“Wildness” as a metaphor for self-definition of the colonised subject in the Positivist period in Poland

Anna Kołos



This article discusses the question of the Polish nation's self-definition in the Positivist period both in belles-lettres and in journalism, which were dependent to a great extent on the colonial discourse. It is argued that crucial metaphors of “wildness,” “savageness” or “backwardness” stem from orientalising labels created by the colonisers. Examination of this issue requires some basic introduction to historical and anthropological ideas which date back to the Age of Enlightenment. The aim of this paper is to shed light – by analysing literature examples such as Ludwik Powidaj, Cyprian Kamil Norwid, Maria Konopnicka, Eliza Orzeszkowa and Henryk Sienkiewicz – on the so called “colonial trauma” that has condemned the Polish image to resentful ideology. Furthermore, the paper will provide arguments in favour of subscribing to the postcolonial studies in Central and Eastern Europe.

Key words:

Poland, Prussia, Eastern Europe, Ludwik Powidaj, Cyprian Kamil Norwid, Maria Konopnicka, Eliza Orzeszkowa, Henryk Sienkiewicz, literature, positivism, postcolonial theory, orientalisation, otherness, wildness, civilisation


DOI: 10.15503/jecs20111-81-95


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