Department of Literary and Cultural Theory

 Chair: dr hab. Marzena Kubisz

Our researchers:

Katarzyna Bąk (PhD Candidate)
Anna Chromik (Assistant Professor)
Wojciech Kalaga (Full Professor Emeritus)
Anna Kisiel (PhD Candidate)

Michał Kisiel (PhD Candidate)
Agnieszka Kliś-Brodowska (Assistant Professor)
Marzena Kubisz (Associate Professor, Chair of the Department)
Bartłomiej Kuchciński (Teaching Assistant)
Marek Kulisz (Senior Lecturer)
Łukasz Matuszczyk (PhD Candidate)
Marcin Mazurek (Assistant Professor)
Jacek Mydla (Associate Professor)
Bartosz Stopel (Assistant Professor)
Marta Zając (Associate Professor)

The Department of Literary and Cultural Theory conducts research within three main areas of the humanities: (I) philosophy, literature and culture; (II) interdisciplinary literary studies; (III) interdisciplinary cultural studies.

STUDIES IN PHILOSOPHY, LITERATURE AND CULTURE focus on a theoretical analysis of literary and cultural phenomena approached through the lens of cultural anthropology, linguistics, cognitive studies, esthetics, religious studies and cultural studies. Activities and engagement in this area revolve around the following themes:

Tropes of the Third: studies which focus on “the problem of the Third” within the identity-otherness dichotomy and analyze the heterogeneous category of the Third in the context of binary classifications and complex cultural phenomena. What inspires those studies are the notions of transgression and opposition to recognised cultural dualisms. The “Tropes of the Third” studies – construed in a twofold sense: as turns, or ways; and discursive metaphors – involve such issues as subjectivity, ethics, ethnic and gender identity, corporeality, broadly understood cultural space (both physical and virtual), semantics and textuality.

Contemporary concepts of subjectivity – the subject area embracing research in cultural anthropology such as the contrast between the Christian theory of the person and the modern category of the subject, including historical and paradigmatic origins of these models, as well as the philosophical/critical notions connected with the problematisation of the Cartesian subject: subjectivity-as-becoming, transsubjectivity, biocentrism in posthuman and interspecies studies, the critical analysis of the anthropocentric subject, and the relations between the nomenclature of body boundaries and the modern discourses of subjectivity. Subjectivity studies also include gender and queer studies, especially in the context of embodiment, biopolitics, and the cultural inscription on the body.

Philosophy in literature / Literature in philosophy, where the subject of research is the permeation between philosophy and literature both in the methodological sense (literature as philosophy/philosophy as literature, phenomenological studies of literature, deconstruction in philosophy and literature) and in the specific thematic and historical contexts. Analysis within this field focuses on philosophical aspects of literary works (such as the problem of time) and on ontological issues connected with the existential status of the literary work and the represented world. Research also encompasses historically oriented literary studies on the interrelation between literature and philosophy, especially in the context of British empiricism and the Enlightenment philosophy of the mind.

Post-secular reflection, which covers such research fields as contemporary philosophy/ies of religion, feminist theology, revived interest in Christian mysticism, apophatic discourse and negative theology. Post-secular readings of literature and culture provide also the analysis of competing models of identity (e.g. person and subject) together with their historical and conceptual background, as well as reflect on the biblical woman as presented in traditional and feminist exegesis.

Language in literature and literary theory with focuses on literary rhetoric and on critical and theoretical discourses. The former focus is on narration (elements of narrative theory are used to examine chosen authors, periods, and genres), on the functioning of language in the literary work of art (e.g. the dramatic function or functions of language), and on the persuasive dimension of literary texts and their interpretations. The latter comprises studies of stylistic devices and strategies used by literary scholars; the aim is to examine interpretation as expression of an institutional "will to power" and theory as rhetoric.

INTERDISCIPLINARY LITERARY STUDIES, conducted along the historical studies of literature, focus on schools, methods and approaches for the study of text, including the study of metadiscourses, institutional dimension of literary studies and their role for the humanities. Research in this area embrace university studies and academic labour studies and concentrate on:

Historical study of literature encompassing a wide spectrum of historico-literary studies and the selected themes from English literatures examined in the context of such issues as reception and influence, "life" and cultural "vitality" of literary canon, genealogy, reception and later transformations and adaptations of the chosen works (as well as literary translation and cinematographic conventions in adaptation). Through the prism of these issues, English drama (Shakespeare, Gothic and Romantic Drama), Literary Gothic in England (literature of mystery and terror and its variants) or 20th and 21st-century Irish literature are studied.

Analytic aesthetics and cognitive science in literary studies. The object of these studies is the relationship betweenanalytic aesthetics (analytic philosophy of literature) and cognitive approaches to literary studies, as well as their treatment of issues traditionally associated with poststructuralism (or formalist-structuralist) literary theory. Both methodologies are relatively new and usually emphasize their separateness from the tradition of continental literary theory. At the same time, they are not able to escape from posing fundamental questions about literature and art related to: the definition of literary works, meaning, the role of intentions and readers, aesthetic pleasure, procedures unedrlying informed interpretation. Placing the theoretical discussion in cognitive framework opens up new perspectives in the study of poetics, narratology, or reader response, highlighting the "embodied" dimension of human cognition.

Literary studies (and the humanities at large) as an institution. The research is concerned with the history of the study of literature and literary education in the university, the evolution of the scope and notion of literature as such as well as the functions of literary pedagogy and the role of academic authorities (including the status of the so called 'public intellectual'). The research is informed by the new pragmatist perspective in literary studies, and highlights such issues as the connection between theory and practice, affinities between research, teaching and administration, the crisis of legitimization in the humanities and the prospects of redefining literary studies.

of legitimization in the humanities and the development of literary studies.

Polyphony, or a wide range of comparative research overlapping with studies on literary translation, the phenomenon of correspondence between arts and intersemiotic translation or the intermingling of various fields of art in liBerature viewed in the context of literary theory and the history of literature. This area of research also includes the study of carnivalization and polyphony in the novel, as well as the study of a relationship between the “I” and “someone else’s word” (czużoje słowo).

Historico-Political Themes in Literature which concentrate on analysing identity, especially form the post-colonial perspective. They mainly concentrate on the complexity of identity and subject formation, dependencies between social, cultural and political spheres existing in former colonies, as well as the influence of language in the process of decolonization. The discussion, focused on the context of the contemporary Irish literature, forays also into the subject of the 'accountability' writing, the 'conciliatory' trend, the personal dimension of history in the first person narration and the intermingling of autobiographical and fictional conventions.

Terror, mystery, suspense – studies devoted to Gothic literature, focusing in particular on two related areas: first, the way Gothic literature and its cultural status are construed by the critical discourse of Gothic studies; second, the influence of interpretive approaches, based on various contemporary cultural theories (psychoanalysis, Marxism, feminism, poststructuralism, New Historicism, etc.), on the definition and perceived socio-cultural function of the Gothic genre. Investigated are also: the ways in which the conception of Gothic literature proves functional in contemporary critical discourse; socio-historical background of particular works from the canon of Gothic literature; and the discursive basis for critical attitudes towards Gothic literature in the second half of the 18th century and later.

INTERDISCIPLINARY CULTURAL STUDIES involve research based on cultural anthropology and research the mechanisms of cultural production through the analysis of the texts of culture – their manufacture and distribution, with regard to their social, economic, cultural and political significance. Main research themes in this area are:

Ecocriticism/The criticism of consumerism. Ecocritical theory and post-marxist critique of consumerism include the study of the rhetoric of modern ecological discourse, culture and speed as well as interrelations between ecocriticism, ethnobiology and technological development. The relativity of culture/nature opposition, challenging the concept of “nature”, problematization of anthropocentric order or reevaluation of the paradigm of acceleration demand an identification of new research perspectives which allow for a systematic analysis of changing cultural landscape. The study of speed may be seen as embraced by a dynamicaly developing area of critical studies known as resistance studies as its integral element is constituted by the analysis of deceleration which brings a focus on cultural and social dimensions of slowness (“slow life”) interpreted from the perspective of its resistive potential.

Technology. Urban space, i.e., urban area studies interlocking with ecocritical studies, focusing on theoretical issues within the discourses of ecocriticism and cyberculture. Studies pertain to topics such as postmodern identity in science fiction and popular science discourses, hybridity of subjectivity torn between culture and nature, as well as the reworking and redefinition of this binary opposition in the context of bioart, contemporary ethnobotany, and ethnobiology as components of new urban activism.

Discourses of apocalypse and war – studies of discourses of apocalypse, war and technology in information media, science fiction literature and popular culture, undertaken in the context of culture theory and drawing from post-structuralist theories. In an interdisciplinary manner, these studies draw from the methodologies of culture studies, media studies, various historiographical perspectives, narratology, semiotics, as well as post-structuralist and post-humanist philosophy, locating the representations of studied phenomena within the scope of such concepts as myth, hyperreality or simulacrum. Objects of analysis include the processes of creating and distributing meaning in the contexts of, for example, apocalypse discourses, memory-making, reception of cultural and popcultural representations of war, establishing war literature canon, or the concept of victimization as a political and cultural strategy.

Science fiction and interactive entertainment – area of research on the representation of subjectivity in science fiction and interactive entertainment in relation to the study of subjectivity from the posthumanist perspective and the theoretical and cultural study of intepretive practices. The research focuses on the function of literature as an evolutionarily adaptive cognitive tool (particularly in respect to literary representations of subjectivity) and on the significance of Darwinian Literary Studies in contemporary literary and cultural theory.

Spectacle. Posing. Form – research dedicated to the study of unnaturalness and carnivalesque and their role for the formation of literary and cultural representation. It draws mostly on the heritage of low and popular cultures, and explores non-normative aesthetics (camp, kitsch, the grotesque etc.) to read their narrative potential, developed, and developing, in opposition to the discourses of norm. It examines aesthetic queerness and tests its poetic efficiency in relation to popular culture in “high modernity”.

Cultural discourses of emotions – area of research exploring the impact of cultural processes on the languages of emotions and forms of emotional expression. Inspired by contemporary love studies and the studies of affect, this area focuses on the shape, character and meaning of “postmodern love story” and its development along modern cultural processes.


A significant component of the Department’s research activity is represented by the academic journal Er(r)go: Teoria–Literatura–Kultura (Er(r)go: Theory–Literature–Culture),preoccupied with cultural and literary investigations. The journal is devoted to a critical reflection on the products of contemporary culture – including popular culture – with particular emphasis on the broadly understood questions of literature and literature-related problems. Er(r)go’s main themes range from the analysis of both literary and cultural phenomena, works and processes to the analysis of their contexts and conditions and as such they include the study of critical and cultural methodologies, examination of contemporary cultural tendencies and their philosophical assumptions, investigation into the change of theoretical and methodological paradigms, analysis of ethical and axiological links between cultural and literary tendencies and literary-theoretical and cultural syntheses. Er(r)go forms an ongoing project carried out by the Department and involving active participation of both doctoral students and the Institute members.

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