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Title: Katastrofy odmieńców
Authors: Kaliściak, Tomasz
Keywords: współczesna literatura polska; Daniel Paul Schreber; homoseksualizm w literaturze
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Śląskiego
Abstract: The main research aim of this dissertation is to show the complex and diverse relations between a catastrophic imagination and the so‑called homosexual panic stimulated by homophobically‑oriented reality. More generally, the work concentrates on the issue of a queer modernist identity. The theses are reflected in Freudian interpretation of the case of Paul Daniel Schreber and in the works of selected authors, such as Józef Czechowicz, Stefan Napierski, Stanisław Swen Czachorowski and Tadeusz Olszewski to whom separate studies were devoted. The introductory chapter makes an attempt at a synthetic overview of research done on homosexuality or, broadly speaking, sexual otherness in Polish literary studies. A special emphasis is put on the reception of gender studies and queer theory within the scope of native humanist studies, starting from the second half of the 1990s. In this context, an unquestionable contribution of Polish philologists deriving from research centres abroad, having postmodernist theories on deconstruction, psychoanalysis, feminist or gender criticism at their disposal and trying to abolish the taboo around sexual otherness in Polish literature from the outside is emphasised. Pioneering achievements should be ascribed to German Ritz, a Swiss Slavist, but one should also enumerate his followers, among others, Alessandro Amenta or Błażej Warkocki. The contribution of these three researchers is significant for shaping a native type of gay and queer criticism, which, in Polish cultural conditions, happen almost parallelly. The identity politics of gay criticism coexists with the non‑identity approach of queer criticism. However, one should notice that it is prose that is a predominating subject of literary studies on homosexuality in Poland, while poetry has not been given the appropriate language of description. Hence the subject‑matter of the book are mainly the poetical works of the authors mentioned above. In order to avoid considering literary works exclusively in terms of the representation of homosexuality or then homosexuality problem, a reference is made to the concept of a homosocial continuum developed in the works of Eve Kosofsky Sedwick, an American researcher and pioneer of queer theory. The analysis of the nature and specificity of homosexual desire does not constitute an ultimate aim here as the studies rather concentrate on catastrophic imagination motivated by what breaks up and escalates fear in homosocial relationships between men. In other words, what is important here is the way a homophobia or homosexual panic dominating in the society shapes catastrophic imaginations. The relation between the homosexual panic and catastrophic imagination employed for the interpretation of the literary works of selected poets is based on observations concerning the well‑known case of judge Schreber, described and popularized by Sigmund Freud. Thus, the next chapter presents the most important interpretations of the case proposed after Freud by among others Jacques Lacan, Guy Hocquenghem, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari or Eve Kosofsky Sedwick. The Freud’s thesis on Schreber’s homosexual identity was deconstructed by his followers. From different points of view, they claimed that the reason of his catastrophic paranoia was not only homosexuality alleged by Freud, but a homosexual panic, that is the fear of being accused of a different orientation. This paranoid situation destroyed Schreber’s identity, thus causing the illusion of the end of the world and global catastrophe. For this reason, Schreber’s case is treated as an important starting point for conducting broader studies on the influence of psychoanalytic conceptions on the development of queer theory, and as an important contribution to the interpretation of works by Czechowicz, Napierski, Czachorowski and Olszewski. That is why the subsequent chapters constitute individual interpretative studies in which the selected texts are thoroughly discussed. The largest part, constituting the core of the work, is devoted to Czechowicz. Reconstructing a mythopeic model of poetry of the author of Kamień, the vital role of homosexual desire connected with the most important thematic threads such as death, extermination or Arcadia, is accentuated here. Myth creation in Czechowicz’s works is also considered a special form of sublimation of a homosexual desire. An important role in this system is played by boyish figures the author elevates to the rank of divinity. The very mythical structure constitutes a chain of life experiences and loosely treated myths, cultural allusions and symbols. The tendency appears as early as in his youth works, and is especially visible in debut Opowieść o papierowej koronie thoroughly analysed here as well as in such poems as kolorowa noc, wiersz o śmierci or, finally, the scandalizing poetic work hildur baldur i czas, on the basis of which the poet was accused of homosexuality in 1936. In a detailed description of the circumstances of this scandal and a socio‑legal situation of homosexuals in the interwar period, hildur baldur i czas is regarded to be a crucial text in Czechowicz’s ouvre. From that moment on, a catastrophic visionariness clearly strengthens, and the poet himself moves away from social life, dealing with the problem of rising fascism and anti‑Semitism in his literary and essayist works. He stands up for human dignity and love. Czechowicz’s works and essayist particularly, their myth‑creating character, are also considered here from the perspective of the aesthetics of the camp, referring to the psychoanalytic conception of this phenomenon, proposed by Kosofsky Sedgwick. From this angle, poetry by Czechowicz becomes a gesture of a symbolic repair of an endangered world and the poet himself is portrayed as a master trying to save humankind from extermination. The third chapter centres around Mark Eiger’s life and works, a homosexual writer and literary critic of Jewish origin, publishing under the nickname of Stefan Napierski. Referring to biographic evidence, an oppressive system of exclusions the poet as an affluent Jew and homosexual underwent is described. At the same time, a tragic existence of the writer referred to as the last decadent of the Young Poland movement is emphasized here, whereas decadence is understood, after Elanie Showalter, as an euphemism of repressed homosexuality. Napierski’s imagination is discussed here between the poles of a decadent worldview, characterizing the epoch of modernism, and a catastrophic one, describing the poet’s awareness before the outbreak of the World War II. Besides, homosexuality in Napierski’s literary works is considered in relation to the romantic tradition of friendship and travel writing. According to many researchers, the ideal of romantic friendship is situated at the borderline of a homosexual desire. Napierski is probably the first Polish poet who, through his works, pointed to a vital transition in the structure of a male homosocial continuum, the transition of which resulted from consciously expressed homosexuality. Reading Napierski’s poetry and his only novel Rozmowa z cieniem from a homosexual angle strengthens the catastrophic premises of this writing. A catastrophic continuum also includes the linguistic poetry by Stanisław Swen Czachorowski, which comprise the references to homosexuality the presence of which has not been considered so far. The memory of war experiences becomes a fixed dominant of Czachorowski’s catastrophic imagination to which homoerotic issues are related. A broadly developed phallic metaphoricity, as well as the motif of nudity, connected with a rich system of cultural references (David, Gilgamesh, Hiacynth from the Bible) correspond with the problem of war extermination. The strategy of a linguistic split of imagination and its “reparation” interpreted in the perspective of a camp sensitivity plays an important part here. Like in Czechowicz, the world seen by Czachorowski in the perspective of a camp is an idyllic world following the phase of destruction and catastrophe. The last interpretative study is devoted to a less known, though more contemporary author, that is Tadeusz Olszewski. His poetry, created at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s, is a record of the private biography in which the process of revealing a non‑normative sexuality is one of the most important points. The very process shows a great diversity of homoeroticism starting from the sublimation of homosexual desire and a transitory stage of bisexuality to a full homosexual approval or even a gay identity. In this poetry a catastrophic myth characterizing the lyrics by Czechowicz was manifested itself. Tadeusz Olszewski’s poetry is a proof of discovering otherness through homosexual codes of culture. Numerous references to works by homosexual authors (Auden, Ginsberg, Kawafis, Mann, Musil, O’Hara, Whitman and others) prove the need to build a homosexual tradition. The intertextual tracing of homoeroticism in cultural texts has become for Olszewski a convenient way of constructing his own sexuality and subjectivity entangled both in cultural as well as personal experiences. Olszewski’s poetry, as well as his only novel, Zatoka Ostów, show the tragic condition of a homosexual from the 1980s. Exposing catastrophic elements of decadence, Olszewski’s works are inscribed into the phenomenon of 20th‑century decadence and the author as such is defined as the last decadent of the Polish People’s Republic. The theses and assumptions presented in the book enrich the tradition of existing studies on the achievements of particular authors with new and so far unnoticed elements connected with the subject of non‑normative sexuality. And, as I believe, they can also play a part in describing various phenomena in literary history more thoroughly.
ISBN: 9788322619944
Appears in Collections:Książki/rozdziały (W.Hum.)

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