Polish Studies in North America is currently at a crossroads. Its old concerns
and modes of operation are undergoing a profound reevaluation in the light
of the political changes of the last two decades, and of the subsequentsocial,
artistic, and cultural upheavals that they haveengendered. Polandís historical
association with political struggle and oppression is being revalued, both because
it is no longer a relevanttrope in a free and democratic Polish state, and because
it has proved tobe a limiting way of engaging with Polish literature and art overall.
All thishas led to a profound ongoing reassessment of the existing canon of Polish
literature, and of practices and curricula in Polish programs across theUnited
States and Canada.
At the same time, new theoretical, substantive, and disciplinary modes are
offering opportunities for reinvigorating Polish Studies and pointing it in
innovative and fruitful directions, linking it both theoretically and thematically
with other fields and disciplines. These new possibilities have led many in Polish
Studies to pose different questions that offer the hope of new responsesto both
old problems and newly created ones. What is the significance of postcolonial
theory for the study of Polish literature? How can psychoanalytic readings of
canonical and other Polish literary texts enrich our understandings?How can
queer theory shed light on readings of Polish literature? How have Polish and
American literature mutually informed one another in the last decades? What
can the study of Polish literature and film learn from a closer relationship with
such disciplines as anthropology, history, and linguistics?
While such questions open new perspectives on Polish Studies, they also present
with a difficult challenge. How can specialists in Polish language, literature,
and culture be trained in such a way that they acquire sufficient expertise in matters
specifically Polish, while at the same time being able to function across other fields
multiple disciplines? Put differently, what is the place of an apparently distinct
anddelimited, yet important, field such as Polish Studies in light of the shift across
thehumanities as a whole toward cross-disciplinary inquiry and making connections
between different but related fields?