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Critical Theory and Critical Genres

Contemporary Perspectives from Poland

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Edited By Charles Russel, Arne Melberg, Jaroslaw Pluciennik and Michal Wroblewski

This book is the result of a shared conviction of the necessity to advance the international discourse on criticism. What originated in ancient curiosity and developing self-reflexion became the critical thought of the modern era and then developed into a program of constant intellectual contestation and struggle allied with various ideologies to subsequently become an integral part of post-structuralist culture theory and recently the New Humanities, also known as post-theory. The book positions itself within contemporary considerations of the theory and practice of criticism and presents texts by established and rising scholars and provides greater insights into various aspects of Polish intellectual culture during the past decades. The publication constitutes an important voice in the discussion on criticism by demonstrating the specific theoretical and pragmatic perspective of the debate in Poland in relation to Europe and the rest of the (post)modern world.
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Natalia Lemann: Could We Conserve Ourselves From the Past? Alternates Histories and Uchronias as Literary Apories of Politics and Historical Knowledge

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Could We Save Ourselves From the Past? Alternate Histories and Uchronias as Literary Apories of Politics and Historical Knowledge

Natalia Lemann*

Abstract

The paper discusses the genres of alternate history and uchronias, and their subversive potential as a literary aporia of politics and of the historical knowledge. The Point of Divergence as a principium of the genre is the primary way of criticising history, understood as the past that has actually happened. Authors of alternate history reject the past, choosing plausible historical worlds instead, because the actual history is unsatisfying, traumatic and painful for them. Alternate histories are highly politically involved, as the choice of the POD uncovers the authors’ dreams about the past; for instance, by making the history of their own country or nation more successful and heroic than it actually was. It is shown that the narration about the past in the alternate history genre depends on the political and generational experiences of the authors. As an example, the editorial series “Zwrotnice historii” [“The Switching Points of History”], published by Narodowe Centrum Kultury [National Cultural Centre] in Warsaw, is analysed. The series comprises among others: M. Parowski, Burza. Ucieczka z Warszawy `40 [The Storm. Escape from Warsaw`40] and M. Wolski, Wallenrod. These novels were created by writers who experienced the times of communism and censorship. As a result, nostalgia, essentialism, nationalism and the topos of “raising spirits” prevail there, the latter known in the Polish literature during the...

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