Between East and West

November 2004
10 black and white illustrations
212 pages
9x6 in
Rochester Studies in East and Central Europe
ISBN: 9781580461726
Format: Hardback
University of Rochester Press
BISAC HIS010010, LIT004110, POL045000

Between East and West

Polish and Russian Nineteenth-Century Travel to the Orient

Izabela Kalinowska

A comparison between Russian and Polish texts of travels to the Orient in the Nineteenth-Century.
This study analyzes and compares Polish and Russian texts of travel to the Romantic and Biblical Orient and situates Polish and Russian Orientalism within the broader context of contemporary post-colonial studies. At the same time, it elucidates the shortcomings that arise when such theories are applied whole cloth to the Polish and Russian cases.

In the nineteenth century, scholarly and literary Orientalism enjoyed great popularity in Eastern Europe, in part because the 'East Europeans' desired to participate as equals in the intellectual life of Europe as a whole. Historically, both the Polish and Russian nations had always existed in close proximity to the Muslim world, and each of them had experienced extensive exposure to a fusion of Western and Eastern cultural traditions. But while the two cultures shared the intersection of Western and native cultural traditions that in turn played a determinative role in their encounters with the East, the growing political empowerment of Russia and the disenfranchisement of Poland differentiated the Polish and Russian perspectives. It is precisely this striking and fascinating power disparity between the two Slavic nations that has inspired this study's juxtaposition of Polish and Russian texts.

The records of individual Oriental voyages provided in Polish and Russian works of literary Orientalism document a quest for cultural self-definition. This is the case with Adam Mickiewicz's 'Crimean Sonnets,' Aleksandr Pushkin's Caucasian poetry, and with other nineteenth-century accounts that, in spite of their original popularity, subsequently underwent marginalization. East European records of travel constitute a work of interpretation and translation on several levels. As such they provide us with a fascinating repository of the authors' attempts to locate their own cultures in the intermediary space between the East and the West.

Izabela Kalinowska is an assistant professor of Slavic literatures and cultures at Stony Brook University.

Table of Contents

Travel, Orientalism, and East-West Dialogue in Adam Michiewicz's Sonnets
Polish Nineteenth-Century Travel to the Orient: Scholarship, Poetry, Politics
Empire in the Background: Russian Oriental Travel from Crimea to the Holy Land
Aleksandr Pushkin's Caucasian Cycle: From the Orient Back to Russia


Kalinowska's examination of travels from the margins of Europe is . . . extremely stimulating, and her careful contextualization is exemplary. --EUROPEAN HISTORY QUARTERLY, Volume 39 No 1 [Wendy Bracewell]

In Between East and West: Polish and Russian Nineteenth-Century Travel to the Orient, Izabela Kalinowska offers a compelling Eastern European "third" perspective on Said's discourse of Orientalism. The book comprises a series of brilliantly analyzed Polish-Russian dialogues about the East, which use the trope of exotic travel to delineate each nation's and each individual author's relation to the modernizing world. The chapter on Mickiewicz'sSonnets is a tour-de-force, certainly the most formally acute, as well as richly contextualized, treatment this masterpiece of eastern-western poetic synthesis has received. Kalinowska's book is an exemplary work of Comparative Literature, in that it shows how not to sacrifice the cultural specificity of "the periphery" for the sake of a "global" legibility of issues. It will be read with fascination and profit by intellectuals from many disciplines, from history of empire and nationalism to comparative poetics, from Slavic and Comparative Literature to Eurasian Studies. --Monika Greenleaf, associate professor of Slavic languages and literatures and comparative literature at Stanford University

Also in Series