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Alina Strzempa

Alina Strzempa

Title: “Literature and Industry”: Re-thinking Regional Literatures by Bringing the Anthropocene to the Donbas and Upper Silesia?

Abstract: In my scholarly project titled “Poetics of Industrial Landscapes: The Donbas and Upper Silesia in Comparative Perspective”, I explore the approach of ‘Literature and Industry’, among others. In this specific segment of my research, I delve into the comprehensive literary representations of industrial infrastructures, as well as the fate of the literary protagonists who reside within them. There is a recognized framework for conducting such an investigation, which involves considering the different phases of society, including pre-industrial, industrial, and post-industrial societies. All of these types of societies are differentiated by specific sub-phases of their development. They are defined based on the resources utilized, products generated, working conditions, scale of activities, types of entertainment employed, as well as the nature of confidential knowledge involved, such as religious or political aspects. Lastly, they are defined in relation to the type of education that takes place. The shared foundation of the framework, which emerges through the application of these criteria, assumes purposefulness and intentionality, resulting in more effectively organized living environments, as they reflect a societal consensus on the most suitable society within a specific phase of historical development. Due to the valid concerns regarding human beings becoming a geological force and potentially losing control over their actions, the previously mentioned framework loses its plausibility or credibility. Indeed, the planet has attained a non-analogue state, known as the Anthropocene era, which raises fundamental questions regarding the previously established assumption of purposefulness and the most suitable society. In other words, the environmental question becomes a political and cultural issue that bridges the gap between the sciences and humanities, bringing them together. Given these circumstances, it is necessary to establish a new rationale or narrative for the historical progression thus far. One of the possible ways is to differentiate the geological markers attributable to human activity. In other words, it is assumed that there are already layers or strata whose changes can be attributed to humans. At the forefront, the field of history brings forth the terms of the Industrial Revolution and the Great Acceleration, which have been incorporated into the framework of thinking in relation to the Anthropocene. Ideologically, both the Industrial Revolution and the Great Acceleration promised freedom and progress, but it is essential to shed light on their drawbacks, particularly regarding the swiftly changing role of nature in human existence. In my contribution, I aim to bring together the previously mentioned concept of specific societies, the perspectives of the Anthropocene, and the regional literatures of the Donbas and Upper Silesia during the extended period of the Industrial Revolution (lasting until approximately 1930), as well as the Great Acceleration (beginning in 1930 with the so-called Stalinocene in the Soviet Union and in Europe from 1950 onwards). By working with quotations, I intend to contrast these different perspectives on issues related to industrial infrastructure, juxtaposing the notion of purposefulness with experiences such as alienation and suffering. By extensively engaging with the perspectives of the Anthropocene, my intention is to develop an alternative framework for the ‘Literature and Industry’ approach in relation to both regions. My contribution aims to provide evidence of how my project seeks to enhance ecocritical thinking regarding both regional living environments.
My contribution addresses the following questions:

  • Anthropocene(s) in critical thought and cultural narratives
    o Anthropocene as a cultural reality (self-conscious Anthropocene),
  • Social temporalities and (political, cultural, etc.) and planetary (geological) temporalities,
  • Socialist modernization models as “great derangement”.

Bio: Alina Strzempa, PhD, earned her degree in 2016 from the University of Münster. Her dissertation focused on the concept of Central Europe in the works of Andrzej Stasiuk and Jurii Andrukhovych, which were written around the time of Poland’s entry into the European Union. Since March 2022, she has been working on a comparative publication as part of the project titled “Poetics of Industrial Landscapes: The Donbas and Upper Silesia in Comparative Perspective”.