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A.M. Gorky Institute
of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences

IWL RAS Publishing

A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences


Povarskaya 25a, 121069 Moscow, Russia



Types of publications

About the author:

Włodzimierz Próchnicki, Doctor Hab., the Faculty of Polonistics, the Department of Literary Theory, d Uniwersytet Jagielloński, ul. Gołębia 24, 31-007 Kraków, Polan.

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



The article deals with the manual, titled The History of Polish Literature, by the Polish poet, translator and essayist Czeslaw Miłosz. He wrote the manual for his American students. The textbook is based on Miłosz’s lectures at the University of Berkeley in California. The textbook is a one-volume author’s survey of Polish literature, addressed to a specific audience and reflecting Miłosz’s personal views on the history of Polish literature. The personal position of the author is expressed in the selection of facts and related terms concerning ideology, social movements, political changes, the views of writers, as well as in the interpretation of their works. Miłosz views Polish literature not only as a Pole, but also as a European. He tries to present Polish literature as a part of the European literary process. In his textbook Miłosz shows the connection between literary process and history. It is not literary problems that come to the fore, but a way of presenting their historical background, which is far from the stereotypes, spread in society. The textbook, neutral in fact, becomes the author’s interpretation of the history of Polish culture, community and state. Miłosz shows his American students the mechanisms of history that require critical discussion rather than mechanical discussion. The shift in the outline of the textbook towards the author’s narration brings this text closer to literary criticism. In his textbook, Milosz positions himself not as a researcher, but as a storyteller, emotionally connected with the subject of his story. Miłosz ‘s History of Polish Literature is perceived not as an academic textbook, but as a book for reading, in which, as in a living oral story, the reader constantly feels the presence of the speaker — a living interlocutor. The book, conceived as a textbook, takes on the character of a conversation in which the addressee receives answers to his unspoken questions.

  • Keywords: textbook, genre, Czeslaw Miłosz, “History of Polish Literature”, European literary process, author’s interpretation, stereotype.


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