Introduction: Literature: text and social communication (Marek Pąkciński)
We are pleased to announce the online release of the first part of the English translation series “Inscription. An anthology 1” – a selection of 13 articles out of 535 dissertations with an introduction, published in the annual „Napis. Pismo poświęcone literaturze okolicznościowej i użytkowej” [„Inscription. Periodical on occasional and applied literature”] in the years 1994–2021. You can find them at the links: https://rcin.org.pl; https://www.napis.edu.pl/en/.
The first special issue contains necessarily only a small fraction of the journal’s output, but it shows both its versatility and the increase in humanistic knowledge and methodological awareness in occasional and applied literature.
Introduction: Literature: text and social communication (Marek Pąkciński)
Introduction to the Inscription issue titled Inscription. An anthology 1, presents the history of this journal, founded in 1994 by a group of literary scholars and editors of literature from the Enlightenment and later epochs, gathered around Prof. Janusz Maciejewski (years of life: 1930−2011) and working at the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences and at the Warsaw University. A significant number of these researchers joined then the editorial office and the Scientific Council of Inscription. Then the concept of ‘occasional and applied literature’, created by the Professor and developed by him − combining philological diligence and editorial accuracy with the awareness that literature is a form of social communication and should be interpreted in close connection with important historical events and changes in social consciousness − was presented here. Then, the subjects of the subsequent issues of the yearbook throughout its uninterrupted existence (1994-2022) were briefly discussed. In the second part of the text, the author focused on the introductory presentation of particular articles that were included in Inscription. An anthology 1 and presented the principles of their selection from a large number of dissertations, so far published in the journal (there were 535 of them in total).
Occasional and applied literature. (In place of an introduction)
The introductory article defines occasional and applied literature, as well as describing the aims of the periodical A journal devoted to occasional and applied literature, which was created as a forum for exchanging experiences and publishing research findings by researchers of various fields of the Humanities (such as literary and customs historians, historians, sociologists, language scholars), interested in literary and para-literary phenomena.
Aleksander W. LIPATOW
Russia and Poland – a ‘domestic row’ of Slavs, or a conflict of mentalities?
The article presents a cross-section sketch of the attitude of Russia toward Poland and the Polish people, demonstrating its ambivalence, stretching between Polonophobia and Polonophilia (‘the complex of unrequited love toward Poland’). Its sources are generally thought to lie in the elementary mental disparity between Moscow’s total absolutism and Polish civil society, based on individualism, Latin culture and the Roman law. This disparity becomes a centuries-old source of political conflict and cultural fascination.
The image of Poland and Poles in the Dmitriads, from the British perspective
This article presents the seventeenth-century publications of English authors devoted to the Dmitriads and the participation of Poles – as inspirers, advisers to both ‘false tsars’ (Dmitri I and Dmitri II), beneficiaries and finally the victims of the Moscow events in the years 1604-1612. The author makes an initial division of English texts into memories of the participants of the events (English soldiers then fought on both sides of the conflict) and occasional literary works, presenting Moscow events in a specific way, in order to impress readers or viewers, achieve a political goal (e.g. by comparing Boris Godunov with Oliver Cromwell) or promote a specific ideological message with an anti-Catholic, anti-papal and anti-Jesuit meaning. The texts quoted here (mainly from the anthology by Sonia Howe The False Dmitri: a Russian Romance and Tragedy, published in 1916, supplemented by other literary sources) reveal a generally unfavourable and critical image of Poles of that time, softened by notes of sympathy and idyllic versions of description of love of Dmitri and the Polish aristocrat, Marina Mniszchówna.
Without guilt or shame. Sexuality in eroticism-themed Polish obscene poetry of the Enlightenment period
The article is devoted to the strategies used in Polish playful poems, adapted from French and Italian literature (Boccaccio, Ariosto, La Fontaine) for the witty, pleasant in perception performance of sexual vitality of men and women. Those works revealed current manifestations and mechanisms of sexual morality of people of different status, condition, age and gender, not excluding secular clergy, monks and nuns of various orders (‘hoods, hairshirts, cassocks, scapulars’). The following issues has been analysed: numerous metaphorical approaches derived from different layers of literary tradition and folklore, and the author’s of these poems creativity, an interesting plot and moral realities (Polish: ‘medieval’ royal court, Sarmatian province; or Italian), a theme of travel rich in erotic adventures, avoiding obscene words, and above all, witty, humorous perspective (in the narrative and linguistic content) to sensitive, from the point of view of morality, taboo issues (like: sexuality – in general, erotic desire as a natural need; young people’s interest in eroticism, sexual performance and its sources; adultery not only in case of marriages unequal regarding the age; lifestyle of clerics seducing married women and hypocrisy; promiscuity at courts and in orders, etc.). All those factors constrain the poems (Słowik, Czyściec, Pielgrzym, Hilary), attributed to Adam Naruszewicz, a Jesuit and a diocesan bishop, entertaining not only a group of writers on Thursday dinners, organised at the court of the King Stanislaw August, but also contributed to a great readership in the manuscripts’ circulation, what is certified by noble sylwy. The taboo was disarmed by laughter and emphasising the universality of sexual behaviours, officially hidden, and maybe also by a caricaturing–grotesque image of erotic struggles at times. Reading was probably accompanied by laughter, amusement, which accompany us today, too. In the analysis of the above mentioned scenes of sexual problems, the examined texts can also be situated within the erotic literature, briefly referred to heterogeneous, diverse criteria used for identifying the types, including: the realm of language, another time the themes (the so–called dominant topic or ‘erotic portions’), ethical and moral meaning of sexual contents contained in the works, their functions carried out in the reception of texts, as well as the aim of the authors (the mocking, acceptance, and fun).
Resident bards. The court poet in light of memories from the Polish Eastern Borderlands in the first half of the 19th century
The article discusses a specific social phenomenon, which was the functioning of the first half of the nineteenth century in the rich magnate or noble courts of the Borderlands of a group of residents – usually single men without a permanent profession, often leading a wandering lifestyle and serving their employers with their skills. In this group, court poets stood out (‘resident bards’ as Julian Tuwim defined them), for whom residency was a form of patronage, creating small occasional, panegyric, entertaining and love pieces, usually in a sentimental convention. The output of these poems in minorum gentium is usually devoid of artistic value, but due to its great popularity it gives a credible testimony to the tastes of the epoch.
A ‘judgement of the eye’? The way(s) the world is perceived in Bolesław Prus’s prose works
The article is an attempt to analyse and interpret the visual aspect of the work of Prus, and especially the impact of the writer’s diseases (including a deepening vision defect, agoraphobia) on the ability to perceive reality and the creation of the world presented in the works (based on the novels: Emancipated Women, The Doll, Dzieci [The Children]) and on the construction of Prus’s characters in order to find an answer to the question: how do they look and what do they see? The text presents a portrait of Prus short-sighted (experienced also by a hyperopia); how the writer perceives and uses the descriptions of the colours; how he creates an image of the omnipresent four eyes-protagonist in his works; and finally – how he prepares to work, gathering materials in his notebooks, which can be described as his writing workshop. There are the author’s notes on the sight, its role and place among other senses. With time other sources of the world knowledge begin to dominate over the more and more imperfect observation: his experience, acquired knowledge, and above all – feeling.
From a trip East. On a different Europe and the genre-fluid nature of the letter in Henryk Sienkiewicz’s travel correspondence
The article refers to Sienkiewicz’s journey to the East in Autumn 1886 and the writings remaining after that trip: private correspondence – letters to Jadwiga Janczewska (1886) and an account of the journey published in the Warsaw press entitled “Wycieczka do Aten” [A Trip to Athens], Niwa no. 1–3 (1889) (in a reprint: idem, Dzieła [Works], vol. 44, Warsaw: 1950). An additional text used in the article is a memoir written by Antoni Zaleski from the same journey entitled Z wycieczki na Wschód. Notatki dziennikarza. Bukareszt. Ruszczuk. Warna. Konstantynopol [From the trip to the East. Journalist’s notes. Bucharest, Rustschuk, Varna, Constantinople] (Warsaw: 1887).
The article highlights different aims of the journey that both of the authors had and confronts their specific visions of ‘other’, ‘wilder’ Europe – the Balkans and Greece, which are created anew after hundreds of years of Turkish captivity. Both of the correspondences contain interesting remarks on politics, culture and otherness. In the last part of this article the author pays attention to the fluctuations as a genre of a private letter and a letter form a journey, published in press, and also indicates to the anthropological sensitivity of the authors of correspondence.
‘A different fabric’. The overt and the hidden in Joseph Conrad’s prefaces to his prose works
In A Familiar Preface to the ‘autobiographical’ volume A Personal Record. Some Reminiscences, Joseph Conrad provides that, in this work, there is no ‘veil’ separating the reader from the author. Despite this declaration, Conrad’s ‘memories’ goes beyond autobiography and you can risk the thesis that all ‘autobiographical’ texts are rather telling – in the idiomatic way – not about a man but cultural contexts, which formed him. Conrad’s paratexts (the famous preface to The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’, mentioned A Familiar Preface and Author’s notes written by Conrad for subsequent volumes of his works in the period 1917-1920) make an even greater problem of interpretation. They contain not only the artistic statements, but also a surprising ‘autobiographical’ reference and ‘guidance’ of interpretation – that really explains very little and seem to talk about something else. It is difficult to treat Conrad’s paratexts as autobiographical texts (though they often pretend to be); in turn proposal of seeing in them ‘author function’ in the classic form, indicated by Michel Foucault, also appears to be incomplete, because these paratexts simultaneously create author and his cultural context and literary craftsmanship. It seems, therefore, that Conrad considered his paratexts (especially Author’s notes) as a separate literary genre, in accordance with the instructions of Kierkegaard.
Conrad and Arendt. Revealing the roots of evil
Titles of major works of both writers point to the effort of revealing the most difficult and most hidden knowledge of evil. Hannah Arendt, trying to excavate the roots (or rather, the beginnings) of totalitarianism, follows Joseph Conrad as an explorer of the kernel (or, more precisely: heart) of darkness. And when, later, Arendt embarks on a journey to Jerusalem to participate in the Eichmann trial, like Conrad’s Marlow, she is fascinated by tales of a strong man, because she expects to see someone undoubtedly bad, but also grand. Meanwhile, she reveals the ‘banality of evil’. This category is worth referring to in the case of Kurtz in Conrad’s story. The attacks of critics on Eichmann in Jerusalem, and Heart of Darkness, based on allegations of the humiliation of victims and suggesting their participation in the crime, also contain interesting parallels.
The art of breaking up. Infelicitous engagements in Polish novels and memoirs from the turn of the 20th century
The article is devoted to a morally sensitive topic, created by situations which did not lead to marriage, but ended with a discrediting separation. It analyses socially accepted, although often false, reasons for splitting up, treated as shameful and without approval, frequently hidden under excuses provided by savoir-vivre handbooks. It also compares, in this case, the positions of women and men, reflecting on the attempt to protect the reputation of a young lady with a fixed social convention. Texts that refer to authentic biographical material, which were read by the contemporary readers as romans à clef violating moral taboos seem particularly interesting.
Novels of manners are the basis for reflection, such as the works by Bolesław Prus Lalka [The Doll] and Emancypantki [Emancipated Women], Maria Rodziewiczówna Między ustami a brzegiem pucharu [Between the lips and the rim of the goblet] and Kądziel [Woman’s inheritance], Henryk Sienkiewicz Bez dogmatu [Without dogma] and Rodzina Połanieckich [Children of the Soil], Sewer Bajecznie kolorowa [Fabulously colourful], and Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer Anioł śmierci [Angel of death], but also the contents of memoirs of the period (by Anna Skarbek- -Sokołowska, Magdalena Samozwaniec, Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński and more).
Body, gender, and a communist’s shame (side notes on Stanisław Lem’s utopian science fiction novels from the 1950’s)
This article is an attempt to answer the question: what prompted the authors of utopian science fiction novels which appeared during the communist period (mainly in the 1950’s) in Poland and the Soviet Union, to adopt a particular convention of presenting the human body, and especially the woman’s body. The analysis of these works (the novels Astronauci [The Astronauts] and Obłok Magellana [The Magellanic Cloud] by Stanisław Lem and Ivan Yefremov’s Andromeda Nebula) is conducted in a dialogue with the concepts of Jacques Lacan and Slavoj Žižek, as well as Judith Butler or contemporary sociologists (e.g., Chris Shilling), regarding the body image and an idealistic element contained in the Marxist-Leninist ideology, which is the theoretical basis of the utopian vision of a society of the future. Psychoanalytic and deconstructive readings of Lem’s and Yefremov’s texts lead the author of this article to the conclusion that the image of the female body (and, thus, inseparable from human sexuality of shame) undergoes here a sort of ‘politicisation’ in relation to a vision of capitalism as a ‘dark vortex’ of life governed by drives, mediated falsely by logos. However, the image of femininity and sexuality, included in the novels, refers to the early Gnostic version of Christianity (among others to opinions by Marcion, Valentinus, and the Syrian’s ‘Encratites’), kindling the hope to transform body by eliminating areas of drives, but the place of the Gnostic ‘salvation of the soul’ in the communist utopias is occupied by progress, understood as an increase in knowledge and an achievement of the ideal of the ultimate end of human history through a union with nature.
The issue of the genre of Kolyma stories by Varlam Shalamov and its editions in Polish
The article discusses the translations and the history of publishing of Kolyma stories in Poland, from the first underground booklets released in the 1980’s, which contained merely a dozen or so stories selected from the famous London publication, Колымские рассказы [Kolyma stories], published by Mikhail Geller in 1978. They were the first presentations of the work. Thus, for translators, it was essential that such important pieces reached Polish readers as quickly as possible, at least in excerpts. One of the translators, Stefan Wodnik (born Adam Bal), took on the task of rendering a significantly larger selection of the stories accessible, but it was still not the entirety. In the introduction, he offered an interpretation of Shalamov’s work, combined with a justification of his translational choices, including the necessity to change the order of many of the stories in relation to their London original. It was only the next translator, engineer Juliusz Baczyński, who had not up until then been professionally involved in translation, who rendered the entire London volume. In Poland, it is still considered the full translation of Kolyma stories by Varlam Shalamov, although, as we know today, it diverges significantly from the author’s version in terms of the selection and organisation of individual stories. His translation was very highly regarded by, among others, Gustaw HerlingGrudziński, a distinguished writer and prominent expert in Gulag literature and the works of Shalamov.
The Luther effect. The consequences of the Reformation in the area of printed media and communication
The aim of the article is to trace the consequences – often very distant in time – of the changes in the appearance, content and speed of circulation of publications initiated by Martin Luther.
Striving to reach as many people as possible with his Reformation ideas, Luther used and creatively developed the possibilities offered to him by printing with the use of movable type that had been invented shortly before then. He made his publications more attractive in terms of graphics, made them shorter, sped up their circulation, changed their style for one that was more accessible for the reader; he abandoned the usage of Latin in favour of the commonly understood German language. All of this resulted in a real boom for the publishing market – the development of the printing sector, an enormous increase in the numbers of printed brochures and books, an improvement of their quality, the development of the book market and the education of masses of recipients of the printed word. Over time, it also accelerated the circulation of information, and led to the creation of pre-journalistic forms. It was followed by an increase in literacy and the development of education – universal and uniform for both boys and girls. This had far- -reaching consequences – raising the level of education of the whole society and the level of public debate, as well as encouraging a more active participation in the culture of books.