1st Edition

Family and Artistic Relations in Polish Women’s Autobiographical Literature

By Aleksandra Grzemska Copyright 2024

    Family and Artistic Relations in Polish Women’s Autobiographical Literature examines women’s autobiographical works published in Poland after the year 2000 in a broader cultural context. This volume focuses on the writers’ representation of their relationships with their mothers – many of them traumatized survivors of historical cataclysms, many of them professional artists, many of them struggling to reconcile their creative work with their role as wife and mother. Grzemska sheds light not only on the literary strategies used by the memoirists, but she also helps us understand women’s struggles for an independent voice, for new models of commemoration, for healing. This book will interest readers in literary and cultural studies, as well as anyone who wishes to better understand Poland’s cultural transformations in the post-Communist era.

    INTRODUCTION: Being in Charge of Autobiography

    Blended stories and family archives

    Phantoms of genealogy

    The framework of duty and obligation


    CHAPTER 1: Glorification and Reckoning

    Daughterhood as an emotional concept

    Ancestors and inheritors

    Egocentric or altruistic?

    Uprooted from everyday life 


    CHAPTER 2: Artistic Practices in the Autobiographical Field

    Aesthetic, ethical and performative potential

    Confrontations and alliances

    The logic of the transcryptum and the power of self-fragilization

    “Yellow was my mother’s code”

    “Mom used to say that onions save lives”    


    CHAPTER 3: Blood Ties, Blood Bonds

    Entangled in relationships

    Literary genograms

    “[Mother] acquired the habit of erecting defensive walls wherever she could”

    “I’ve taken your story, Mama, your apocalypse”

    “[Mother] talked, she talked only to be talking”

    (Bio)heredity of (in)experience


    CHAPTER 4: Mothers, Daughters and Their Shame

    Shame, guilt and empathy

    Shame in the family and politics

    Shame, disgust and the body


    CHAPTER 5: Topologies of Illness

    Excerpts from the medical record

    Laboratory of private configurations

    The family as a malady         


    EPILOGUE: Aesthetics of Autobiographical Hybrids

    Writing up the family

    Family (auto)pathographies


    Aleksandra Grzemska is Assistant Professor in Polish Literature at the University of Szczecin (Poland). Her research focuses on life writing and contemporary Polish women’s literature and art. She is an editor at the academic journal Autobiografia. Literatura. Kultura. Media [Autobiography. Literature. Culture. Media] and a critic for various academic and non-academic literary magazines.

    Tul’si (Tuesday) Bhambry received her PhD in Polish literature at University College London in 2013 and has since been working as a literary and academic translator from Polish and German. She won the Harvill Secker Young Translators’ Prize in 2015. Among her book-length translations in the humanities are Ryszard Nycz’s The Language of Polish Modernism (Peter Lang, 2017) and Lena Magnone’s Freud’s Emissaries (sdvig, 2023).