Course content varies. Offered occasionally by visitors or resident faculty.
This course examines the modern Polish mentality, focusing on the intersection of forms and popular symbols in the culture and daily life of Poles as expressed in language, social rituals, economic practices, and other readable proofs of self-created identity. To explore what “Polishness” is now, we will look back on what it was, peering into the tradition that influenced, or at least shaped and justified, its present. From reading modern literature and watching films produced in the last several decades, we will learn less from social and historical points of view than from anthropological perspectives. However, throughout our inquisitive study and engaging discussions, we will constantly turn our attention to the imaginary figure of the “Polish Intellectual” as a self-appointed hero of current Polish culture. Devoting our first class to the introduction of the romantic origin of the “hero,” we will later concern ourselves with the hero’s 20th century revisionists and followers. Finally, the main current of the course (possibly predictable) will lead us to the most horrible but also surprisingly funniest part, the long-lasting effort of Polish spiritual leaders to create, often caricatured but at least appropriate, a portrait of their dependents. Dealing with the period of Communist power and changes brought about by its demise, students will have the unique opportunity to observe the process of cultural self-definition of the Central European nation in its comedies and dramas of rare mastery. Themes for particular classes will be drawn (besides other classics) from the marvelous poems of Zbigniew Herbert and Czeslaw Milosz, the sarcastic tragicomedies of Slawomir Mrozek, and the famous novels of Witold Gombrowicz, together with the contemporary movies of Wajda, Zanussi, and Kieslowski. No traditional exam; final and mid-term essays will be required instead.
Student learning goals
No traditional exam; final and mid-term essays will be required instead.
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading