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Wisława Szymborska’s poetry

Choice of essays- Translated by Karolina Krasuska and Jedrzej Burszta


Edited By Anna Nasilowska

This is a reader’s book about Wisława Szymborska’s poetry. She holds the Nobel Prize in Literature of 1996. The Contents of the book are the Nobel Lecture held in Stockholm at the official ceremony by the poet in December 1996, a choice of Polish essays about Szmyborska’s poetry and translations of her works into German, English, Spanish and French by Polish critics (translated into English). All essays were published at first in Polish in separated books or in literary revues. Since many years Wisława Szymborska’s poetry is translated into many different languages and loved by readers as intellectual and ironic comment to contemporary world. The book of critics written in Poland and by Western specialists on Polish literature shows how her poetry was read and seen on background of artistic tradition and experience of her generation and from the point of view of different currents in humanities.
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Wisława Szymborska and the Wonders of a Disenchanted World: Arent van Nieukerken


Wisława Szymborska and the Wonders of a Disenchanted World

Arent van Nieukerken

1. A General Characteristic of Szymborska’s Poetic World — Scientism and Perspectivism

Many critics have pointed out to the scientist mark in Wisława Szymborska’s poetry. The poet constantly refers to the modern biological worldview, often illustrating her poetic arguments with examples taken from nature.1 Yet it is not didactic poetry in the sense that, through the use of biological terminology, the author seeks to present a coherent theory about humanity’s place in the evolving universe. Szymborska uses scientific arguments in a manner that resembles the practices of the seventeenth-century metaphysical poets who relied on theological dogmas — for these examples have an extemporary and nonsystematic character.2 ← 49 | 50 → The author’s private life influences the relativization of those examples. By exemplifying her beliefs and ideals, the poet created a mirror reflecting her life, thereby presenting her personal involvement in the world of creation and passing — recorded by memory. Contrary to the seventeenth century, in contemporary poetry, the horizon of memory is not formed, but is still in the process of forming.3 The lyric situation, in which memory is articulated, does not obtain its meaning in relation to the system of normative rhetoric (as it was in the preromantic period). Scientific ideology can no longer take over the role that the normative rhetoric once had as a guarantor of individual authenticity.

This does not mean, however, that Szymborska’s scientism is only an...

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