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Polish Queer Modernism

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Piotr Sobolczyk

This book is a study of twentieth century Polish literature in the contexts of queer theory, psychoanalysis and modernism studies. It presents readings of well-known authors such as Witold Gombrowicz or of authors gaining international fame such as Miron Białoszewski, as well as essays on other important, but less known Polish writers. The book also offers theoretical ideas relevant outside the Polish context: the idea of «homoinfluence», the «enigmatic signifier» and its role in «paranoid cultures», the overlapping of Jewishness and queer, the discussion of queer fables for children, or the new approach to the idea of «camp» and its relation to commodity fetishism.
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Introduction: Modernism. Queer. Polish

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Has there been a queer modernism? Or: has modernism been queer? Are these two questions even-steven? Was there a ghetto-like space inside “modernism” where queer themes could be spoken aloud for the very first time in cultural history in such intensity? Or perhaps the whole body of modernist discourses and practices was queer, especially by comparison with the previous periods? It is common practice now to speak of “modernisms”, not “modernism”, and this tendency encompasses national modernisms, but also “reactionary modernisms”, “Marxist modernisms”, etc., “queer” one included; on the other hand, the majority of English-language research that uses “modernism(s)” as general formula(s), cover mostly Anglo-Saxon modernism(s), at times with the reference to French one. At first glance it might appear that since “queer” deals with sexuality, a global “queer modernism” might be easy to define: people’s genitals are not that different (questionable!), the uses of these genitals, which is what “sexuality” is (questionable!), are quite similar regardless of localisation (questionable!), and on top of this, the discourses on sexuality which are the base for the medical and judicial understanding of human sexuality come from the same root. Queer theory, however, went far beyond understanding sexuality as genital activities or bodily pleasures. The view that I share sees “sexuality” as quite a unique individual complex of preferable bodily activities, mental fantasies, but also social attitudes, political views, and structural (socio-political) conditions which affect the possibilities – and impossibilities at times – of performing “sexualities”, not to forget the...

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