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Industrialisation, cities concentration, technical progress and disseminating its results, emancipation processes of groups and social classes to date excluded from the dominating discourse, birth and development of the bourgeoisie – Prus touched upon all those issues continuously “testing” Polish society for the phenomena and categories listed above. The examination was usually unfavourable: Poles are in a state of civilisational backwardness and may become either mere consumers or followers of Western experiences, a society of peripheral modernisation.

The progress was supposed to bring about various valuable changes. However, as it seems, Prus’ writing about the benefits of modernisation, along with a conviction (quite characteristic of the epoch) about inescapable happiness to which steam engine, railroad, telegraph and other discoveries and inventions contribute, fear and doubt are awakened. The creativity is primarily marked by a communicational drama taking place in the society in which interpersonal bonds now cease to exist.

Joseph Conrad and Polish Historical Experience. Literary, Biographical, and Political Discourse in “Prince Roman”

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The article concerns a story, usually seen by Conrad scholars as a simple example of reference to Polish history and situated at two research levels, namely romantic and biographical. The aim of the article is to indicate the ambiguity of the two approaches, mainly due to majority of literary games depriving the piece of documentary text simplicity, and also the story’s background about patriotic dedication which adds new cultural and political references to the text.

The Problem of Time Awareness in Maria Kuncewiczowa’s “Dyliżans Warszawski” (“Warsaw Stage Coach”)

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The article is devoted to time awareness which characterises city observations and its inhabitants in Maria Kuncewiczowa’s collection of sketches Dyliżans warszawski (Warsaw Stage Coach). The collection was first published in 1935, and after the Second World War other editions followed, supplemented by texts written from the postwar perspective of loss. Time awareness and perception of the past connected with it in Warsaw Stage Coach is of double nature: in the 1935 edition it focuses on the changes “today” against “yesterday,” and in the postwar one it is marked by a feeling of an epoch’s end. The reflections about the end of the prewar world correspond to those expressed in Kuncewiczowa’s other pieces, e.g. Klucze (Keys), Fantomy (Phantoms), and in interviews with her. Important in Warsaw Stage Coach is also the relation of private memory to common memory and the perception of the function of things in retaining the past.

Problems of Semiological Perspective. The Case of Tzvetan Todorov’s “La Conquête de l’Amérique. La question de l’autre” (“The Conquest of America. The Question of the Other”)

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The article raises a reflection about the problems which are brought about when semiological approach is applied to interpret complex historical processes. A good example of such semiological understanding of the phenomena, which earlier were researched by historiography and anthropology, is 1982 Tzvetan Todorov’s essay La Conquête de l’Amérique. La question de l’autre (The Conquest of America. The Question of the Other). The article thoroughly describes the origin of the book and critically analyses its first two parts. It also calls into question the validity and consistency of the generalisation it presents and reveals that Todorov to a great extent rests on stereotypes, simplifications and incomplete data, all of which he arranges in such a way to be able to prove his far-reaching hypotheses.

Originals or Imitations? On “Most Real” Polish Haiku

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The article presents analyses of a numerous group of Polish contemporary poems which are close to genre determinants of haiku. The key categories of description are sensual mimesis and modern epiphany. The author pays attention to the traps the poets producing the miniatures inspired by Japanese 17-syllable poems may fall into, which are, on the one hand, triviality and antitheticality of compositions, and, on the other hand, excessive (in the perspective of haiku) stylistic richness and intellectualisation of the pieces. The following parts of the sketch are devoted to the strategies of refreshing the poetics of the genre: perception defamiliarisation of metaphorisation and conceptism. The author also focuses on strictly semantic issues: using ambiguity, exploiting oriental topoi, transgressing the taboo of haiku – erotism, death. The final part of the paper provides an answer to the question whether the authors of “most real” Polish haiku are continuators of Eastern tradition or epigones.

Sienkiewicz, General Custer and Indians

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The article presents Henryk Sienkiewicz as the author of reports written during his stay in the USA between 1876–1878 and published in “Gazeta Polska” (“Polish Gazette”) as Listy z podróży do Ameryki (Letters from America). It focuses mostly on the account from his meeting with the Sioux, two months before general Custer’s famous Battle of the Little Bighorn River with the Indians, on the impressions from this meeting and on Sienkiewicz’s further reflections connected with it, as well as sketches the circumstances of the mentioned battle. The article concludes with the remarks on Sienkiewicz’s return to Indian issues in his short stories Orso and Sachem.

Stefan Żeromski and Leo Tolstoy’s Jubilee

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Published here is an unknown Stefan Żeromski’s statement on the occasion of Leo Tolstoy’s eightieth birthday celebrated in the year 1908 in Russia. Following the Russian papers request, opinions about Tolstoy’s role and place in European literature were sent by, inter alia, Bolesław Prus, Eliza Orzeszkowa, Henryk Sienkiewicz, and their statements were published in the Russian press. Żeromski also prepared his opinion, but it was not published since it fundamentally differed from the opinions by the authors mentioned above. Żeromski sees and values the greatness of Tolstoy’s works though he regrets that Tolstoy, showing his sensitivity to harm and injustice and defending humanistic values, fails to notice, as generally Russian writers did, the multitude of harm and misfortunes the Polish nation suffered from Russian captivity and oppression.

World Literature in the Time of the Great War (1914–1918). Jan Paweł Kaczkowski as an Actor of Polish-German-Belgian Literary Transfer

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The territories that were occupied during the First World War by the Central Powers are rarely described in the categories of unique spaces of cultural exchange. However, archive materials recently rendered available offer a description and research of transnational cultural mobility between the years 1914–1918. The present article presents an example of a practical realisation of the Great War global intellectual history. An illustration of it is the activity of Jan Paweł Kaczkowski (pen name Jean Paul d’Ardeschah) in the field of Polish-German and German-Belgian cultural transfer. Kaczkowski’s work served as a starting point for, first of all, the analysis of the place occupied by minor European literatures on the German book market and, second of all, to construct a general model presenting the function of literary field in the time of war.

“Mexicanidad” à la Wańkowicz

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The article is devoted to Mexico, Melchior Wańkowicz’s great and unfulfilled fascination. The writer related to this country in his early essay W kościołach Meksyku (In the Churches of Mexico) which is an effect of his 1926 three months expedition taken in order to describe the conflict between the country and the Catholic Church, as well as fragments of American trilogy W ślady Kolumba (Following Columbus) with impression from his next journey in 1961. Traces of Mexican adventures can also be found in the correspondence between Wańkowicz and his wife (King i Królik. Korespondencja Zofii i Mechiora Wańkowiczów <King and Rabbit. Correspondence between Zofia and Melchior Wańkiwicz>) which is also referred to in the article.

Attempting to describe the phenomenon of the Mexicanness (mexicanidad), which so much captivated the father of Polish journalism, the author of the article resorts to, inter alia, Octavio Paz’s essay (El labiryntode la soledad <The Labirynth of Solitude>) and to academic assumptions of Tadeusz Łepkowski collected in his Historia Meksyku (A History of Mexico). Analysing autobiographical and bibliographical threads concerning Wańkowicz’s creativity, she also calls into question attributing him the authorship of a popular in The Inter War Period brochure about peyote, a psychotropic substance obtained from a plant growing in Mexico (Czciciele ś-go kaktusa <Adorers of St. Cactus>).

Nowacka admits that Wańkowicz possessed all the characteristics to find a deep connection with Mexico, yet his fascination remained unfulfilled. He lived his life closely tied to the rhythm of 20th c. world history, so his literary passions were realised in the Revolutionary Russia, occupied Poland, Nazi Germany, and post-war America.

Holy War of Cleanness
Review: Piotr Oczko, Miotła i krzyż. Kultura sprzątania w dawnej Holandii, albo Historia pewnej obsesji. Kraków 2013. „Biblioteka Tradycji”. No CXX

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The review discusses Piotr Oczko’s book, the first lengthy attempt at presenting a common in Holland cult of cleaning over a span of history. The description of unusual Dutch practices of keeping order contained in the study refers to, following the New Historicism assumptions, the presentation of more significant issues, as e.g. national identity and its formation, relation with God and world, morality, middle-class ethos, or the Northern Netherlands social relations.

Everyday Life (of) the 19th Century Novel. The Case of Kraszewski
Review: Agnieszka Czajkowska, Kraszewski nieubrany. Szkice. Częstochowa 2012. „Studia o Literaturze XIX i XX Wieku”. Vol. III

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Agnieszka Czajkowska’s book Kraszewski nieubrany. Szkice (Kraszewski Undressed. Sketches) is a collection of interesting essays not only for historians and history of Polish 19th c. literature researchers, but also for all Kraszewski’s readers. Fiction writing and literary critical activity of Józef Ignacy Kraszewski are in Czajkowska’s book confronted with the creativity of such figures as Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Słowacki, Cyprian Norwid Norwid, Aleksander Świętochowski, Piotr Chmielowski, Tadeusz Konwicki and Witold Gombrowicz.

Comparative Studies Today. Comparative Studies, Crisis, and Literary Studies
Review: Komparatystyka dzisiaj. Edited by Ewa Szczęsna, Edward Kasperski. Vol. 1: Problemy teoretyczne. Kraków 2010. Vol. 2: Interpretacje. Warszawa 2011

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The text discusses the place of comparative studies in contemporary humanities as based on two volume publication Comparative Studies Today.  The author revises standpoints in this matter assuming that comparative studies as a discipline and a specific form of academic discourse may be seen as a perfect laboratory to demonstrate the condition of the humanities as such, the paragon of which the book in question.

Kazimierz Bartoszyński (January 7th, 1921 – January 26th, 2015). Obituary

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The text depicts the figure of professor Kazimierz Bartoszyński (died January this year), a remarkable scholar, distinguished literary historian and literary theorist. It recalls the researcher’s scholarly achievements and focuses on the doctrines which had most considerable influence on his work, i.e. phenomenology, structuralism, and hermeneutics. The closing part of the texts contains memories of the author’s private contacts with Bartoszyński.

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