Alicja Kusiak-Brownstein, Ph.D. candidate in History, University of Michigan
"Subalterns of Freedom: Polish Legionnaires in the Napoleonic Wars and the National Heroic Mythology"
In my presentation I analyze the representations of soldiers and warfare in Stefan Żeromski's novel "Ashes," published in 1902. The book appeared during the heyday of historical literature in Poland, in a moment when the national movement grew into a mass one. Yet, in contrast to the writers who boosted Polish national pride with images of heroic warriors, Żeromski contested one of the foundational myths of Polish nationalism and democracy: the role of the Polish Legion during the Napoleonic wars. In an unprecedented way, Żeromski challenged one of the most powerful images of Polish military heroism, painstakingly analyzing the relationships between masculinity and soldiering, soldiering and heroism, citizenship and subalternization, political ideologies and cultural identities. The bitter discussion of anti-heroism, marked in images of routine violence and atrocities committed against civilians (including children), were nevertheless embraced by the male audience in the decades following the novel's publication, for "Ashes" became the most popular book read by Polish soldiers during World War I.
Alicja Kusiak-Brownstein received her MA in history from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan (Poland) and is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of History, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Her dissertation analyzes the constructions of national heroism, militant masculinity and class in Poland during the partitions (1795-1914).
In order to advance the program’s commitment to inter-disciplinary research and inquiry into the subject of gender, the Gender Studies Program is pleased to announce an upcoming series of research workshops. The events will include presentations by advanced undergraduates majoring in Gender Studies as well as graduate students and faculty members from a variety of departments who work in the area of gender and sexuality. The workshop will begin with the week’s presenter giving a brief lecture on his or her current research in the field, followed by a seminar-style discussion.
Workshops are held on Fridays from 12:00 – 1:00 pm in 339 O’Shaughnessy unless otherwise specified.