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Evading LibitinaThe Freedom of Zuzanna Ginczanka

Evading LibitinaThe Freedom of Zuzanna Ginczanka Under the sign of Libitina, the Roman goddess of burials and funerals invoked in Horace's Ode 3.30, this essay provides a celebratory introduction to the work of the Polish Jewish poet Zuzanna Ginczanka (1917–44), situating her within the cultural history of commemoration and consecration of the dead in Poland and the painful confrontation with the unburied dead of the Holocaust, of whom Ginczanka is one. Her best-known poem, a bitter parody of Juliusz Słowacki's “My Testament,” turns the Horatian notion of poetry as the most precious and enduring legacy on its head by construing the author's meager household possessions, looted after her denunciation to the Nazis in wartime, as the only offering her fellow citizens will cherish, while the text itself was actually brought as evidence in a postwar trial of the Polish woman she accuses in the poem and contributed to a conviction for collaboration. Using historian Thomas Laqueur's terms necro-sociability and necronominalism as competing impulses in a seemingly intractable struggle, this essay argues that it is possible to find in Ginczanka's joyful defiance of traditional accounts of body and spirit the point of departure for a poetics that claims a new freedom of imagination in the attempt to transcend the most stubborn of memory wars. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Common Knowledge Duke University Press

Evading LibitinaThe Freedom of Zuzanna Ginczanka

Common Knowledge , Volume 27 (3) – Aug 1, 2021

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Copyright
Copyright © 2021 by Duke University Press
ISSN
0961-754X
eISSN
1538-4578
DOI
10.1215/0961754x-9265367
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Under the sign of Libitina, the Roman goddess of burials and funerals invoked in Horace's Ode 3.30, this essay provides a celebratory introduction to the work of the Polish Jewish poet Zuzanna Ginczanka (1917–44), situating her within the cultural history of commemoration and consecration of the dead in Poland and the painful confrontation with the unburied dead of the Holocaust, of whom Ginczanka is one. Her best-known poem, a bitter parody of Juliusz Słowacki's “My Testament,” turns the Horatian notion of poetry as the most precious and enduring legacy on its head by construing the author's meager household possessions, looted after her denunciation to the Nazis in wartime, as the only offering her fellow citizens will cherish, while the text itself was actually brought as evidence in a postwar trial of the Polish woman she accuses in the poem and contributed to a conviction for collaboration. Using historian Thomas Laqueur's terms necro-sociability and necronominalism as competing impulses in a seemingly intractable struggle, this essay argues that it is possible to find in Ginczanka's joyful defiance of traditional accounts of body and spirit the point of departure for a poetics that claims a new freedom of imagination in the attempt to transcend the most stubborn of memory wars.

Journal

Common KnowledgeDuke University Press

Published: Aug 1, 2021

References