This essay explores a body of 340 poems created by political prisoners who were accused of and imprisoned for anti-state activity in late 1940s and 1950s Stalinist Poland. Evaluating prison poetry as a historical source, I understand the process of composing a poem as the result of a prisoner’s need to document the world around her/himself, as a psychological activity that contained diffi cult prison experiences, as a negotiation of emotional and often conflicting states, and as a social practice through which prison poets affected themselves and the people around them. Situated somewhere at the intersection of the personal and political, poetry became one of the most powerful sites of resistance. In addition to evaluating prison poetry as a historical source, this essay also explores gender differences and similarities in the body of 340 poems discussed here and in the social function of the prison poems.
The Poetry of Male and Female Political Prisoners in Postwar Poland
A poem by Tim Cresswell
Revisiting the Poetry
In July 1989, as part of the celebration of the Bicentennial of the French Revolution, the great Martinican poet, playwright, and essayist Aimé Césaire was a special invitee of the Avignon Theatre Festival. I led a round table with him then in the context of the Institut d'Études Françaises of Bryn Mawr College. In his remarks he also read two unpublished poems. One of them, "Parcours," which I translate here as "Journey," is the subject of this article. This piece constitutes a reading of the poem as the poet's looking back, metaphorically, on his poetic journey, fifty years after the publishing of his epic poem, "Cahier d'un retour au pays natal" in 1939. This theme of looking back becomes a way to meditate on my own intellectual trajectory as a scholar of Césaire's poetry. I conclude with a poem of my own, on "Rereading Césaire Thirty Years On."
Linda E. Mitchell
Through the analysis of three important texts—Gerald of Wales's Topographia Hibernica, the poem known as both The Song of Dermot and the Earl and The Deeds of the Normans in Ireland, and the 1367 Statutes of Kilkenny—this article seeks to demonstrate that characterizations of the Irish by the English during the first centuries of conquest and settlement established the Irish as differently gendered from the English. This is shown through the use of terms that define the Irish as sexually, socially, and culturally deviant, as unmanly and emasculated, and as legally and culturally inferior even to English women.
In his famous poem “Mending Wall” Robert Frost’s narrator builds, alongside his neighbour, a stone wall that divides their respective lands (Frost 1947: 47-8). The narrator can see this joint activity as no more than a “kind of out-door game” for, “There where it is we do not need the wall” and he wonders, “What I was walling in or walling out, / And to whom I was like to give offence”. His taciturn neighbour can only repeat his own father’s thought that “Good fences make good neighbours”.
African-American Migration as Seen through Jacob Lawrence's “Migration” Series
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) 11 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019 http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2015/onewayticket/ Admission: USD 25/18/14 “I pick up my life, / And take it with me, / And I put it down in Chicago, Detroit, / Buff alo, Scranton, / Any place that is / North and East, / And not Dixie.” Th ese are the opening lines from “One-Way Ticket,” by African-American poet, Langston Hughes (1902–1967). Th e poem provides the emotional and historical core of the “Migration” paintings by Jacob Lawrence (1917–2000), a series that depicts the extraordinary internal migration of African Americans in the twentieth century. Not coincidentally, the poem also provides the title of the current exhibition of the sixty paintings in Lawrence’s series, on display at MoMA, New York, from 3 April to 7 September 2015.1 Shown together for the first time in over twenty years, the paintings are surrounded by works that provide context for the “great migration”: additional paintings by Lawrence, as well as paintings, drawings, photographs, texts, and musical recordings by other African-American artists, writers, and performers of the early to mid-twentieth century.
Muslim Women and Public Writing in Habsburg Bosnia and Herzegovina (1878–1918)
This article focuses on the public writings of Muslim women in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Habsburg period. From the beginning of the twentieth century, several Muslim women, mainly schoolgirls and teachers at Sarajevo's Muslim Female School, started for the first time to write for Bosnian literary journals, using the Serbo-Croatian language written in Latin or Cyrillic scripts. Before the beginning of World War I, a dozen Muslim women explored different literary genres—the poem, novel, and social commentary essay. In the context of the expectations of a growing Muslim intelligentsia educated in Habsburg schools and of the anxieties of the vast majority of the Muslim population, Muslim women contested late Ottoman gender norms and explored, albeit timidly, new forms of sisterhood, thus making an original contribution to the construction of a Bosnian, post-Ottoman public sphere.
A number of histories of circumcision have recently been written and in them the case of A. E. Housman, along with a number of others, has acquired a certain prominence. This article reconsiders the existing evidence regarding Housman's circumcision and the various interpretations of it in the secondary literature before going on to examine a number of overlooked sources. While this writing around Housman's circumcision is not without positive results, it will be suggested via a consideration of Jacques Derrida's testimony regarding his own circumcision that the historian of sexuality needs also to contend with an inherent negativity and loss. The testimony provided by a recently uncovered poem on circumcision will prompt the suggestion that we should be wary of overemphasizing the individual example. In conclusion, the article argues that the problematic of Housman's particular case has pertinence because in regard to individual experience we can only ever write around the history of circumcision.
Landscapes of Englishness in the Postwar Railway Poetry of John Betjeman and Philip Larkin
Railways in John Betjeman's and Philip Larkin's poems of the 1950s and 1960s function as provocative signifiers that interrogate and encourage definition of what constitutes the modern English landscape. Through their works, which recognize how railways have been held to register the cultural health of the nation from their inception, it becomes clear that the panoramic perception that railways make possible aptly represents the self-conscious cultural gaze filtered through crisis that critics argue prevails in the postwar context. Betjeman's and Larkin's speakers reveal the capacity for railway travel to disrupt the settled vision of nationhood at the heart of heritage-based Englishness; at the same time, railways – and they themselves – are not outside of this discourse. For Betjeman and, to a greater extent, Larkin, it is the possibility of double return embodied by the railway system that perhaps proffers a desirable mode of inhabiting the modern English nation.
Dominik Graf's Wispern im Berg der Dinge (A Whispering in the Mountain of Things) was the second film televised in the twelve-part Denk ich an Deutschland-documentary series launched on the eve of Germany's eighth Day of Unity (October 1998). Though Graf does not refer directly to Heinrich Heine, he clearly takes Heine's mode of thinking about Germany seriously—that is, he resolutely focuses on ruptures, which characterize Heine and his writings, and on the tensions provoked by the interplay of opposites evident in Heine's poem Nachtgedanken (1843), the source of the Denk ich an Deutschland-phrase. In Graf's documentary, Heine's ruptures turn into ruptures between his father's excessively silent war generation and his own unanchored post 1968 generation. The tensions, on the other hand, are evoked by the filmic medium—in particular, between verbal and iconic images. Thinking about film when he thinks about Germany, Graf examines his deceased father's many roles in the West German films of the 1950s and 1960s—roles that had turned him into the representative of the damaged war generation. Faulting the purely verbal in a medium intended to give concrete, visual form to reality, Graf attempts to harness the powers of both verbal and iconic images in the service of identity formation, yet grants the edge to the iconic, as well as to the fictional rather than the factual.