Slavic 150: Polish Literature and Intellectual Trends: “Accursed Century: Polish Literature and Culture, 1900–2010”

MWF 11-12, 104 Dwinelle. Instructor: David Frick.

Units: 3 Satisfies L&S Arts & Literature breadth requirement.

In this course we will examine the literature and culture of twentieth-century Poland.  The poetry, essays, and life of Czesław Miłosz (1911–2004)—Berkeley’s own Nobel Laureate in Poetry and self-styled “last citizen of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania”—will serve as a kind of constant guide and witness to the many vicissitudes of the Polish experience of a turbulent century.  Here was a man with direct experience of the fall of the Russian Empire, the creation of the Soviet Union and the Polish Second Republic, the Nazi occupation and the Holocaust, the creation of the Polish People’s Republic and voluntary exile from it, the reestablishment of a democratic Polish Republic and return to it.  With Miłosz as background and leitmotif, we will examine closely key works from the period, and their authors, among which:  Stanisław Wyspiański, Bruno Schulz, Witold Gombrowicz, Tadeusz Konwicki, Jerzy Pilch, and Olga Tokarczuk.

Some background lectures and films on historical context, much in-class discussion and close reading of literary texts.

Requirements:  Reading, class attendance, participation in discussion, three short essays focusing on close readings of literary texts.

Czesław Miłosz, New and Collected Poems, 1931–2001, New York, 2003.  ISBN 0060514485.
Czesław Miłosz, Native Realm, New York, 2002.  ISBN 0374528306.
Bruno Schulz, The Street of Crocodiles and Other Stories, New York, 2008.  ISBN 978–0143105145.
Witold Gombrowicz, Cosmos, New York, 2011.  ISBN 978-0-8021-45628.
Tadeusz Konwicki, A Minor Apocalypse, Normal, IL, 1999.  ISBN 1564782174.
Jerzy Pilch, A Thousand Peaceful Cities, Rochester, NY, 2010.  ISBN 1934824275.
Olga Tokarczuk, Primeval and Other Times, Prague, 2010.  ISBN 978–8086264356.
Scanned readings.

Prerequisites:  None.  Course and readings are in English.  No knowledge of Polish is required.