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

Hanna Gosk, University of Warsaw

What does the present-day Polish prose say about the Homeland/home country, twenty years after it regained sovereignty?

It is a well-known fact that long-lasting captivity and lack of sovereignty have resulted in a situation where for Poles, their home country or Homeland has become a phantasm, an object of martyrological contemplation bearing traits of an ideal and a victim experiencing heroic sufferings. The dominant current of Homeland stories was shaped over centuries in line with a poetics of wrongs done to victims of violent acts. Irrespective of the fact that our home country has been free and independent again since 1989, our national community’s imagination remains stuck in the attributes of its image as elaborated in the Romantic age (or it fiercely opposes them, thus confirming their constitutive power).

This image has earned its dominant position while non-heroic sub-stories have been eliminated, which might otherwise have generated a sense of shame or guilt associated with the condition of a victim. Polish prose works written in recent years have taken an interest in the construction-related aspect of the Homeland phantasm, as well as in the selective nature of its structure. Authors have embarked on adding threads that have so far been excluded from the dominant narrative mode, whilst at the same time living their underground (not infrequently hideous) lives. Authors, such as those I have chosen to serve as examples: Dorota Masłowska (Wojna polsko-ruską pod flagą biało-czerwoną) Dawid Bieńkowski (the novel Biało-czerwony), Ignacy Karpowicz and his Niehalo, Bożena Umińska-Keff as the author of Utwór o Matce i Ojczyźnie, or, Sylwia Chutnik with her Dzidzia, have entered into a dialogue with the Homeland phantasm whose characteristics are shown to be those of a fetish. What they attempt to do is to deprive it of its dominant position, or to display its structure’s ambiguity and interpretative nature; finally, they try to make a claim for the realities that enable the generation of Homeland/home-country narratives that compete with the dominant line.

Those excluded and marginalised by the violence exerted by the Homeland phantasm ‘translate’ it, in the works I discuss here, into the local languages of third-party non-heroic subjects that do not cherish patriotic rituals – all the Homeland/home-country narratives being thus indirectly defined by their traditional version. The latter is not willing to admit that cultural authorities are dictated by the present rather than by the past, and that a constant movement in exchanged meanings – of forgetting and memorising – occurs between them, thus determining the performative dimension of the Homeland phantasm.