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Polish theatre and the political
Author: Bryce Lease

This monograph takes as its subject the dynamic new range of performance practices that have been developed since the demise of communism in the flourishing theatrical landscape of Poland. After 1989, Lease argues, the theatre has retained its historical role as the crucial space for debating and interrogating cultural and political identities. Providing access to scholarship and criticism not readily accessible to an English-speaking readership, this study surveys the rebirth of the theatre as a site of public intervention and social criticism since the establishment of democracy and the proliferation of theatre makers that have flaunted cultural commonplaces and begged new questions of Polish culture. Lease suggests that a radical democratic pluralism is only tenable through the destabilization of attempts to essentialize Polish national identity, focusing on the development of new theatre practices that interrogate the rise of nationalism, alternative sexual identities and forms of kinship, gender equality, contested histories of antisemitism, and postcolonial encounters. Lease elaborates a new theory of political theatre as part of the public sphere. The main contention is that the most significant change in performance practice after 1989 has been from opposition to the state to a more pluralistic practice that engages with marginalized identities purposefully left out of the rhetoric of freedom and independence.

Bryce Lease

unlike any other play in the Polish Romantic oeuvre, and is not the type of drama one would expect to encounter from a Polish émigré. Published posthumously in 1866, Fantazy is a parody of the overblown mannerisms and values of Polish Romanticism in which Słowacki, having adopted positivism as his weltanschauung, satirized the disavowed elitist affectations of the crumbling upper classes, their fixation on the pastoral, the façades of tragedy and the idealization of the artistic sublime. By the 1840s, Słowacki’s view of Romanticism was so tainted with cynicism and the

in After ’89
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Bryce Lease

sphere should not be read as an archaic cultural conception but as an active political and ideological tool in Poland today. In traditional scholarship, the foremost contribution of Polish Romanticism is seen to be its ability to fortify the ideals of a ‘nationless’ nation, one that should have been annihilated by the Partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the eradication of sovereign Poland for a period of 123 years beginning in the second half of the eighteenth century, by placing emphasis on the metaphysical and on the rebellious nature of a national hero

in After ’89
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Really existing democracy
Bryce Lease

political performance intended to undermine communist society, the publics and counterpublics I  analyze help to stabilize stratified pluralist society through their formation, enactment of a democratic participatory parity and performances of contestation. Overview Analyzing these publics and counterpublics, I  consider the political and aesthetic tenants of Polish Romanticism, which was traditionally understood to fortify the ideals of a ‘nationless’ Poland during Partitions and occupations, inclusive of Soviet-enforced communism, by placing emphasis on the

in After ’89
Bryce Lease

Russia, the most recent occupier, failed to assert its cultural hegemony and, thereby, does not function as a model for imitation. Bill (2014) observes that postcolonial theory has been useful for Polish conservatives because of its essentializing tendencies, which have allowed for the defense of traditional Catholic values, an inherent, ethnic Polishness, and a ‘ “primordialist” understanding of nation against new multiculturalist, individualist and civic models of identity.’ Often using Polish Romanticism alongside postcolonial theory, an opposition between authentic

in After ’89
Bryce Lease

aging hippies as they twisted their bodies into painful yoga positions. Suffering in this performance failed to transubstantiate male victims into martyrs and women into strong or repentant mothers, known as the Matka Polka trope, a paradigm in Polish Romanticism whose ‘fundamental qualities are motherhood, duty and the spirit of sacrifice’ (Matynia, 2009: 185). Matka Polka is a standard trope of nationalistic Catholicism that emerged in the nineteenth century that frequently appears in Polish literature, visual arts and theatre. Although she is distinguishable from

in After ’89
Bryce Lease

AIDS patient, Warlikowski troubled the legacy of artists as transmuters of Polish Romanticism and threatened the conjunction of national identity with heterosexually bounded Catholicism. By making the disease the enemy around which Poles could rally, Warlikowski complicated a tendency that implicitly participates in the idealization of heteronormative and nationalist exclusionary identity formation. Warlikowski’s next major production to deal with queer identities and the cultivation of an oppositional consciousness was Kabaret Warszawski (Warsaw Cabaret, 2013

in After ’89
Bryce Lease

place spectators in a position to critically confront the dissonances performed between Romantic thought and Ansky and Krall’s texts. While Pawłowski qualifies Dybuk’s cultural resonance, themes and structures through Mickiewicz by calling it the ‘Polsko-żydowskie Dziady’ (‘Polish-Jewish Dziady’), one would be surprised to encounter the inverse qualification of Polish literature in relation to Jewish culture; for example, a critic referring to a new production of Dziady as the ‘Polish Dybuk.’ This qualification through Polish Romanticism, and Dziady in particular

in After ’89
Lukácsian cinematic realism in Danton (1990) and Senso (1954)
Ian Aitken

Revolution as a kind of replay of the anti-communist Polish revolt of the 1980s. The inevitable consequence was that the Revolution and its servants were depicted negatively, whilst the Dantonist ‘rebels’ were fitted with the guise of aspiring ‘saviours’. In addition to the influence of a critical Polish film culture, the anticommunist revolt and the tradition of ‘Polish romanticism’, the ideological

in Realist film theory and cinema