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Studies on Socialist Realism

The Polish View

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Edited By Anna Artwińska, Bartłomiej Starnawski and Grzegorz Wołowiec

This anthology presents a selection of texts on Polish socialist realist literature, written from the early 1980s to date. They depict a comprehensive picture of this literary phenomenon: starting from its holistic interpretations, through detailed analyses of the poetics of literary and political texts and a presentation of specific, also untypical embodiments of this artistic doctrine, to descriptions of the functioning of the institutions of literary life under socialist realism. All the texts in this anthology share a historically and culturally determined general methodological perspective, representing a combination of the Polish version of structuralism in literary studies – on the descriptive plane – with the anti-communist attitude on the plane of evaluation of presented phenomena.
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Anna Artwińska - Two Left Shoes: ‘The Marxist Breakthrough’ in Poland and Its Context

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Anna Artwińska

Two Left Shoes: ‘The Marxist Breakthrough’ in Poland and Its Context1

1.

Socialist realism, which by definition was to exert an influence on all domains of social and cultural life, also affected the course and methodology of humanities and social sciences, primarily philology, philosophy and history. Many literary critics were present at the 1949 Congress of Writers’ Union in Szczecin. One of the main speeches was that delivered by Stefan Żółkiewski. They also participated in the 1944–1948 discussions on socialist realism that rolled through the press. While acknowledging the difference between scholarly and artistic perception of the world, the legislators of socialist realism treated literary criticism as a space within which the rules of creating socialist realist literature should be hammered out, and as an arena for an evaluation and criticism of existing works. Marxism-Leninism was the methodological framework for socialist realism in literary scholarship. It served both as a scholarly and as a political methodology, binding in the USSR since the 1920s and gradually implemented in Eastern Bloc countries from the end of World War II. Marxism-Leninism of the Soviet variety was different from the Marxist tradition present in Polish literary criticism from the end of the 19th century (and continued after the war on the pages of Kuźnica, for example).2 This difference lay primarily – albeit not exclusively – in its political liaison, which ← 359 | 360 → earned it such appellations as ‘dogmatic’, ‘vulgar’, ‘aggressive’, ‘Stalinist’....

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