Slavisches Seminar

Historytelling. Narrating the Past in Contemporary Polish Gonzo Literature

The project investigates the narration of the recent past of Eastern and Central Europe in the works of the three main representatives of Polish contemporary gonzo literature – Ziemowit Szczerek, Jacek Hugo-Bader, and Mariusz Szczygieł. I am going to analyze how they construct narrations on the recent past in a manner that escapes the dominant historical discourses. 
For decades the two dominant discourses of narrating the past in traditional Polish literature followed the Romantic conviction, thus they were either idealistic or critical: The aim of the former is to provide a commemoration that would boost the reader’s morale, while of the latter a commemoration that would shake the reader’s conscience. Gonzo nonfiction, emerging from American New Journalism in the mid- and late 1960s, is characterized by its subjectivity, first person narrative, colloquial language, perspective ‘from below’, full dialogues, and sarcasm. In Poland, gonzo stylistics were successful in composing literary stories that, thanks to their metonymic potential, can call into question both dominant discourses: the critical and the idealistic one.
Szczerek’s, Szczygieł’s, and Hugo-Bader’s gonzo writings often take the form of travelogues about Poland’s neighboring lands and further countries of the region. Their main topic is recent history (including the recent ‘illiberal turn’ in politics), expressed through the complicated fates of the inhabitants of Central and Eastern Europe: they reconsider the different historical trajectories in the visited countries without making any attempt at ‘objectivity’ – on the contrary, they even stress their potential bias. The authors focus on local curiosities, unexpected phenomena of the borderland provinces, nationalisms of ‘small nations’ and their unusual manifestations, and the paradoxes of established discourse categories (e.g. ‘Easternness’). The gonzo stylistics enable them to mix uneasy topics with irony and to focus on the narrated story itself.
The main research goal is to determine how they form their own ways of narrating the recent past of Eastern and Central Europe, focusing on how they reuse and dispel stereotypes concerning class and gender identities and play with issues concerning ethnical, national, and political identities. In my work, I am taking into consideration masculinity studies, the theory of historiography (‘revival of the narrative’), the spatial turn, and postcolonial studies.

Projektdauer: 2021-2025

Projektleiterin: Dr. Aleksandra Konarzewska

Gefördert von der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft