Comparative Literature--Polish 6210, Spring 2002

Prof. David A. Goldfarb

Course time: W 6:10-8:00 p.m., 227 Milbank

This course will investigate avant-garde movements in literature and the arts in Poland from the end of the Nineteenth Century to the Second World War. To the greatest extent possible given local resources, we will attempt to work with texts as they originally appeared in journals and first editions, with the goal of developing a feel for the vibrant interdisciplinary modernist culture of pre-Communist Poland. Members of the seminar will participate in a bibliographic research project to evaluate the contents of libraries and collections in the city, will present the results of this research in oral and written form, and will write a critical paper using materials derived from the research of the group.

23 Jan.—Introduction (obtain a copy of Paluba and begin reading now).

30 Jan.—Expressionism: Stanislaw Przybyszewski, the early poetry of Józef Wittlin, and Zdrój. See

TBA week of 4 Feb.—Meeting at the Slavic and Baltic Collection at the NYPL.

13 Feb.—Radical Neo-classicism: Skamander, Tuwim, Iwaszkiewicz, and their circle. Theodor Adorno, “Lyric and Society.”

20 Feb.—Karol Irzykowski’s anti-novel: Paluba

27 Feb.—Formism: S. I. Witkiewicz, Julian Przybos, Tadeusz Peiper, Zwrotnica and the Cracow (“First”) Vanguard

6 Mar.—Witkiewicz: Nienasycenie and his paintings and possibly two plays: Mister Price czyli Bzik tropikalny and Metafizyka dwuglowego cielecia. On Nienasycenie see

13 March—Jewish Modernist Literature in Poland. Meet at JTS, 3080 Broadway at 6:00 p.m., where we will be joining The Ginor Seminar in Modern Jewish Literature. Read Ruth R. Wisse, The Modern Jewish Canon: A Journey through Language and Culture (New York: The Free Press, 2000), Intro. and ch. 4-6 (or the whole book if you have time), and by I.B. Singer, Satan in Goray; Jacob Glatstein, Homecoming at Twilight; and S. Y. Agnon, A Guest for the Night.


27 Mar.—Futurism: Anatol Stern, Aleksandr Wat, Bruno Jasienski, Gga. Bibliographic project due.

3 April—Class cancelled for conference.

10 Apr.—The “Second Vanguard,” poets of social and philosophical concern: Adam Wazyk, Miczyslaw Jastrun, K. I. Galczynski, the early Czeslaw Milosz, Zagary

17 Apr.—Second Vanguard (continued)

24 Apr.—Witold Gombrowicz: Ferdydurke and portions of the Dziennik. Proposal due.

1 May—Bruno Schulz: Stories, essays, and graphic works. Biblioteka Narodowa edition recommended. On “Noc wielkiego sezonu” see

10 May—Final paper due.

Grades will be weighted as follows:

 Participation         15%
 Bibliographic Project 25%
 Proposal              10%
 Final Paper           50%


READING—Most of the readings will be made available as photocopies or may be found in the library and will be assigned over the course of the term based on the availability of materials and the interests and research of the members of the seminar. Some relevant articles that I have published and are available on the web have been listed above, and more bibliographic suggestions will be supplied as the term progresses. Be sure to check the card catalogue as well as CLIO--you will likely need to use books that are still catalogued under the Dewey system or that are offsite and require 1-3 days for delivery. Use of Interlibrary Loan and other collections in the region are also highly encouraged. Note that you can request these materials online using the CU Libraries Website (, and they can notify you by email when materials are available for pickup.

If you do not own a copy of Czeslaw Milosz, The History of Polish Literature. I also recommend Andrzej Lam, Polska awangarda poetycka as a general reference to Polish avantgarde manifesti. Recommended dictionaries are Doroszewski, available at quite reasonable cost on CD-ROM from and the four-volume Stanislawski Polsko-Angielski/Angielsko-Polski. Note that older versions of Stanislawski and other useful Polish dictionaries have been moved from the main collection to the Annex and Offsite locations, and can be checked out on semester loan. Other recommended histories with extensive bibliographies are the two series, Nowy Korbut and Obraz literatury polskiej.

A working knowledge of Polish is assumed, but given the volume of reading in the course and varying levels of linguistic ability, you may work with translations if necessary alongside the original. The general expectation will be “from each according to his linguistic ability, to each according to his linguistic need.” Note that there is no translation of Paluba, and that copies of this and other works are scarce. Members should prepare readings for the group in advance of days that they will be making presentations. If you would like to purchase books that you are working with, I highly recommend the Ksiegarnia Polska in Vienna, which is accessible at The proprietor, Zofia Reinbacher, often attends Slavic conferences in the U.S., takes credit card orders via e-mail, corresponds in Polish, German, and English, and has an excellent knowledge of which books are important and which editions are good.

Assignments will be discussed in greater detail in the seminar:

BIBLIOGRAPHIC PROJECT—New York City is quite rich in resources for the study of Polish modernism. New York has been an important center for immigrant intellectuals who brought books and journals or had them sent from Poland either to themselves or to public libraries where they congregated or to Polish cultural institutions. Many of these materials, which are rare even in Poland, have drifted into various public and private collections around the city, but they are not well catalogued, and in many cases their value is not recognized by their owners. As part of an ongoing bibliographic project, members of the seminar will go out into the city and will hunt down these materials, will present their findings to the group, and will catalogue them for entry into a database to which all members will have access. Contributors to the database will be acknowledged upon its eventual publication. The bibliographic project is due 13 March 2002.

FINAL PAPER—Members should write a term paper of about 15 pages on a topic to be determined individually, preferably on original materials uncovered in the course of the work of the group (they don’t need to be your own discoveries), and should turn in a written proposal of 1-2 pages for the final paper including a working thesis, list of texts under consideration, and a sketch of the argument. The proposal is due 24 April 2002, but you may turn it in as soon as you are ready. The final paper is due 10 May 2002.

PARTICIPATION—This portion of the grade includes productive oral participation in class, attendance, the extent to which written assignments reflect active listening in class, improvement in work over the course of the semester, intrepidness in research, and generosity in contribution to the seminar.


25 September 2005