Issue 4/2009

Pamiętnik Literacki 4 / 2009

Dedication to Professor Alina Brodzka-Wald

“Confessions” of a Positivist. On Bolesław Prus’s “Sins of Childhood”

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Beata Obsulewicz’s sketch is an attempt to explicate the meanings which in Bolesław Prus’s text are connected with the concept of sin. The term “sin” was placed by Prus in the title of his short story, and its narrative structure of is close to a form of a penitent’s revealing his sins while confessing. Such factors add to an interpretation of Sins of Childhood as a specific type of confessions – specific, since modified by humor peculiar to Prus. Seeing the sin as a key to interpret the short story, we may disclose  the mastery of the positivist writer to analyze children and adults character psyches, and the subtle use of biblical tropes, as well as the author’s attitude towards the sin as to an important phenomenon of second part of 19th c. theology and customs. Obsulewicz concludes that Prus, operating according to the idea of organicysm, places the sin mainly on the plane of social relations and only merely signals the references of the sin to the transcendental (God).

Licentious Wokulski. On the Erotic Allusions in Bolesław Prus’ “The Doll”

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The article reflects upon the character of the complex relations of the discourses of modernity with the central thread of The Doll, i.e. Stanislaw Wokulski’s affection for Izabella Łęcka. The author of the paper shows the ostensible inconsistencies and concealments of the work written in 1890 which refer, above all, to sexual issues: the wealthy merchant’s Parisian “debauchery,” and his attitude to a Warsaw prostitute, and to Kazimiera Wąsowska.

In his polemics with the existing readings of The Doll, Forajter proves an analogy between the way Wokulski’s mind is presented and Michael Foucault’s theory of modern subject. Stress is also put on the process of Wokulski’s “liberation” from the limits imposed by sexual discourses: his attitude to prostitution, the idea of marriage, moral norms, etc.

Positivistic Spleens – Eliza Orzeszkowa’s “Melancholy Ones”

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The sketch is an interpretation of a somewhat forgotten Eliza Orzeszkowa’s collection “Melancholy Ones” published in 1896. The texts contained in this collection clearly refer to the issues (the four humors theory, image of Saturn, acedia) and metaphors (a soap-bubble) traditionally linked with melancholy. They are the evidence of the crisis of identity, and of an attempt to undermine the optimistic assumptions of the positivistic world view. The collapse results, among others, from the doubts about scientism, and from the questioning of sensualism and empiricism as methods of understanding the world. The collection is also an unflinching proposal to reject the rules of positivistic prose, since Orzeszkowa  resigns from the auctorial narration and introduces to her stories elements of confession and monologue. It seems, however, that the crisis shown by Orzeszkowa is overcome by the resort to hope which, paradoxically, is an effect of the same tensions and uncertainty as melancholia.

Which Episteme? On the Method, Criteria, and Philosophical Factors of Literary Criticism of the Positivist Great “Trio of Novelists”

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The article is devoted to a reconstruction of the literary critical method as seen in the  Polish Positivism writers. An attempt was made to characterize the method from the point of view of its relationships with the philosophical context of the epoch. Analyzing the critical papers by Prus, Orzeszkowa, Sienkiewicz, and others, the author tries to reconstruct the epistemic basis which shaped the positivist literary critical discourse. The discourse in question reveals certain assumptions (centered around the category of “realism” and its connotations) of metaphysical and epistemological nature, and also referred to a number of procedures used in natural sciences. Positivists called for e.g. application of an objective method of literary text analysis; they also explained phenomena with the help of casual connections, tried to search for general laws, attempted to asses the reality present in a literary work through the prism of its links with the truth of reality verified in intersubjective experience, and made up a specific mode of subjectivity.

“Eugenie Grandet”: Mirrors and Melancholia
Przełożyła Agata Zawiszewska

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Starting point of Naomi Schor’s article is a statement that French literary criticism that refers to Lacan’s considerations sees modern texts, primarily “Bildungsroman” and autobiographies, as developmental saga. Maturation in such saga is understood in accordance with Lacan’s thought as a process of an individual’s necessary passage from the Imaginary into the Symbolic, or a necessary abandonment of a mirror stage for the law of the Father.

Schor formulates a thesis that developmental saga follows a different path from that of feminocentric examples of these genres i.e. such in which maturation of an individual is not linked with overcoming of the mirror stage but with regaining respect by it. It proves possible if the Imaginary is regarded not as a stage to be outgrown, but as an ineradicable constituent of human psyche. Schor proves her thesis when she analyses Balzac’s novel Eugenie Grandet. The heroine of this 19th c. romance about nuclear family succeeds in combining the Imaginary with the Symbolic due to her social position: after the death of her parents she decides to marry a suitor of fortune equal to her under the condition that their marriage was not to be consumed. In this sense she is a virgin and at the same time a wife, thus lives in the world of the Father’s law but does not surrender to them.

Reading Things
Translated from the English by Joanna Sadowska

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The Victorian novel is brimming with things. Little critical attention has been so far drawn to their perplexingly complex meaning. Elaine Freedgood’s leading assumption in The Ideas in Things is that the things of realism are not merely realistic objects, but rather unexplored treasure troves of critical cultural knowledge. In her book, Freedgood “reads” objects with imperial and industrial histories in three Victorian novels. She analyses the meaning of mahogany furniture in Jane Eyre, calico curtains in Mary Barton and “Negro head” tobacco in Great Expectations. By employing Barthes’s concept of the reality effect and the contemporary theoretical perspectives on metonymy, as well as the Marxian notion of the commodity fetish, Freedgood looks into and portrays the characteristics of the Victorian thing culture.

Unusual Case of a “Destroyed” Manuscript. On So-Called Warsaw Manuscript of Juliusz Słowacki’s “Answer to »Psalms of the Future«”

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The text tells about an exceptional case of Juliusz Słowacki’s manuscript, i.e. the second manuscript of the poem Answer to “Psalms of the Future” which survived in the collection of National Library in Warsaw, though in Słowacki’s writings and bibliographies issued after World War II the text is qualified as destroyed in 1944. Correcting this information is an occasion to follow the poem’s first and second manuscript editorial trials and tribulations in collected editions to date.

Sygurd Wiśniowski’s Letters to Józef Ignacy Kraszewski (1877–1881)

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The paper contains texts with explanations of so far unpublished letters by Sygurd Wiśniowski (1841–1892) – a traveler, polyglot, author of articles published in periodicals in many foreign countries, and also literary texts unknown to a wider public – to Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, one of the most eminent and productive Polish novelists. The letters come from the years 1877–1881, and touch upon a number of vital subjects.

Unknown Letters by Bolesław Prus and Oktawia Głowacka to Julian Ochorowicz

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The paper contains texts with commentaries of the so far unpublished letters by Bolesław Prus and his wife to a philosopher, psychologist, and medium phenomena researcher Julian Ochorowicz. The letters in question were written in 1900 during holidays which, thanks to Ochorowicz, Prus spent in Wisła.


On Ethnic Minorities in Bolesław Prus’s Journalism

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Among the many subjects Bolesław Prus dealt with in his journalistic practice is the problem of Polish attitude to national minorities. Apart from Prus’s repeatedly and penetratingly discussed Jewish, German (already discerned by literary historians) and Russian issues – also comprehensive but still demanding further research – worthy of notice are Ruthenian (Ukrainian), Lithuanian, Czech questions, taken up less often but with an intention of developing the examination perspective. Commenting on them, Prus yielded the then Polish moods, sometimes failed to go beyond contemporary evaluations, but usually advocated the idea of agreement of the Slaves (which is to be distinguished from Pan-Slavism).

Such approach to the  issues of ethnic communities that make up the Polish social organism is an effect of Prus’s conscious strategy dealing with presenting the coexistence of similar phenomena and of their mutual fluctuations. The journalist’s remarks are set into a broader context of positivist reflections on the antonymy of the “familiar” and “foreign”. These two are made dissimilar from other commentaries of that time by an ambition of expressing the real reasons for tensions, an attempt to raise above ethnic stereotypes, nationalisms, xenophobia, megalomania. Traits of didacticism, being characteristic of Prus’s journalistic writing, is also present in his treatment of the issues in question. Convinced of educational values of every situation, Prus called for gaining knowledge from those situations about oneself and about other nations, enhanced sound and fair competition and resort to experience gained by the “foreigners”, who – when proved useful for the Polish society – might deserve the status of “one of us”.

Review: Adam Mickiewicz, Dzieła. Wydanie Rocznicowe. Redakcja naczelna: Zbigniew Jerzy Nowak, Maria Prussak, Zofia Stefanowska, Czesław Zgorzelski. T. 1–17. Warszawa 1993–2005

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The review accurately discusses the latest critical 17 volumes Works by Adam Mickiewicz, prepared by a group of the most outstanding specialists in this matter, as regards the editorial achievements, and points at some scanty faults found in this edition.

Review: Stefan Sawicki, Wartość – sacrum – Norwid. Studia i szkice aksjologicznoliterackie. Lublin 1994. „Literatura w Kręgu Wartości”. Pod redakcją Stefana Sawickiego. – Stefan Sawicki, Wartość – sacrum – Norwid. 2. Studia i szkice aksjologicznoliterackie. Lublin 2007. „Literatura w Kręgu Wartości”. Pod redakcją Stefana Sawickiego

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The text is an insightful report on two books by Stefan Sawicki included under the common title Wartość – sacrum – Norwid (Value – sacrum – Norwid). It is performed from the perspective of an axiological theory of poetry (literature) projected by Sawicki against the achievements of the academic community centered around the author at the Catholic University of Lublin.

Review: Barbara Noworolska, Eliza Orzeszkowa. Trwanie, pamięć, historia. Białystok 2005

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The review discusses Barbara Noworolska’s book devoted to the three fundamental problems of Eliza Orzeszkowa’s prose, which are estate duration, patriotism, and history.

Review: Beata Utkowska, Poza powieścią. Małe formy epickie Reymonta. Kraków (2004)

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The text is a description of Beata Utkowska’s book on Władysław Reymont’s short literary pieces. Apart from arranging Reymont’s whole short story writing (the published and also that which is left as a project or still unfinished), Utkowska suggests a new insights into the author of Peasants: she breaks with the view on him as on a peasant problems specialists and allows to see him most of all a representative of his epoch.

Review: Andriej Moskwin, Stanisław Przybyszewski w kulturze rosyjskiej końca XIX – początku XX wieku. Pod redakcją naukową Jana Koźbiała. Warszawa 2007. „Druga Europa”. Seria monografii interkulturowych Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej. Pod redakcją Jana Koźbiała. Tom 1

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The review discusses a monograph (which is a PhD thesis defended at the Institute of Polish Culture, Polish Faculty, Warsaw University) by Andriej Moskwin devoted to the lot of Stanisław Przybyszewski’s literary creativity in Russia around the turn of 19th and 20th c. (1894–1917). The book is valued as a reliable and highly interesting study as far as the material is concerned, it exhaustively analyses all Russian translations of Przybyszewski’s works, their reviews, theatre performances, and screen adaptations. Reproached in the review  are the aspect of literary kinship to which little attention is paid, leaving the puzzles of reception history referring to e.g. the attitude of most eminent symbolists to the Polish writer unsettled, and the absence of the analysis of Russian inspirations in Przybyszewski’s literary creativity.

Review: Mirosław Wójcik, Pan na Gorzeniu. Życie i twórczość Emila Zegadłowicza. Kielce 2005

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The review discusses Mirosław Wójcik’s book. Using unknown to a wider public materials collected in Zegadłowicz’s archive in Gorzeń Górny, Wójcik gives a thorough and detailed portrait of Zegadłowicz. The perspective Wójcik adopts when he concentrates more on Zegadłowicz’s biography than on his literary achievements raises the timely and discussed many times issue of justification of biography in literary creativity research.

Review: Peter Stockwell, Poetyka kognitywna. Wprowadzenie. Przekład Anna Skucińska. Redakcja naukowa Elżbieta Tabakowska. Kraków (2006)

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The review discusses Peter Stockwell’s book Cognitive Poetics. An Introduction. A principle in cognitive analysis of literature is the treatment of the text, reading, receiver and context as a whole. Such research perspective is based on the view that vast majority of literary theory notions can be linked to discoveries in cognitive sciences, the examples of which the author shows in his book.

Obituary: Mieczysław Klimowicz (December 14th, 1919 – August 26th, 2008)

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The text is a remembrance of Professor Mieczysław Klimowicz, an outstanding Enlightenment literature expert, especially Ignacy Krasicki’s literary creativity, and 18th century theatre. Professor Klimowicz was also a distinguished scholar in his researches into cultural borderline phenomena, most of all Polish-German ones, likewise examined the Polish-French and Polish-Italian relationships which resulted both in his comparative studies and in arranging scholarly cooperation between different countries.

Obituary: Eligiusz Szymanis (June 11th, 1955 – August 17th, 2009)

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The text is a remembrance of a distinguished romantic literature scholar, Eligiusz Szymanis, a brilliant academic teacher who worked for many years at theUniversity of Warsaw, Polish Faculty.

Letter to the Editorial Board
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