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Texts, Images, Practices

Contemporary Perspectives on American, British and Polish Cultures

by Paweł Rutkowski (Volume editor) Justyna Wierzchowska (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 166 Pages

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • INTRODUCTION: Paweł Rutkowski and Justyna Wierzchowska
  • READING CONTEMPORARY POLITICS
  • “The End of History” Thesis and the Polish Connection: ANETA DYBSKA
  • The Rise of “Fake News”: The End of Conspiracy Theories?: MICHAŁ RÓŻYCKI
  • IDENTITY AND IMAGE IN PRINTED AND DIGITAL PRESS
  • From behind the Iron Curtain: The Image of the United States in Przekrój in the Years 1948–53: JUSTYNA WIERZCHOWSKA
  • The Power of the Visual: Media Photographs of Polish Women in Politics and Business in Polityka in 2009: KATARZYNA KOCIOŁEK
  • Selling Seniors to Themselves: The Cultural Identity of Mature Travellers in Tourism Promotion Media of 2010s: IRMINA WAWRZYCZEK
  • (RE)STAGING THE SPECTACLE
  • The Adventures of Consciousness in the Haunted Space of Theatre: The Case of Isabel Archer: MIROSŁAWA BUCHHOLTZ
  • The Prince of Humbug or the Phantom of the Circus: P.T. Barnum in the Musical: DOROTA BABILAS
  • CULTURAL MEANINGS OF FOOD
  • Roast Beef on Christmas Eve: Culinary Nostalgia among Members of the Great Emigration in Britain: EMMA HARRIS
  • The Ambivalent Position of Curry in the Context of Popular Culture: Entitlement, Belonging and Insecurity: ANNA MARIA TOMCZAK
  • REPRESENTATIONS OF POLISHNESS
  • Pianist, Patriot, Politician: Representations of Ignacy Jan Paderewski in the American Press, 1891–1921: ZBIGNIEW MAZUR
  • From the Realm of Memory Studies: Traces of Poland in Recent American Fiction by Paul Auster, Nicole Krauss and Gloria Goldreich: LUCYNA ALEKSANDROWICZ-PĘDICH
  • Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

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Paweł Rutkowski and Justyna Wierzchowska

INTRODUCTION

The present collection of essays Texts, Images, Practices: Contemporary Perspectives on American, British and Polish Cultures is dedicated to Professor Marek Gołębiowski, a prominent scholar and significant contributor to the development of British and American cultural studies in Poland. The beginning of his academic career at the University of Warsaw coincided with a “cultural turn” in the paradigm of English Studies practised in Poland, which so far had placed emphasis on literature but then increasingly started to embrace a complementary broader cultural perspective. This was reflected by the rise of new units within the structure of the University of Warsaw – the Department of Cultural Studies at the Institute of English Studies (1975) and the American Studies Center (1976). Marek Gołębiowski was invited to work in both of them, although it was the former that became his academic home and where he systematically developed the American and Canadian sections. He was also appointed head of the Department of Cultural Studies, a position he held for more than twenty years until his recent retirement.

There are several areas of academic interest pursued by Professor Gołębiowski in his scholarly work. One of them was an exploration of multiple connections between the Polish culture and that of the English-speaking countries. The task taken on already in his PhD thesis – devoted to how British culture was translated and cultivated by 19th-century Polish scholars – was laboriously and consistently continued, in various ways, throughout his academic research. Professor Gołębiowski’s main field of study was American popular culture, which he analysed using primarily and uniquely the conceptual apparatus of cultural anthropology. Notably, he specialised in Musical Theatre, the genre he greatly valued and rightly treated as one of the most important manifestations of American culture, as well as a contribution to the world’s theatre. Furthermore, the phenomenal popularity of American musicals, staged and performed practically everywhere in the world (including Poland, of course), saliently demonstrates how effectively cultural translation can work. Professor Gołębiowski’s pioneering books Being Alive: American Musical: Text, Performance, Values (1988) and Musical amerykański na tle kultury popularnej USA [The American Musical in America Popular Culture] (1989) laid ground for the Musical Theatre and Performance Studies in Poland.

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It should be noted that Professor Gołębiowski’s detailed analysis of particular cultural phenomena always went together with a macroscopic approach whose objective was to construe and present (American) culture as a large and complex system consisting of numerous elements interrelated diachronically as well as synchronically. The premise was that only with such an attitude borne constantly in mind, the culture under study can be effectively known, explained, (re)interpreted and, finally, brought closer to the general reader’s understanding. Accordingly, Marek Gołębiowski created an extensive panorama of American culture, past and present, in his two synthetic works: Dzieje Kultury Stanów Zjednoczonych [A Cultural History of the United States of America] (2004) and the more recent An Encyclopedia of American Culture (2016). The two books – an impressive result of many years of research – have been appreciated by readers, both academic and popular, and continue to serve as crucial works of reference, providing facts and interpretive tools for students of American culture and for the general audience.

The present volume is published in Peter Lang Verlag’s book series Encounters: The Warsaw Studies in English Language Culture, Literature, and Visual Arts, a series that Professor Marek Gołębiowski co-founded and for years co-edited. The chapters selected for this collection have been written by his colleagues, collaborators and former students, who have offered their contributions in order to honour Professor Gołębiowski and show their respect and gratitude to him. The authors offer timely insights into a plethora of themes and events pertinent to the cultures of Great Britain, United States and Poland. Divided into five sections, the chapters proffer multidisciplinary readings of various texts of culture, including social and political phenomena, and ranging from novels, memoirs, letters and articles in the press, to the musical, theatrical adaptation and food. The authors draw from a variety of methodologies worked out within the field of cultural and literary studies, among them memory studies, discourse analysis theory, theories of visual design and theories of popular culture.

The first section, “Reading Contemporary Politics,” opens with a chapter by Aneta Dybska. It explores the famous “end of history” triumphalism, put forward by Francis Fukuyama in a 1989 article and then expanded in his 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man. This triumphalism was showcased in Lech Wałęsa’s 1989 address to the American Congress, famously opening with a Polish-American rhetorical bridge “We, the people.” Dybska meticulously reconstructs Fukuyama’s original ideas, as well as their post-2008 revision, published in Identity: Contemporary Identity Politics and the Struggle for Recognition (2018). She then applies these ideas to read and understand the idiosyncrasies of the post-1989 domestic politics in Poland, especially the failure of ←10 | 11→the post-transformation policy-makers – coming from the intellectual elite – to recognise the Poles’ collective desire for national pride and weave the new political processes into the fabric of social life. Referring to social studies of the Polish people exposed to the transformation, she explains the recent rise of populism and right-wing nationalism in Poland, which has given and solidified the political power of Jarosław Kaczyński and his Law and Justice Party.

The second chapter in this section is Michał Różycki’s study of the discourse on contemporary American politics. The author embarks on an analysis of major events in 20th- and 21st-century American history through the lens of conspiracy theories. Surveying the works by David Brion Davis, Richard Hofstadter and Timothy Melley, Różycki goes on to recall the most famous events in the American history of the last sixty years that have given rise to conspiracy myths, among them the assassinations of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the death of Marilyn Monroe and the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11. Różycki sheds light on the relation between the substantial embracement of conspiracy theories in the US and the idea of American exceptionalism. Linking the historical conspiracy-making with the present situation in the US, the author traces the ways in which such theories have reached a high point during the presidency of Donald Trump with the emergence, circulation and indefinite status of “fake news.”

The next section, “Identity and Image in Printed and Digital Press” contains three chapters that analyse different aspects of media representations. In the first text, Justyna Wierzchowska scrutinises the image of the United States in the Polish mass-circulation weekly Przekrój [Cross-section] in the years 1948–53. She synthesises information collected from almost sixty articles published in Przekrój along the most salient categories, such as “the American way of life,” American foreign and domestic politics, racism, popular culture, and the American city. The chapter demonstrates that Przekrój, while adhering to the official censorship lines, nonetheless managed to manoeuvre in the tiny space of freedom, to map out, for example, the cultural parallels between the experience of the so-called ordinary people in the capitalist and Soviet blocs.

The second chapter in this section similarly reads representations in Polish mass-circulation printed press. In this piece, Katarzyna Kociołek investigates the image of Polish women in the opinion-making weekly Polityka [Politics]. She close-reads articles from the year 2009, investigating the correlation between the topic of the article and the accompanying visuals. Kociołek concludes that pictures that illustrate narratives about women’s professional and economic success tend to defeminise them, while those that illustrate stories of anguish and failure feature women who display traditional feminine traits. The chapter offers ←11 | 12→a broader comment on the gendered character of the female economic/professional success representation in a contemporary capitalist society, a comment that significantly extends beyond the Polish context.

Finally, Irmina Wawrzyczek surveys a currently developing field of tourism studies, focusing on their recent subsection that takes interest in the discourse targeting elderly (over sixty years of age) consumers of tourism services. She analyses several websites – both in English and Polish – that, in the years 2016–2018, addressed this particular group of customers. Wawrzyczek links this recent trend in tourism promotion with the demographic tendencies that prevail in most countries in the West. By the year 2025, twenty-five percent of their inhabitants are expected to be over sixty. Wawrzyczek links the appearance of the discourse inclusive of senior tourists with the more general logic of capital circulation, which targets certain groups or interests by inscribing them into the narrative of pleasure through commodity consumption.

Summary

Texts, Images, Practices offers multidisciplinary readings of various texts of culture, including social and political phenomena, novels, memoirs, letters and articles in the press, musical, theatrical adaptation and food. The authors draw from a variety of methodologies worked out within cultural and literary studies, among them memory studies, discourse analysis theory, theories of visual design and theories of popular culture, working at the intersection between the textual, the visual and the performative. The meanings and conclusions arising from the chapters included in this collection signal a variety of thematic and theoretical directions that are presently followed in cultural and literary studies in Poland.

Biographical notes

Paweł Rutkowski (Volume editor) Justyna Wierzchowska (Volume editor)

Texts, Images, Practices offers multidisciplinary readings of various texts of culture, including social and political phenomena, novels, memoirs, letters and articles in the press, musical, theatrical adaptation and food. The authors draw from a variety of methodologies worked out within cultural and literary studies, among them memory studies, discourse analysis theory, theories of visual design and theories of popular culture, working at the intersection between the textual, the visual and the performative. The meanings and conclusions arising from the chapters included in this collection signal a variety of thematic and theoretical directions that are presently followed in cultural and literary studies in Poland.

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Title: Texts, Images, Practices