Polish Culture and Society

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Literature in Translation 243

Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures
Spring 1992
Instructor: Dr. Halina Filipowicz

Course Description:

A study of central issues in Polish culture in their historical context. These issues include: a struggle for independence from foreign occupation; the experience of Nazi and Soviet totalitarianism; Polish-Jewish relations; conceptions of national selfhood and destiny; emigration; visions of Poland as the Savior and as a vampire.

Course Objectives:

(1) to challenge stereotypical ways of viewing Polish culture; (2) to interpret Polish culture within its European context (what does Polish culture share with the rest of Europe? what sets Polish culture apart?); (3) to view literature as a complex coding mechanism to "process" reality (if literature does not necessarily reflect reality, what does it really do?)

Course Policy:

This is a lecture-discussion class, therefore attendance is mandatory. Since your participation in class discussions counts toward the final grade, you are allowed only three absences. If you are absent, it is your responsibility to find out from another student what was covered in class.

The course is open only to students enrolled and to registered auditors.

Required Books:

Adam Michnik, Letters from Prison
Roman Laba, The Roots of Solidarity
Andrzej Walicki, The Three Traditions of Polish Patriotism and Their Contemporary Relevance
Tadeusz Borowski, This way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
Tadeusz Konwicki, The Polish Complex

Recommended Additional Readings:

Czeslaw Milosz, The History of Polish Literature (on reserve)
Neal Ascherson, The Struggles for Poland (on reserve)
Norman Davies, God's Playground: A History of Poland, 2 vols. (on reserve)
__________, Heart of Europe: A Short History of Poland
Timothy Garton Ash, The Polish Revolution: Solidarity (on reserve)
__________, The Uses of Adversity
John J. Bukowczyk, And My Children Did Not Know Me: A History of the Polish Americans (on reserve)
Lech Walesa, A Way of Hope
Jozef Tischner, The Spirit of Solidarity
__________, Marxism and Christianity
Stanislaw Baranczak, Breathing under Water and Other East European Essays (on reserve)
Jan Kott (ed.), Four Decades of Polish Essays (on reserve)
Anna Pawelczynska, Values and Violence in Auschwitz
Alexander Hertz, The Jews in Polish Culture (on reserve)
Helena Goscilo (ed.), Russian and Polish Women's Fiction (on reserve)
Tadeusz Karolak, John Paul II: The Pope from Poland (on reserve)
Janusz Glowacki, Journey to Gdansk (on reserve)
International Popular Culture, vol. 3 (1985), a special issue on the art of Solidarity (on reserve)
The Drama Review, vol. 30 (Fall 1986), a special issue entitled "From the Love Affair with Communism to Theatre under Martial Law" (on reserve)
"No Sacred Cows [an interview with Anna Bojarska]." The WomenÕs Review of Books, vol. 7, nos. 10-11 (July 1990), 4-6.

Course Requirements:

  1. Completing reading assignments on time.
  2. Attendance and active participation in class discussions.
  3. A journal (diary) of your responses to readings, videos, and discussions (for detailed instructions, see below). The journal will also require a final statement - a summary of your responses to the questions and issues raised in the class.
  4. A paper approximately ten pages long which will draw on a number of readings and ideas to "argue a case."

    The journal is a way to practice critical thinking, that is, the ability to sort through stacks of complex information, to evaluate it, and to draw conclusions. Writing is a form of thinking. It helps us decide what we really think.

    "I have to write in order to think" (Stanislawa Przybyszewska).

    The journal is for informal, spontaneous writing. Write down: 1) your questions and observations about the readings; 2) your responses to lectures, videos, and class discussions. What did you have difficulty with? What interested you the most and why? Use the journal to play with ideas, to try things out.

    Please remember that literature has its own logic and laws which do not always coincide with the logic of life. The task of literature is not necessarily to provide a mirror image of reality. Keep in mind that there is no single or correct interpretation of an artistic work. DonÕt be afraid to wonder and err, but always think critically and support your statements with references to the work (or works) you are discussing.

    Write approximately seven pages a week. I will periodically check on the progress of your journal. Use a separate notebook. If you use computer print-outs, each time submit the entire journal: previous sections with my comments as well as the current installment.

    Assignments should be read by the day they are to be discussed. Books must be brought to class.

Reading assignments:

  1. An overview of Poland's cultural history:
    Neal Ascherson, The Struggles for Poland (ch. 1)
    Norman Davies, God's Playground: A History of Poland, 2 vols. (recommended)
    The Polish Phoenix (video): Part I: "Piast Poland"; Part II: "Jagiellonian Poland"
  2. The Polish Phoenix (video): Part III: "Gentry Commonwealth" (1574-1795); Part IV: "Romantic and Modern Poland" (1796-1945); Piotr Wandycz, "Poland in World History: Inspiration or Trouble-Maker?"
  3. Andrzej Walicki, The Three Traditions of Polish Patriotism and Their Contemporary Relevance
  4. /5
  5. The past in Poland's present:
    Stefan Zeromski, "Forest Echoes"
    Tadeusz Konwicki, The Polish Complex
    Jerzy Krzyzanowski's article about The Polish Complex in The Polish Review, no. 1 (1980), 98-110. (recommended)
  6. Emigration:
    Henryk Sienkiewicz, "The Lighthouse Keeper"
    Emigration archives in the State Historical Library
    John J. Bukowczyk, And My Children Did Not Know Me: A History of the Polish-Americans (recommended)
  7. The Struggles for Poland, Part I: Once Upon a Time (1900-1923) (video)
    The Struggles for Poland (ch. 2)
    Part II: A False Dawn (1921-1939) (video)
    The Struggles for Poland (ch. 3)
  8. Part III: A Different World (1919-1943) (video)
  9. /10
  10. World War II and the Occupation:
    Part IV: Occupation (1939-1945) (video)
    The Struggles for Poland (ch. 4)
    Tadeusz Rozewicz, "The Survivor," "A Visit," "A Tree"
    Tadeusz Borowski, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
    Zofia Nalkowska, selected stories
    Maria Dabrowska, "On a Beautiful Summer Morning"
    Kazimierz Brandys, "How to Be Loved"
    Primo Levi, "Beyond Judgment"
  11. Polish-Jewish Relations:
    Jan Blonski, "The Poor Poles Look at the Ghetto"
    Czeslaw Milosz, "Campo di Fiori"
    Israel Shahak, "'The Life of Death': An Exchange"
    Adam Michnik, "Poland and the Jews"
    "Polish-Jewish Relations during the Second World War: A Discussion" (a reprint from Polin: A Journal of Polish-Jewish Studies, vol. 2 (1987)
    Aleksander Hertz, The Jews in Polish Culture (recommended)
    Part V: Friends and Neighbours (1939-1945) (video)
    The Struggles for Poland (ch. 5)
  12. Part VI: Bright Days of Tomorrow (1945-1956) (video)
    The Struggles for Poland (ch. 6)
    Marek Hlasko, "The First Step in the Clouds"
  13. -14
    The Roots of Solidarity:
    Roman Laba, The Roots of Solidarity
    Adam Michnik, Letters from Prison
    Part VII: The Sweepers of Squares (1956-1970) (video)
    Part VIII: "In This Life (1900-1979)" (video)
    Part IX: "The Workers' State (1979-1987)" (video)
    Struggles for Poland (ch. 8 & 9)
    Marek Nowakowski, "The Peacock"

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