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Disenchanted Europeans. Polish émigré writers from Kultura and the Postwar Reformulations of the West

Dates:
  • Thu 27 Sep 2012 19.00 - 21.00
  Add to Calendar 2012-09-27 19:00 2012-09-27 21:00 Europe/Paris Disenchanted Europeans. Polish émigré writers from Kultura and the Postwar Reformulations of the West

What are “Europe” and “the West”? How did the understandings of these notions change
after World War II? In what way were they reconsidered and re-evaluated by the exiles from
those European countries that, after 1945, found themselves in the Soviet sphere of
influence? In the present study I offer answers to these questions by analyzing the literary
responses to the political division of the continent made by two exiles associated with the
Polish émigré periodical Kultura, Jerzy Stempowski and Andrzej Bobkowski. Analyzing
these two writers’ autobiographical works, and placing them in the context of the debates on
Europe’s crisis and the future of “Western civilization” that took place on the pages of the
periodical in the 1940s and 1950s, I reconstruct the broader dilemmas and uncertainties
shared among those Polish exiles who opposed the creation of communist states in Eastern
Europe.
In the thesis I show that the change of the political situation on the continent led to
profound reassessments of the power relations, the cultural distances, and the centrality
attributed by these Polish intellectuals to France in their earlier understanding of the notions
such as “the West”, “Europe” and “civilization”. I also analyze how the contributors to
Kultura from two different generations of the Polish intelligentsia reacted in their works to
the new relevance of the United States, and to the Cold War reinventions of “the West”, its
classical past, its internal divisions and its major “others”. I trace changes occurring in their
émigré texts written over many years and in many places (among them France, Guatemala
and Switzerland), finding significant omissions, silences and obliterations in their postwar
reconsiderations of European colonialism, nationalism and antisemitism. Finally, I interpret
autobiographical texts from Kultura – diaries, travelogues and essays – as literary attempts to
counter-map the European space, or to subvert the older cultural images that played a
significant role in the postwar division of the continent.

Seminar Room 2, Badia Fiesolana - BADIA DD/MM/YYYY
  Seminar Room 2, Badia Fiesolana - BADIA

What are “Europe” and “the West”? How did the understandings of these notions change
after World War II? In what way were they reconsidered and re-evaluated by the exiles from
those European countries that, after 1945, found themselves in the Soviet sphere of
influence? In the present study I offer answers to these questions by analyzing the literary
responses to the political division of the continent made by two exiles associated with the
Polish émigré periodical Kultura, Jerzy Stempowski and Andrzej Bobkowski. Analyzing
these two writers’ autobiographical works, and placing them in the context of the debates on
Europe’s crisis and the future of “Western civilization” that took place on the pages of the
periodical in the 1940s and 1950s, I reconstruct the broader dilemmas and uncertainties
shared among those Polish exiles who opposed the creation of communist states in Eastern
Europe.
In the thesis I show that the change of the political situation on the continent led to
profound reassessments of the power relations, the cultural distances, and the centrality
attributed by these Polish intellectuals to France in their earlier understanding of the notions
such as “the West”, “Europe” and “civilization”. I also analyze how the contributors to
Kultura from two different generations of the Polish intelligentsia reacted in their works to
the new relevance of the United States, and to the Cold War reinventions of “the West”, its
classical past, its internal divisions and its major “others”. I trace changes occurring in their
émigré texts written over many years and in many places (among them France, Guatemala
and Switzerland), finding significant omissions, silences and obliterations in their postwar
reconsiderations of European colonialism, nationalism and antisemitism. Finally, I interpret
autobiographical texts from Kultura – diaries, travelogues and essays – as literary attempts to
counter-map the European space, or to subvert the older cultural images that played a
significant role in the postwar division of the continent.


Location:
Seminar Room 2, Badia Fiesolana - BADIA

Affiliation:
Department of History and Civilization

Type:
Thesis defence

Contact:
Francesca Parenti - Send a mail

Examiner:
Prof. Anthony Molho
Prof. Pawel Spiewak (Warszaw University)
Prof. Larry Wolff (New York University)

Supervisor:
Prof. Philipp Ther (University of Vienna)

Defendant:
Lukasz Mikolajewski (EUI - Department of History and Civilization)
 

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