Writing Histories of Lesser-Known Literatures: Being Poland


In the era of world literature and globalized academia, the modes of both the production and reception of culture and the nature of knowledge have changed. How should we look at histories of lesser-known literatures and write about them in a comparative context? Is the national focus still justifiable?

This event will feature Prof. Joanna Niżyńska (Indiana) and Prof. Tamara Trojanowska (Toronto), two editors of the recently published book Being Poland: A New History of Polish Literature and Culture since 1918 (Toronto UP 2018). Unlike previous histories of Polish literature (including that by Czesław Miłosz), this book is a collaborative project. It brought together some sixty scholars from Europe and North America who attempted to rethink the national literary history from multiple perspectives and distinct viewpoints. The introduction to the book promises that: "The comparative, interdisciplinary, transcultural approach is as much a way of writing here as it is a way of reading." What does this mean in practice and how should we teach literary histories in the present day?

The authors of Being Poland will discuss the challenges of writing the history of a lesser-known culture in the twenty-first century. As the book's publication marked the centenary of Poland's regained independence, the speakers will also address other difficult questions: how to assess Polish modern culture in retrospect and what does it actually mean to "be Poland" now?

The event will be followed by a Q&A and wine reception.This event is kindly supported by the Embassy of Poland in London as part of Polish Heritage Days.