Polish modern literature and Judaism

Referent: prof. dr hab. Sławomir Żurek

Data: 28 maja 2023

Godzina: 20:00

The basic source and at the same time the collection of Judaic topoi is constituted by a tripartite collection of texts: written Torah (Hebrew Bible, i.e. the Old Testament), spoken Torah (Talmud and post-rabbinic literature) and Kabbalah. These texts, known as common treasury of images and common cultural code, contain an extensive corpus of topoi which have specific character of ‘short duration’ and low repeatability. The topoi penetrated literary texts and were manifested in them thanks to artistic imagination of their authors (based, in turn, on strong cultural foundation). To put the matter simply, it can be claimed that literary fantasies of Jewish writers, regardless of the language in which they wrote their works (Hebrew, Yiddish or Polish) and of their ideological declarations (religious or secular), were based on the collection of sacred images expressed in language. A great part of these topoi became common heritage of Christians and Jews, and eventually entered the universal heritage of civilization. Thanks to a wide presence of the Bible in culture we do not speak about separate topoi, Jewish and Christian, but about one group: Judeo-Christian, within which there are Talmudic and Kabbalistic topoi (often deformed). The latter got there through European philosophy (mainly personalism and philosophy of dialogue), for their creators were Jewish thinkers; and through Jewish folklore (Frankism and Hasidism), which marked Polish culture with its presence by means of Romantic fascination of its authors.

Jewish authors have been presented in Polish literature since 1831 (thanks to Haskalah) until today, but the development of their activity was disturbed by the Holocaust. The core of the lecture will be not the history of the Polish-Jewish writers’ activity but their artistic imagination. I would like to show the ways of the spread of Judaic topoi in literature, present the most interesting groups of Jewish motives in literary texts and show the influence of Judaism on Polish modern literature.