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The Persona of Czesław Miłosz

Authorial Poetics, Critical Debates, Reception Games


Mikołaj Golubiewski

The Persona of Czesław Miłosz considers the poetry of Miłosz in the innovative light of world literature and comparative literary studies. The author employs critical debates about Miłosz in American and English literature to reshape the image of his reception. The book masterfully elaborates Miłosz’s poetics of perspectivism with a new method of analysis based on the category of authorial persona—between reception, poetics, and close-reading—separate from the literary persona. Each chapter encapsulates introductory information about Polish literature and moves beyond the horizon of Western expectations about Central European writers. Miłosz’s most discussed poems reveal new provocative power in the context of T. S. Eliot, Walt Whitman, William Blake, and Friedrich Nietzsche.

To date, no work comprehensively examines Miłosz’s self-proclaimed contradictory nature and the nomadic quality of his works. As a result, scholarship remains scattered in diverse areas of interest, moving Miłosz to the margins of world literature, instead of cherishing the diversity of perspectives he championed, among other places, in his Nobel Lecture. Without properly appreciating the poetics of contradiction proposed by Miłosz and a critical analysis of his process of self-situation, we narrow his impact on literature only to Polish poetry, effectively allowing for a petrification of his innovative methods. The Persona of Czesław Miłosz remedies this gap by revealing that, in contrast to Polish and American literary reception, Miłosz was an eccentric eulogist of the concept of a multi-perspectivist persona. Through close examinations of Miłosz’s poetry, we learn that he develops a method of oscillating between ideas in search of lasting symbols common to all, beginning unfailingly with his current perspective. After all, Miłosz persistently placed himself outside of the consensus and maneuvered the subject matter of his works to such an extent that his works became his philosophy of literature and the way of life.

Czesław Miłosz – World literature – Comparative literature – Reception studies – Reception – American literature – English literature – Polish literature – Poetics – Perspectivism – Authorial persona – Literary persona – Criticism – Translation studies – Self-translation – Self-fashioning – Self-definition – Posture litteraire – T.S. Eliot – Walt Whitman – William Blake – Friedrich Nietzsche