Roundtable: Beyond the Anthropocene: Post-Anthropocentric Approaches Across Literature and Theory (Katarzyna Więckowska, Tomasz Dobrogoszcz & Tymon Adamczewski)
Title: Decentering the Anthropos in the fiction of Magdalena Tulli and Andrzej Stasiuk
One of the core postulates of new materialist philosophy is the need to dismantle the human subject, built on its “capital of narcissism, paranoia and negativity” (Braidotti). The proposed paper investigates selected prose writings by two Polish major contemporary writers, Magdalena Tulli and Andrzej Stasiuk, demonstrating how they attempt to abandon the anthropocentric paradigms. The analyzed material includes two works by Tulli, Dreams and Stones (1995) and Flaw (2006), along with three works by Stasiuk, Dukla (1997), On the Road to Babadag (2004) and Fado (2006) – all available in English translation. In the paper I will show how the individualist human subject dissolves in Tulli’s and Stasiuk’s narratives, heading towards various forms of collectivity and approaching the symbiotic order with non-humans. Although the analyzed works were created in the 1990s and the 2000s, they often exhibit observations and notions quite closely related to key new materialist concepts, such as, e.g., Donna Haraway’s “making kin,” Karen Barad’s “being of the world,” Rosi Braidotti’s “ethics of becoming-imperceptible,” or Timothy Morton’s “attunement.” The paper will examine particular literary strategies used by Tulli and Stasiuk to achieve their effect of decentering human subjects. Both writers often depart from traditional narrative forms, e.g. by limiting the plot of their stories and making them epiphanic in character. Tulli’s Dreams and Stones renounces human characters and makes the city its protagonist. Stasiuk’s nostalgic pastoral landscapes display harmonious co-existence of humans and animals. Both writers frequently include in their descriptions the lists of various objects – plants, insects, minerals, man-made junk – which brings to mind Graham Harman’s speculative realism. Also, their specific use of modified temporalities (time of plants, time of objects) contextualizes human and non-human memory through Barad’s concept of “spacetimemattering”.
Bio: Tomasz Dobrogoszcz works as associate professor at the Department of British Literature and Culture, University of Lódź. His main fields of research include contemporary British and postcolonial literature, poststructuralist and psychoanalytical literary theory, contemporary film and culture studies. He has published on such writers as Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Salman Rushdie, Ali Smith and Jeanette Winterson. He is the editor of Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition: Cultural Contexts in Monty Python (2014). He also published a monograph Family and Relationships in Ian McEwan’s Fiction (2018). He translated into Polish a seminal work in postcolonial theory, The Location of Culture by Homi K. Bhabha, and other critical and literary texts, for instance by Hayden White or Dipesh Chakrabarty.