Slavic Languages and Literatures | Topics in Polish Literature and Culture
P565 | ALL | Beinek, Bilczewski

Course co-taught by Prof. Justyna Beinek and Tomasz Bilczewski

Second eight weeks course: Oct. 23-Dec. 15, 2006
Regular section (P365 23942) and Intensive Writing section (P365
Course satisfies A&H distribution and gives C&S credit

MW 4-6 p.m.
Polish Studies Center, 1217
East Atwater Ave.

Course description:

Human bodies have always been the object of fascination and inquiry.
Philosophy, theology, and medicine have conceptualized the body
variously for centuries, according to contemporary ideologies and
beliefs. Literature, fine arts, and cinema, have attempted to depict
the human body in a range of ways from realistic to surreal. The
body is the material reality that we experience on a daily basis,
yet it remains an enigma, impossible to capture through discourses
of science, philosophy, or art.

This course is about images of the body. We will discuss
representations of the human body in Polish literature and culture
in a broad comparative perspective. How are bodies depicted in
literature and the arts? Do these depictions change in time? Is the
manner of depicting the body  linked to the aesthetic views of the
text’s/image’s author? Do bodies have souls? Why is there one word –
“corpus” – for both literary/academic works and actual human
bodies? What is the connection between the two? Would our language
be different if we did not have bodies? How do we conceptualize the
body and reality when we use expressions such as “over my dead
body”? Is comparing different bodies similar to comparing cultures?
How does the body influence our ways of learning about the world?
What kind of tool is the body for discovering ideas, things, people,
space, and time?

Primary texts and images come from many historical periods, ranging
from the Middle Ages to present day, with a particular focus on
Polish literature and culture of the twentieth century: Gombrowicz,
Witkiewicz, Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska, Milosz, Szymborska,
Poswiatowska, Lebenstein, Swirszczyñska, Chwin, Maslowska, and
others. Critical texts come from the fields of literary theory,
philosophy, linguistics, psychology, cultural studies, history, art
history, and feminist theory. We will read Plato, Descartes, Freud,
Barthes, Ricoeur, Merleau-Ponty, Butler, Suleiman, Bynum, Haraway,
Lakoff and Johnson, and others. We will watch at least one Polish
film: “Sexmission” or another film that discusses the human body.

Main topics of interest discussed in class: the body and mind/soul
dichotomy, body in text/body as text,  body and cognition/language,
body and the discourse of desire, body and trauma, body and
communist politics in post-war Eastern Europe, body and gender,
metamorphoses of the body, persons and things, and bodies in the
cybernetic age.

Class format:

This course relies on students’ participation through class
discussions of texts and images/films. Instructors provide short
lectures and moderate discussions, but students’ input
(interpretations, responses to texts/visual materials) is a large
component of both the course and final grades.