Séminaire "The Nation Writes! Polish Everyman Autobiography, 1918-1950".

Séminaire Lebow 19-03.JPG

My research focuses on autobiographies written between the two World Wars by peasants, workers, and other “ordinary” people in Poland. In the 1920s, Polish sociologists devised memoir competitions—offering prizes for the best memoirs by members of a given social group—as a way to collect personal narratives by workers, peasants, youth, minorities, the unemployed, and others. This “Polish method” of sociological research, as it came to be known overseas, exceeded researchers’ expectations: by the 1930s, memoir competitions had sparked a flourishing culture of life-writing in milieus ranging from peasant youth groups to Yiddishist cultural circles, while published memoir compilations of so-called social (or competition) memoir became best-sellers, were widely discussed in the press, and won prestigious literary prizes. Using an interdisciplinary and transnational approach, my project will position social memoir against the larger backdrop of the mid-20th century’s fascination with documentary representations of the “little man.”
Based on original sources from Polish and American archives, including hundreds of unpublished memoirs, my research will result in a monograph provisionally entitled The Nation Writes: Polish Everyman Autobiography from the Great Depression to the Holocaust. Exploring how such everyman autobiographies deployed connections between the personal and the political, my book will contribute to the social, cultural, and political history of East Central Europe; to the intellectual history of transatlantic social science; and to the interdisciplinary field of narrative/autobiography studies. Approaching the memoirs as a conversation among scholars, their marginalized subjects, and the reading public, it will trace this conversation across time and space, considering its impact on the Polish public sphere, on transatlantic social science, and on new forms of life-writing emerging from the crucible of World War II, notably Holocaust testimony.
Ultimately, I approach social memoir not only for what it can tell us about interwar Poland, but for what it can reveal about the global repercussions of local narrative practices. An examination of how personal narratives have been deployed and contested in the public sphere between roughly 1930 and 1950 can, I argue, help illuminate shifting global discourses of human rights, social justice, and political ethics before and after World War II.

Intervenant(s)

Katherine Lebow

Organisateur(s)

MMC (Centre de recherche Mondes Modernes et Contemporains)

Titre

Séminaire "The Nation Writes! Polish Everyman Autobiography, 1918-1950".

Identifiant

Seminaire-nation-writes-polish-everyman-autobiography-1918-1950-Katherine-Lebow

Type

Séminaire

Date

19/03/2018

Texte

My research focuses on autobiographies written between the two World Wars by peasants, workers, and other “ordinary” people in Poland. In the 1920s, Polish sociologists devised memoir competitions—offering prizes for the best memoirs by members of a given social group—as a way to collect personal narratives by workers, peasants, youth, minorities, the unemployed, and others. This “Polish method” of sociological research, as it came to be known overseas, exceeded researchers’ expectations: by the 1930s, memoir competitions had sparked a flourishing culture of life-writing in milieus ranging from peasant youth groups to Yiddishist cultural circles, while published memoir compilations of so-called social (or competition) memoir became best-sellers, were widely discussed in the press, and won prestigious literary prizes. Using an interdisciplinary and transnational approach, my project will position social memoir against the larger backdrop of the mid-20th century’s fascination with documentary representations of the “little man.”
Based on original sources from Polish and American archives, including hundreds of unpublished memoirs, my research will result in a monograph provisionally entitled The Nation Writes: Polish Everyman Autobiography from the Great Depression to the Holocaust. Exploring how such everyman autobiographies deployed connections between the personal and the political, my book will contribute to the social, cultural, and political history of East Central Europe; to the intellectual history of transatlantic social science; and to the interdisciplinary field of narrative/autobiography studies. Approaching the memoirs as a conversation among scholars, their marginalized subjects, and the reading public, it will trace this conversation across time and space, considering its impact on the Polish public sphere, on transatlantic social science, and on new forms of life-writing emerging from the crucible of World War II, notably Holocaust testimony.
Ultimately, I approach social memoir not only for what it can tell us about interwar Poland, but for what it can reveal about the global repercussions of local narrative practices. An examination of how personal narratives have been deployed and contested in the public sphere between roughly 1930 and 1950 can, I argue, help illuminate shifting global discourses of human rights, social justice, and political ethics before and after World War II.

Intervenant(s)

Katherine Lebow

Heure

12h à 14h

Lieu

ULB - Campus du Solbosch
Bâtiment NA, niveau 4, salle NA4.302

Inscription

Entrée libre, inscription souhaitée (mmc@ulb.ac.be)

Organisateur(s)

MMC (Centre de recherche Mondes Modernes et Contemporains)

Collection

Citer ce document

“Séminaire "The Nation Writes! Polish Everyman Autobiography, 1918-1950".,” Centre de Recherche Mondes Modernes et Contemporains, consulté le 26 mai 2018, https://mmc.ulb.ac.be/agenda/Seminaire-nation-writes-polish-everyman-autobiography-1918-1950-Katherine-Lebow.

Dernière mise à jour : 1 mars 2018.