Anita Pluwak (2015)

Ambiguous Endeavours. The Evolution of the Melodramatic Mode in Polish Holocaust Narratives from Hanna Krall to "The Aftermath"

Publishing house Lunds universitet
Place of publication Lund
Page references 250
Series Lund Slavonic Monographs 12
Language English

ISBN: 0280-0284

This thesis examines how melodrama, defined as a complex, distinctly modern and transnational mode of storytelling with lasting impact on the culture of global modernity, has influenced the area of Polish Holocaust representation since the late 1970s till the present. Within a methodological frame that seeks to combine textual and contextual analysis, the study poses a set of questions that can be asked of the melodramatic mode's narrative structures and stylistic devices, their signifying and functionality, in selected instances of literary and film narratives. Other key issues considered concern the melodramatic narratives' ability to evolve and adapt during the cultural transformation of late communism (the 1970s and 1980s) and post-communism (after 1989), and the circumstances accompanying melodrama's rise to cultural prominence.

I argue that the literary work of Hanna Krall (b. 1935) represents one of the most important manifestations of the presence of popular melodrama in Polish Holocaust representation. I propose to read the work, career, and impact of this highly successful author through the lens of the melodramatic mode and its concern with history, identity, deficits of justice, and social inclusivity. The impact of popular schemata further intensifies after 1989. By analysing seminal Holocaust films from recent years like Agnieszka Holland's In Darkness (2011) and Władysław Pasikowski's The Aftermath (2012) I trace the evolvement of melodrama and its reception in the radically altered context of post-communism. Despite their different generic contexts and different approaches to the subject, the analysed narratives are shown to share an engagement with the melodramatic schemata. I contend that this engagement must be seen in relation to the traditional definitions of Polish Holocaust representation as linked to forms of expression associated with high modernism and the avant-garde, but also as indicative of fundamental changes in post-communist culture.