Alienated Women

A Study on Polish Women's Writing, 1845 -1918
$51.95 / €42.95 / £34.00
Publication date: 
348 pages

Women’s studies are still in their infancy in Poland and this pioneering book is one of the most comprehensive and well-researched studies on nineteenth-century Polish women prose writers. Selecting writers that reflect the most turbulent time in Polish women’s literature, such as Klementyna Hoffmanowa, Narcyza Żmichovska, Eliza Orzeszkowa and Zofia Nałkowska. Borkowska’s approach of major feminist theories and post-feminist thought results in astonishing findings that throw new light on Polish women writers and their contribution to European thought.

The author’s intelligent and effective use of feminist criticism and clarity of thought make Alienated Women a landmark study, suitable for (all students) and scholars of Polish literature, women’s studies and feminist theory.

Introduction:Feminist Criticism in Relation to Art and the Theory of Culture: A Short Review

Does there exist a subject of dispute?

Art as play (the “post-Freudian” psychoanalytic variant)

Art as a subjective act

Art as the reinterpretation of existing reality

Art as a place of personal contact

A stroll around the theme

Where do we stand?


Part 1: The Question of the “Enthusiasts”

Chmielowski was not the first

Two myths: the literary and the patriotic

The position of the historians

Women and history

Who were the Enthusiasts?

The feminism of the Enthusiasts


Part 2: Zmichowska versus Hoffmanowa: The Strategy of the Bee

An espcially important text and an especially important person

Without precedent

Mistress and pupil—two biographies, two personalities

An ideal coincidence

The new situation

The parting of the ways

Oversight or treason

The strategy of the bee


Part 3: Grappling with Form

Baffling and peculiar novels

A brief survey of the form of the novels

From Sterne to Irzykowski

Zmichowska the eccentric

Zmichowska as a Postmodernis writer


Part 4: The Samaritan Woman at the Well

The problem of ownership

The negative answer

The link with Mickiewicz

The positive answer

The author and her sex

A woman of a transitional age


The family circle

Children and family life in centuries past (according to Philippe Ariès)

Family life (according to Zmichowska)

The lack of a father

The “Romantic” mother

Narcyza’s brain


The anti-martyrological trend and the “martyr’s plam”


Psychoanalytic threads

From Pierre Leroux to psychoanalysis

The androgyne:”not to be a man, not to be a woman”

In conclusion: the story of Christ and the Samaritan woman


Part 5: Orzeszkowa and the Strategy of Self-Adjustment

Another generation, other modes of behavior

The rule and the exception—Konopnicka

Unspoken choices

Another model


Moulding her biography

Ascetism and renunciation

Fiction by secondary writers

Images of the mother

Eros and Psyche

Calculations, results, conclusions: Orzeszkowa’s Parnassism

The strategy of self-adjustment


Part 6: Orzeszkowa: Self-Correction and the Problem of Limits

Signals of a change

Moments of revelation

From ascetism to ecstasy


Other surprises

Where does this all come from?

Orzeszkowa’s corset


Part 7: Four Roads: Regression, Narcissism, Struggle, Art


Works written by women

Digression: what is women’s literature/poetry?

The first scenario: retrogression

Nietzscheanism (the second scenario)

The third scenario: war and revolution

The fourth scenario: love and art



Part 8: A Comparative Reading of the Diaries of Zofia Nalkowska and Maria Dabrowska

Mythical beginnings

The diary as a prefiguration of works to come

Diaries and truth



"Focusing on women who tried to shed the `encumbering corset` of social, moral, and literary tradition, Borkowska contributes a new perspective on Polish letters."
"As the first comprehensive work on Polish women's prose in English, Grazyna Borkowska's Alienated Women is a milestone in Slavic women's studies.... provides a long awaited introduction to Polish writing for non-specialists, while offering compelling analyses of the works of some of Poland's greatest writers to scholars in Slavic women's studies."
"Grazyna Borkowska embraces Polish writing, beginning with the early 1800s. She creates a critical dimension scrupulously embracing the written record of literary criticism with a history of voiced desire... Borkowska's historical presentation is extremely compelling."