Agnieszka Polakowska

Doctoral Fellow, 2010-11

Agnieszka Polakowska’s research engages the developing field of literary ethics by examining the ways in which the historical referentiality of a literary work can affect the terms of the encounter between a text and a reader. Her approach aims to assess the explanatory scope of literary ethical discourse, an area of critical inquiry shaped by mostly Anglo-American scholarship and dominated by studies of narrative fiction, by changing the context of its application. By analyzing works from the Polish literary canon in which the presence of a historical framework blurs the distinction between fiction and non-fiction, her dissertation focuses on issues that emerge when the act of reading is linked, through recourse to history, to the act of witnessing. The starting premise of her project is that a marked aspect of historical referentiality in a work of literature can alter the ethical stakes of writing, reading, and interpretation in ways that both challenge and inform current discourse on literary ethics.

As her attraction to literary ethics and the interdisciplinary dimensions of her doctoral project indicate, Agnieszka’s research interests are as varied as her graduate career is long (with the two being related); she holds MAs in English Literature and Slavic Languages and Literature, both from University of Toronto, and is entering the sixth, and hopefully final year of her PhD in Polish Literature. In the course of her studies Agnieszka has co-organized an international conference on Polish Studies Abroad, taught an undergraduate course on Polish Postwar Cinema (an experience that reignited her interest in visual culture, and which will inevitably leave its mark on her dissertation), sat on the editorial board of echolocation, as well as tried her hand at editing and translation. Prior to receiving a Graduate Fellowship at the Centre for Ethics, Agnieszka’s studies have benefited from the support of Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship program.

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