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Affinities

Essays in Honour of Professor Tadeusz Rachwał

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Edited By Agnieszka Pantuchowicz and Slawomir Maslon

Affinities, a collection of essays dedicated to Professor Tadeusz Rachwał, a noted literary historian and cultural critic, pioneer of the present-day cultural studies in Poland, includes texts written by his friends, colleagues, and disciples. As it turns out, even though the topics discussed by the particular authors differ from each other, the volume has a definite focus: literature and culture from the early modern times to the present, approached in ways that combine attention to the textual detail with a broad perspective of social change and the ability to use the hermeneutics of suspicion to see through various received ideas and petrified ideologies. Scholars from Poland, the UK, and the USA have demonstrated that Professor Rachwał attracts minds that unite critical passion and inquisitiveness with expertise in many fields of research in today’s (post-)humanities.
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“Almost a Joke”: A Reading of Five Poems by Robert Frost

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My main line of argument in this essay runs contrary to that of Samuel Coale’s who believes that “Frost is far more interested in the present encounter with nature than in recreating a sense of reverie to elude the emptiness of that present” (Centennial Essays, 90). Somewhat teasingly, perhaps, I intend to argue that nature in Frost disappears altogether and is substituted by linguistic playfulness (fancy, rather than imagination). William James coined a comparison with which he meant to compromise the notion of introspective analysis; the same comparison, in my opinion, can be positively used to explicate the peculiarity of Frost’s figuration of nature: it is like “trying to turn up the gas quickly enough to see how the darkness looks” (Rotella, 66). This darkness, however, is not necessarily “terrifying” in Frost (as Lionel Trilling would have it) – in fact, it is the very condition of poetic creation, although it must be remembered that the author of “Design” undermines the classical figures of poetic authority – his speakers turn into consciously unreliable narrators: permanently ironic, whimsical and fanciful. I will focus on Frost’s two shorter and quite well-known poems – “Hyla Brook” and “For Once, Then, Something” – and three longer ones, rarely discussed by critics – “The Bonfire,” “Paul’s Wife” and “The Mountain.”

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