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

Paul Vickers, University of Glasgow, School of Modern Languages and Cultures

Constructing the memory of a PolishJewish Community in Tadeusz Słobodzianek’s Nasza klasa/ Our Class (2008/ 2010)

In this paper I explore the evolution of Tadeusz Słobodzianek’s Nasza klasa/ Our Class from the 2008 ‘History in Twenty Lessons’ shortlisted for the Gdynia Drama Award (Gdyńska Nagroda Dramaturgiczna) to the 2010 Nike Prize-winning fourteen-lesson drama.
I argue that Słobodzianek’s drama shifts away from the earlier version’s blunt critique of the Polish national memory paradigm of exclusivist heroic victimhood towards a subtler attempt to portray the tensions involved in the negotiation of a PolishJewish community of memory. Such a community would be a site of competing and conflicting claims to victimhood and accusations of perpetration, alongside moments of harmonious JewishPolish coexistence. Like Słobodzianek’s drama, this community of memory avoids mythologizing a PolishJewish prewar idyll and also the “kitsch of reconciliation”.
I approach Nasza klasa as more than an attempted dramatic representation of the Jedwabne Pogrom. Rather, the text, and its evolution since 2008, also reflects the development of discourse on the Holocaust in Poland following the publication of JT Gross’ Neighbors. Consequently, only the 2010 version contains competing “versions of events” of the massacre itself and also depicts postwar construction of multiple memories of the pogrom, both between and within Polish and Jewish communities. However, the drama’s construction ensures that the author’s less-favoured narratives are critiqued throughout.
The revised version’s form also reflects shifts in Polish discussion on the Holocaust. Thus unlike the 2008 text’s Class, the Polish and Jewish classmates in the published text no longer present their postwar experiences in near-isolated Polish and Jewish groups. Rather the protagonists engage in dialogue, debate, contradicting each other’s claims, thus reflecting the negotiated process of Polish attempts to accommodate the Jewish Other’s experiences and their implication for Polish national memory.
As numerous critics note, the drama indeed tells us “nothing new” about Jedwabne as an event; however, Nasza klasa’s significance lies, rather, in its representation and commentary on the construction of memory discourses once Jedwabne became common knowledge in Poland. In this way the 2010 Nasza klasa contributes to the ongoing and necessarily unceasing process of Vergangenheitsbewältigung or coming to terms with the past.