Panel Information

Panel I, The Physical and The Metaphysical

Michał Paweł Markowski, UIC
“Enlightenment, Modernity, and Impossible Modernization in Poland: From Mickiewicz to Macierewicz”

Andrzej Brylak, UIC
“Excrements of Modernization. Scatology of Leo Lipski”

Abstract: Scatological discourse is one of the most characteristic traits of the prose by Polish-Israeli author Leo Lipski. Defecation or inability of it is one of the major themes in almost all of his writings. From “Niespokojni” a coming of age story about a group of young intellectuals in pre-war Poland to “Piotrus” devoted to the objectified refugee, selling himself at the Palestinian Market, Lipski is preoccupied with the problem of excretion. In my paper I would like to analyze the scatological discourse of Lipski  in the context of various  modernizing projects – Poland of “Sanacja”, Nazism, Stalinism and Zionism, all of which Lipski was personally affected by and made a landscape of his short-stories and novellas. In my interpretation, there is a direct link between scatological obsession of Lipski and his discussion of the above-mentioned political projects. As much, as they are different from each other all of them share an idea to completely and once for all get rid of the “excrements”, which are the result of the “digestion” of the political body. Following that interpretation, I would like to argue that in Lipski’s prose  digestion and defection is an individualized, carnal manifestation of the mechanisms employed on the mass scale by 20th century modernizing projects. Lipski is precisely interested in what modernizing projects are trying to hide, let’s remember that building a sewage system is an epitome of European modernization. The author of Piotruś not only dives into the sewage and follows the stream of excerements, but also examines the condition of those exceted and hidden by the most radical and brutal modernizing projects characteristic for the 20th century. 

Panel II, Getting Modern

Małgorzata Fidelis, UIC
“The World in the Village: Rural Youth and Modernity in Sixties Poland”

Abstract: In the mid 1960s, Andrzej S. left his native village in eastern Poland to study Sociology at the University of Warsaw. He remembered growing up in a world far removed from modern civilization, “where everything was made by hand, even clothes and work tools. … There was almost nothing from the outside except for sugar and salt.” By the time he finished his freshman year, “farm machines appeared in our village, and this marked the beginning of a new epoch.” In 1962, Dorota W. from a small village in southeastern Poland completed a one-year agricultural vocational school in a nearby town: “I think on a whole new level,” she wrote in her diary after returning home. “I look upon the world with new eyes.” A year later, another rural girl, Irena, wanted to bring the urban world of beauty and fashion to her village: “When I went to the capital for the the first time and saw the beautiful girls on the streets, I became eager to … organize a fashion show not for our Sunday best, but for a non-church gathering here in Rożnica, my home village.”
This paper focuses on rural youth in Poland and their aspirations to be “modern” in the era of the Long Sixties (or the Global Sixties). How did the cultural, political, and technological upheavals of the era play out in rural Poland? Did Andrzej, Dorota, Irena, and others see themselves as part of the global community of youth? And if yes, in what way?
Until the second half of the 1960s, most Poles resided in the country side. In the context of failed collectivization of agriculture (which was disbanded in 1956), the question of how to integrate this vast segment of the population into modern socialist society was an urgent one. Soon, young people, with the help of the official Rural Youth Association, launched a set of activities in the country side to popularize selected trends in international youth culture, whether music, fashion, or new forms of sociability, with the hopes of modernizing rural lifestyles and outlooks. Young village men and women enthusiastically took advantage of educational opportunities, encouraged their parents to change methods of farm work, expanded individual freedoms, and challenged traditional village hierarchies based on gender and generation. They created new socializing spaces such as the club-café (klubokawiarnia), and became avid consumers of popular youth magazines, radio, television, and the motorcycle.
This paper privileges personal voices and subjective understanding of “being modern” in the context of socialist Poland and the increasing interaction with the global youth culture through media and mobility. I rely on memoirs and diaries submitted to memoir competitions organized by two popular youth magazines Zarzewie and Nowa Wieś in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. The very act of writing a personal biography was already an expression of a new role that young rural actors took on in the drama of postwar modernity.

Michał Wilczewski, UIC
“The Modern Girl’s Guide to the Countryside: Modernity and the Rise of Young Women in Rural Poland, 1918-1939”

Magda Wlostowska, Leipzig University
“Europeanization and Transnationalization processes-the example of LGBT spheres in Poland”

Panel III, Modernization and the Politics of Culture

Kathleen Wroblewski, University of Michigan
“John Dewey’s Polish Study and the Politics of Anticlericalism in the ‘Wilsonian Moment'”

Abstract: My paper examines the implications of John Dewey’s study of Poles in Philadelphia—a project Dewey undertook with a team of graduate students from Columbia, with financial backing from Albert Barnes, in the summer of 1918.  In particular, I’m interested in why social theorists (including Thomas and Znaniecki, of course, but also, as Tara Zahra has noted, Booker T. Washington) saw peasant migrants from the Polish lands as providing insight into issues of education and citizenship, as well as the adoption of modern economic sensibilities.  In addition to social and political questions—and indeed Dewey and his students narrowed their attention to combating the influence of the Endecja on the eve of Polish independence—this project also provided an introduction of sorts to the study of religious authority in Polish communities, which is something Dewey saw as an impediment to the acceptance of universal democratic norms.  As such, the study became a primer for scholars like Irwin Edman and Brand Blanshard, who would later focus on religious authority in their own research.
Because my work is still in its preliminary stages, I’m looking for guidance in a few areas, namely: evaluating narrative structure (the sources I’m working with are rich and reveal the strong personalities of the individuals involved in this study, which is great but also has the potential to overshadow the study’s content); fleshing out my argument that our ideas of the Polish nation-state solidified within a larger global context of the “Wilsonian moment,” which is something we lose when we look at interwar Polish politics in a Piłsudski versus Dmowski framework; and unpacking how Dewey viewed Polish migrants as instructive with regard to the potential and limitations for universalism in the modern world.

Keely Stauter-Halsted, UIC
“Citizenship and Belonging: Mobility and Migration in the Polish Second Republic”

Drew Burks, University of Kansas
“Moving Pianos: Advertising, Piano Culture, and the Changing Middle Class in Urban Galicia, 1911-1921”

Abstract: Commercial and classified advertising for pianos was present in many of the daily newspapers in Kraków and Lwów before the First World War. Along with newspaper advertising writ large, these advertisements did not cease during the war years, nor during the early, unstable postwar period. Why did advertising for such a large and expensive luxury good continue during a period of extreme uncertainty? While the overarching trend of advertising continuation represents the extent to which modern advertising culture had become entrenched and adaptable in Galicia, the presence of continued piano advertising serves as a case study which elucidates multiple areas of historical import. First, the continuation of piano advertising shows that the importance of the piano in Galician culture continued into the early interwar period, at the least. Second, rather than serving as evidence of continuity during the period, piano advertising (specifically classifieds) persisted as a function of shifts occurring within the middle class in the two cities. These shifts highlight that some individuals in the middle class had the agency and ability to advance their social status during the war years, while others would need to sell their luxury goods to survive. Lastly, the role of modern advertising in facilitating this shift is an example of how able advertising had become to adapt to instability in the region from 1911 to 1921. By examining advertisements for pianos during this period, and evaluating why they persisted, we gain a better understanding of how everyday life for the middle class in Kraków and Lwów changed and persisted across a turbulent decade and how modern advertising in the daily press impacted it.

Panel IV, Modernization and Its Discontents

Aleksandra Kremer, Harvard University
“Concurrent Modernizations? Poetry and Politics after the Transition”

Abstract: Kremer_Abstract

Justyna Tabaszewska, Academy of Sciences Warsaw
“The problem of modernization, or more generally – of modernity, in relation to Polish literature and culture after 1989”

Abstract:  In my paper I would like to propose a reading of the problem of modernization, or more generally – of modernity, in relation to Polish literature and culture after 1989, in two distinct but interlinked ways. The first views modernization as a literary trope, the second sees it as a challenge for culture.
After each of the numerous political breakthroughs in Polish history – 1989 is undoubtedly the most significant for the current moment – there was expectation of a extensive modernization of society. The modernization of literature was supposed to augment this process and be a way of expressing and explicating societal change. Hence the eager anticipation of a novel of ‘our time’ – original and modern – directly voiced by literary critics immediately after 1989. The hopes pinned on literature and culture after the breakthrough proved hard to fulfill, and contemporary novels were deemed not enough modern. The disenchantment with literature and culture soon became another facet of the greater challenge of assessing the changes taking place after 1989. Modernization of society, in both its cultural and economic dimensions, proved more difficult than anticipated, generating indisputable losses alongside obvious gains. Advancing modernization sparked a debate concerning the fairness of occurring changes and raised concerns about the feasibility of the western model of modernization (the core of this argument resembles the theoretical considerations of Wittock or Jameson).
I would like to examine how the aforementioned problems are addressed by younger writers (Masłowska, Rejmer, Szczerek, Witkowski, Łoziński, Twardoch). How they describe the modernizing society, perceive social and generational changes and respond to the challenge of creating a modern novel. I will also attempt to elucidate their embrace of the past, predominantly the time of WWII, which serves as a lens through which contemporary society is perceived (Szczerek’s „Rzeczpospolita zwycięska” is a noteworthy example).

Joanna Trzeciak, Kent State University
“Różewicz’s Critique of Modernization”

Abstract: According to Seymour Lipset’s classic theory of modernization, democracy follows economic development. But what are economic development’s other potential sequelae? In this paper, I will discuss Tadeusz Różewicz’s critique of modernization, with a special emphasis on his skepticism toward technological progress, the amoral and ultimately immoral fetishization of economic efficiency, and the emptiness of consumerist materialism. Poems such as “Non-stop show” evoke a visceral horror at consumerist excess, where human flourishing and economic development markedly diverge. “Recycling” portrays a world—our globalized world—in which a narrowly defined efficiency in the use of resources, absent any regard for either non-monetizable value or negative externality, has catastrophic consequences and can be morally monstrous. In poems such as “nożyk profesora” (“Professor’s Knife”), trains emerge as the most sinister trope of modernization, and various contrivances and conveniences constitute progress “away from” but need not—indeed do not—coincide with “progress toward.” The paper argues that Różewicz, particularly in his poetry of “impure forms,” reveals himself to be a perceptive and prescient critic of the products and by-products of modernization.

Panel V, Tropes and Genres of Modernization

Przemysław Pietrzak, Warsaw University
“Between Tradition and Modernity. Category of Genre as a Modernization Tool in Polish Literary Theory of Interwar Period”

Abstract: The interwar period was in Polish history a moment maybe more than any other subjected to violent and numerous processes of modernization. Not only in the area of socio-politics, but also in the arts: this can be noticed in a sudden heyday of schools, currents, trends and ideas in visual arts, music and literature. Literary theory can be seen as one of such new currents. According to Galin Tihanov’s study – it originated in the Central and Eastern Europe by the end of World War I with a strict relevance to time and space.
The so called Polish literary theory of this period is a great challenge for research until today. While it is true that Tihanov mentions it together with Czech and Russian thought, he actually restricts himself to Roman Ingarden’s phenomenology. In my paper I would like to clarify to what degree we may speak about Polish literary theory of those times, to what extent it answered the need for a modern attitude to literature and the arts and how all this merged with the leading social programs (liberalization, democratization of life, a part of which writing and reading had always been).
The discipline where all those tendencies were visible, is the theory of genres – traditionally considered as a legacy of classicistic elitism in poetry and a device of poetics necessary to master. In the discussed period we can observe several processes aimed at overcoming this historical heritage. New genres are shaped and gain position in the literary hierarchy (reportage, column, advertisement, radio drama, cabaret sketch). Thanks to the press, popular ‘low’ genres intersect with the ‘high’ forms („Wiadomości Literackie”). Many of them become subject of theoretical research where the very idea of genre evolves. It starts to be seen as a cognitive and indispensable category, although heterogeneous, and later even socially relativized (in studies on generic consciousness).

Piotr Axer, Brown University
“Tropes of Modernization in Wacław Berent’s Ozimina

Abstract: In Ozimina by Wacław Berent, the literary tropes of modernization are evident in the representation of historical changes during the first decade of the twentieth century through the discussions and visions of characters in a dramatic-literary form. The form of the text evokes previous dramas, chiefly Wyspiański’s Wesele and Mickiewicz’s Dziady, cz. III, and contextualizes such dramas in the literary idiom of the Young Poland artistic movement. While Polish romantic themes of national revival are deployed in the novel, they are contextualized through modernist retellings of the ancient myths of Persephone and Demeter, calcifying these literary themes and the historical changes they refer to through recurring figures of lost innocence and the eruption of cosmological forces threatening the hopes of national renewal. Such engagement with canonical Polish texts, revisiting questions of Polish identity in an era of modernization and liberalism, is given dramatic form to represent diverse and individual figures in early twentieth century Poland. Berent’s emphasis on the dialogue of his characters during a night of revelry and transformation affirms the diversity of their voices as dramatic personae while simultaneously depicting their interaction through an oracular prism envisioning tendencies of modernization as evocations of forces portending inevitable loss. Underlying this depiction is a tragic vision of cosmology as unified not by a progression toward renewal, but by unity of divergent elements of form and emptiness. In my presentation, I will demonstrate this vision of modernization as inhering in Berent’s literary forms as much as in his representation of history.

Karen Underhill, UIC
“Multilinguality and Polish Modernity: Language Choice in the Second Republic”