Contribution by: Ola Sidorkiewicz
Editorial supervision by: Polish Studies Working Group
Who we are
We are a group of doctoral students based at the University of Oxford, trained in several disciplines: Classics, English Language and Literature, Modern Languages, and Translation Studies. We share an interest in the intersections of the fields of Polish Studies and Comparative Literature, pursuing research that spans various national literatures, languages, art forms and centuries. We believe that this diversity of backgrounds on the one hand and a preference for transnational and interdisciplinary approaches on the other enhance our critical appreciation of the studied material.
What drives us
Our group was established in September 2022 in response to a set of issues, some specific to the United Kingdom, and others reaching across geographical borders.
Here is why we decided to act:
First, because the presence of Eastern European languages and cultures (with the exception of Russian) within faculties across British academic institutions is limited. It is particularly at this historical point, in the midst of Russia’s brutal aggression in Ukraine, that we must put more effort into understanding the past and present of all European nations, both major and minor, and advocate strongly for equal study of all Slavic languages and cultures.
Second, because Polish is now among the most widely spoken languages in the United Kingdom, and the Polish diaspora constitutes a significant part of contemporary British society. As follows, a closer engagement with the topic will contribute to the study of both contemporary Polish culture and today’s Britain, as well as of the phenomenon of transculturality, so relevant in an era of mass-movement.
Third, because we wish to use our international and interdisciplinary experiences and training to rethink key concepts related to the study of Polish literature and culture. We want to test how comparative literary methodologies can help us gain a critical distance to the studied material and consider the place of Polish cultural production on the world map of literary and cultural exchange.
What we have done so far
We started off in October 2022 with fortnightly in-person discussions. Our opening session was titled “Who is Polish Literature for?”, a question which remains at the heart of our interests and activities. In an attempt to answer it, throughout the year we tackled topics such as the Polish literary canon (in Poland and abroad), the afterlives of Polish Romanticism and the Romantic paradigm, multilingualism in Polish literature, émigré and migrant writing, autoexoticism, as well as the relevance of postcolonial theory to the Polish and Eastern European contexts. Our discussions were prompted by a set of readings, carefully selected from the theoretical corpora of Polish Studies, Comparative Literature, World Literature, Modernist Studies, Translation Studies, and International Relations. In our sessions, we were joined by scholars interested in Polish culture, or the culture of the region more broadly, working in the fields of Modern Languages, Sociology, History, English, Diplomacy, and even Biomedical Sciences.
Aiming to expand the scope of our activities beyond Oxford, we also organised three online sessions which attracted a large international audience; we were joined by scholars from the United Kingdom, the United States, Poland, and Germany. Our first online event was a book launch of Professor Dorota Kołodziejczyk’s most recent book on postcolonial theory in East-Central Europe, East Central Europe Between the Colonial and the Postcolonial in the Twentieth Century (2023), co-edited with Professor Siegfried Huigen. The book is in open access, and you can find it here.
For our second online session, we welcomed Alex Braslavsky, the translator of the first selected volume in English of Zuzanna Ginczanka’s poetry, in conversation with Dr Kasia Szymańska. Alex Braslavsky read from and discussed her recently published About Centaurs & Other Poems (World Poetry Books). She shared with us her journey of getting to know Ginczanka’s work, and the difference in experiencing her poetry as a translator and as an academic. You can read Alex Braslavsky’s translations of Zuzanna Ginczanka’s poetry here, and read Piotr Florczyk’s interview with the translator here.
Our final online session was facilitated by Ania Ready, who discussed her literary photobook I Also Fight Windmills (VIKA Books, 2023), which tells the story of Sophie Gaudier-Brzeska, trilingual feminist writer and a poet of Polish origin. Ania Ready spent seven years tracing the life and work of Gaudier-Brzeska, travelling to rural Poland, Kraków, L’viv, Paris, New York, London, and Wotton-under-Edge. In our next post, we will discuss Ania Ready’s work in more detail, drawing attention to interdisciplinary and intermedial approaches to engaging with Polish literature.
What we are planning to do
Our online events have shown us the great benefits of an international and interdisciplinary audience, and the need to provide a platform to foster dialogue and inspire collaboration across national, institutional, and disciplinary boundaries.
Aiming to provide such a platform, we have decided to shift our focus to online events only. Our activities in the upcoming year will therefore take the shape of a regular postgraduate workshop – please find the call for papers below:
Call for Papers
Polish Studies Working Group Postgraduate Workshop
The TORCH Polish Studies Working Group invites postgraduate and early-career researchers to submit proposals for 20-minute presentations on topics related to the study of Polish literature and culture. No matter if your research falls into the broad category of Polish Studies, or whether you find yourself working on its fringes, we encourage you to apply and share your work in a welcoming environment.
The aim of our workshop is to provide a platform for all researchers interested in Polish material to share their discoveries, discuss issues, exchange ideas, and form collaborations. We want to create an international and interdisciplinary network of postgraduate and early-career scholars in order to combat the sense of disciplinary and institutional isolation many Polish Studies scholars experience.
The workshop will take the shape of monthly sessions, lasting one hour. The papers can be standalone presentations, dissertation chapters, articles, and others, and will form the basis for our discussions.
The sessions will take place online, every last Thursday of the month, between October 2023 and June 2024. The working language of the sessions will be English.
Please send your abstracts and short bios to the TORCH Polish Studies Working Group’s co-convenors, Ola Sidorkiewicz (email@example.com) and Marianna Leszczyk (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you wish, you may indicate a preference for the date of your session.
The deadline to submit proposals is 7 October 2023, and we will notify all applicants of our decision outcome by 14 October 2023.
We are very much looking forward to your submissions and to getting to know your research!
How to reach us
You can find our website and event archive here.
The Polish Studies Working Group (PSWG) is part of the TORCH Critical-Thinking Communites.