Constructions of (Central) Europe in Contemporary Polish Literature

Doctoral Researcher
Ricarda Fait-Bartholomäus

Image: Józef Chełmoński: „Babie Lato“, adaptation by Wiesław Smętek, DIALOG Nr. 97 (2011)

This doctoral project investigates how Europe and Central Europe (Europa Środkowa) are constructed and imagined in contemporary Polish literature. The period under consideration begins in 2004 and thus covers the time of Poland and other states of East-Central Europe joining the EU. Against this political-social background, I ask whether and to what extent a convergence of constructions of (Central) Europe can be observed in literature. Furthermore, I ask how the discursive and aesthetically mediated ideas of Europe and Central Europe are related in the selected works and through which aesthetic implications the respective spaces are constructed, deconstructed, or mythicized. The focus of the analysis is on Księgi Jakubowe (The Books of Jacob, 2014) by Olga Tokarczuk, with references to her essayistic work, and on Próba ognia: Błędna kartografia Europy (Trial by fire: A flawed cartography of Europe, 2020) by Tomasz Różycki, as related to his lyrical work. Writing by Ziemowit Szczerek, among others, is also included in the analysis. The aim of the research is to show continuities and ruptures between supposedly ‘Central European’ and ‘European’ modes of writing, as well as their tense relationship, both on a discursive and an aesthetic level.