Polish World Literature: A Roundtable Discussion

This event was a Roundtable Discussion around the recently published Routledge World Companion to Polish Literature (September 2021). We were joined by one of the book’s editors, Dr Stanley Bill (Cambridge), as well as by Professor Tamara Trojanowska (Toronto), the editor of Being Poland: A New History of Polish Literature and Culture since 1918 (2018), and Dr Karolina Wątroba (Oxford). The discussion was moderated by Ola Sidorkiewicz (Oxford).

The Companion is the result of a collaborative effort of thirty-three scholars working with Polish literature across seventeen countries. It considers Polish literature in a comparative light, focusing its inquiry on the dialogic relationship of Polish literary works with other national literatures, including through the perspectives of influence, reception, borrowing, and transmission.

As the Companion’s editors state in the introduction, “there is no longer any justification for treating the concepts of 'national literature' and 'world literature' as opposing categories” (4). From the earliest texts written in Polish to the recent works by the 2018 Polish Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature, Olga Tokarczuk, The Routledge World Companion places Polish literary texts on the world map of literature, emphasising its intercultural and multilingual paths of transmission.

During the event, we discussed the different modes of writing Polish literary history, both for Polish and international audiences, the place and role of semi-peripheral literatures in the canon of world literature, and the importance of a shift in writing Polish literary history for the understanding of Poland’s past, present, and future.

The discussion was followed by a Q&A.


Stanley Bill is the Director of the Slavonic Studies Section and University Associate Professor in Polish Studies at the University of Cambridge. He works on twentieth-century Polish literature and culture, and on contemporary political discourse in Poland. He has particular interests in populist discourse, postcolonial interpretations of Polish cultural and political history, the poetics of the body, religion and secularisation, and Polish-Ukrainian relations. He is founder and editor-at-large of the news and opinion website Notes from Poland.

Tamara Trojanowska is Associate Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literature and Vice-Dean Faculty and Academic Life in the Faculty of Arts and Science at the University of Toronto. Her current research focuses on the transgressive intersections of drama and theatre with history, philosophy, and religious imagination, with particular investment in the issues of identity. She has published on these topics in Poland, Canada, the United States and England.

Karolina Wątroba is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Modern Languages at All Souls College, University of Oxford. She works on modern literature and film across eight European languages and beyond, with a focus on material in German, English, and Polish.