Making sense of Czeslaw Milosz: a poet’s formative dialogue with his transnational audiences
Mazurska, Joanna Maria
My dissertation explores the multi-channeled dialogue between Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004), the Polish poet and Nobel laureate, and his transnational audiences, over the half century following World War II. The principal methodological innovation of my project consists of thinking of intellectuals like Milosz as products of a give-and-take process in which their identity is gradually shaped and catalyzed in dialogical interaction with their audiences. This dissertation sheds light on the ways Milosz’s audiences deployed Cold War politics and the cultural repertoire of Polish Romanticism in order to co-author the poet’s identity and written works according to their political, moral, and intellectual needs. Engaging literature in the fields of East-Central European History and Intellectual History, I explore Milosz’s dialogue with his audiences, ranging from his flight from the Stalinized Poland of the 1950’s to his subsequent involvement in debates over anti-communism in the West, from his resettlement as a poet and professor of literature in California to his 1981 return to Poland as a moral hero of the Solidarity dissident movement. My dissertation uses Milosz's case not only as a vantage point for reflection on the formative processes that influence the social role and cultural identity of intellectuals, but also provides a lens into the critical issues of the epoch: nationalism, communism, and globalism in the context of the remarkable realignments of power and society that took place during the Cold War and in the century’s final decade.