Complicating the Female Subject: Gender, National Myths, and Genre in Polish Women's Inter-War Drama

Complicating the Female Subject: Gender, National Myths, and Genre in Polish Women's Inter-War Drama


Joanna Kot

Series: Polish Studies
ISBN: 9781618115423 (hardcover)
Pages: 288 pp.
Publication Date: December 2016

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Seven inter-war plays by Polish women writers created a flurry of excitement and condemnation when they appeared, yet today they are almost forgotten. This groundbreaking study interrogates the feminism of these plays and their authors, who dared to question national myths, subvert genre expectations, and reinterpret definitions of subjectivity, anticipating the work of numerous women playwrights in post-1989 Poland. Synthesizing a variety of theoretical perspectives, the author produces a nuanced reading of each work and of the group as a whole. Both texts and the innovative synthetic approach will interest scholars of Polish literature, of drama, and of gender studies.

Professor of Polish and Russian at Northern Illinois University, Joanna Kot has written extensively on Polish and Russian modernist drama, including the monograph Distance Manipulation: The Russian Modernist Search for a New Drama. Her recent work focuses on 1930s Polish women playwrights as important predecessors to contemporary feminist drama.

Table of Contents


1. Women and Drama in Other Western Modernisms
2. Inter-War Poland
3. Who Were They? A Short Biographical Introduction
4. What Are They? Plot Summaries of the Plays
5. Theorizing the Subject: Seeing Through an Essentialist Lens
6. Theorizing the Subject: Possibilities of Change
7. The Subject Vis-à- Vis Cultural Myths
8. Dramatic Fissures
9. Inter-War Critical Reception



Joanna Kot’s book is a superb cross-reference to the literary history of Polish women, and by delivering this first systematic scrutiny of Polish women’s drama this book becomes an important addition to the debate on women’s issues. ... Joanna Kot’s book is a thought-provoking elaboration on Polish interwar dramatic execution of women’s questions and it will be a valuable source of knowledge for further investigation. This is a timely book, which discusses the mechanisms of women’s presence—and the very strategies for the silencing of women’s voices by critical reception—as both writers and the characters in literary works.
— Urszula Chowaniec, University College London, the Slavic Review, Spring 2018
Complicating the Female Subject serves as an important introduction to dramatic works written by women during the twenty-year period in which Poland regained independence, bringing to light largely ignored material, and will certainly be of interest to specialists of Polish drama and inter-war culture.
— Diana Sacilowski, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, The Polish Review (Vol. 62, No. 4)
This is a daring and thought-provoking book for all theater lovers. Joann Kot’s comprehensive study revives archival theater scripts and forgotten plays of Poland’s inter-war “women’s drama” in a way that energizes and delights. Reading her analysis makes us rethink the mechanisms of theater and the structures of domination at the same time. This ostensibly modest rediscovery, conducted in a bi-lingual format proposed by Kot, also reveals the rich suppressed heritage behind Polish women’s voices today asserting clearly that the country’s national stage history needs to be seen anew, in a brighter and fuller light.
— Elwira M. Grossman (University of Glasgow)