Closure of Conference project. Post-Conference Plans

Many many thanks to everyone who participated in the conference, to all those who presented papers, read their poetry or translations, contributed to discussions or just came to listen.

This blog will remain open as a record of the conference proceedings and will continue to include the programme, the abstracts of the presentations and the short biographies of the participants.

We have removed the conference papers from this site because we intend to include revised versions in a post-conference book. This book will not be a representation of the conference proceedings as such, however, but a volume of articles roughly reflecting the structure of the conference. The book will be edited by Ursula Philips, supported by a team of advisers (Urszula Chowaniec, Knut Andreas Grimstad, Kris Van Heuckelom and Elwira Grossman). It is expected that the volume will appear in 2013.

Should anyone wish to contact the authors of papers or read the original papers, please contact the conference organizer.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Elwira Grossman

Transnational or bi-cultural? Challenges in reading post-1989 drama written ‘outside the nation’

By comparing and contrasting two plays written ‘outside the nation:’ Głowacki’s Antigone in New York (1992) and Grosvenor’s Cherry Blossom (2008), the paper explores the possibility of creating a transnational drama that is supposed to facilitate mutual understanding and intercultural experience.

Jan Kott pronounced Antigone in New York to be one of the three most important Polish plays in recent years, meaning the last few decades of the twentieth century.  And although, in my reading, the Polish version is hardly a clone of the English original, the texts’ differences have been mostly ignored by critics and scholars. Moreover, the mistaken assumption that the original play was written in English and its Polish ‘translation’ has been linguistically amended for the sake of the Polish audience has not been questioned either. This duality of perception indicates that the play has happily led a dual rather than a transnational existence and while it subverted one set of myths, it almost inadvertently perpetuated another due to the fact that the dramatic convention left the linguistic reality of migrants out of the text.

The challenge left aside by Głowacki was undertaken by the collaborative team who worked on the Scottish production of Cherry Blossom. The Traverse Theatre introduced it as ‘a bilingual performance with a Scottish and Polish cast, using a mixture of written, devised and verbatim text with a state of the art multimedia design to create a powerful production that explores the myths, ideas and realities of migration and identity in the 21st century.’  The spectacle was performed in Scotland and Poland in the autumn of 2008 with the same script, cast and a mixture of the two languages. Yet, the reviews of the show focused on its different cultural aspects. The British press stressed the effort of breaking through the language barriers and the painfully confusing reality of such a process. The Polish press focused on the cultural differences and – unlike the British critics - did not treat the predictability of plot as a conscious design but a flaw. The emphasis on the linguistic issue was read as the main reason behind the play’s shallowness. So, who ‘got it right’ Poles or Brits?  

The questions that frame my discussion of both plays (and their bi-cultural perception) relate to
the phenomenon of transnational writing which escapes an easy definition in terms of nationality, linguistic belonging or a mono-cultural practice. What frame of cultural reference should we apply when reading a mobile/travelling wor(l)d?  What/who shapes the set of assessment criteria for artistic products of transcultural idioms?  How can such idioms be deciphered, if true ‘intercultural readers’ are – in most cases – still a dream only?  I shall address these and other questions when discussing the plays’ reception, the critics’ voices and the experience of both texts in my pedagogical practice.

Stepek Lecturer in Polish Studies
Comparative Literature Programme Director
SMLC – University of Glasgow
Hetherington Bldg
Bute Gardens
Glasgow G12 8RS