Gombrowicz en la universidad

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Gombrowicz en la universidad

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Professor Michał Paweł Markowski
Centre for Advanced Studies in the Humanities
Jagiellonian University

Witold Gombrowicz: Literature and Existence

Course description:
The course aims at presentation one of the most original writers of European
Modernism, Witold Gombrowicz (1908-1969) through reading of the three volumes
(in excerpts) of his Diary, kept and published in installments in Paris, between 1953
and 1969. The Diary was conceived not as a neutral record of life events but as a
creative strategy of presenting the writer’s self to the Polish readers living abroad.
Gombrowicz was very sensitive to the image he was imposing on his audience so he
was meticulously building his literary persona very different from his actual
personality. Thanks to many fictional devices used to confuse the reader,
Gombrowicz, as he appears from reading the Diary, is a man hard to pin down and
characterize, always elusive and turned into a literary character. The course helps to
understand both Gombrowicz and the fundamental issues related to literary selfpresentation.
Emphasis is put on existential problems (and their character) as they turn
out to dominate the whole text.
Course requirements:
• Attendance and active participation
• Reading assignments
• Short term papers and oral presentation in place of final exam
All readings and discussions are in English.
All materials are included in a course packet, available in the library.
Writing assignments are due every second meeting.
The length of writing assignments is varied. The topic is to be discussed with the
instructor. The paper should include an interpretation of a literary text mentioned
during the course, however not analyzed fully in the class.
Approx. Class Schedule.
Indicated topics will be discussed freely in the class during the whole course.
1. Meeting one:
Who was Witold Gombrowicz? Intoductory remarks and discussions. Gombrowicz
and emigration. How we should read his Diary?
2. Meeting two:
The self in literature. Modes of literary self-presentation depending on the concept of
the self. The first entry of the Diary as an example. Performing as opposed to
expressing the self.
3. Meeting three:
Being oneself and becoming oneself as presented in the course of the Diary. An active
role of the reader in constructing the literary persona.
4. Meeting four:
Life and Existence: introductory distinctions. Why literature of existence is not
existential literature?
5. Meeting five:
Gombrowicz as an existential writer. Why Diary suited his existential project the best.
What does it mean to project oneself? Reading of chosen excerpts.
6. Meeting six:
Chapter 14 of the second volume of the Diary as an example of obsessive desire to
figure out what life means.
7. Meeting seven:
Reading Chapter 14 of the Diary. Different interpretations of the chapter.
8. Meeting eight:
The diabolical principle of the world. Gombrowicz and Evil.
9. Meeting nine:
Psychoanalyical reading of Gombrowicz: between Freud and Lacan.
10. Meeting ten:
Looking for stable reference points in life bereft of any. How literature can cope with
changing reality.
11. Meeting eleven:
Diario Rio di Parana as an autonomous literary piece within the Diary. The
existential meaning of it.
12. Meeting twelve:
“Uneventfulness” as the most fundamental principle of Diario. How to present what
does not happen?
13. Meeting thirteen:
How Diario is related to Diary?
14. Meeting fourteen:
Wrapping up the course. All topics discussed again.
15. Meeting fifteen:
Student’s presentations.