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Witkacy: 21st Century Perspectives

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Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz ‘Witkacy’ (1885-1939) was a Dramatist, Poet, Novelist, Painter, Photographer, Art Theorist and Philosopher. He was one of the most colourful personalities to come out of twentieth century Poland. Perhaps the most incredible facts about this remarkable man’s life include the knowledge that; he not only experienced the Russian Revolution first hand but that his amazingly prescient work was in effect rediscovered and found profound resonance in post-war communist Poland. In this context he was championed across Poland as part of a strong and spirited reaction against Socialist Realism in theatre in particular. During his lifetime Witkacy was to work at a furious rate completing more than thirty plays, several novels, numerous philosophical works, and some two thousand portraits and a huge number of photographs. He also left us; an extraodrdinarily large amount of; strange, grotesque, humorous poems and sketches. Furthermore, Witkacy exerted a profound influence on Tadeusz Kantor of Cricot 2, who was arguably the most widely known exponent of the ‘Contemporary’ Polish theatre tradition. At a certain point during the 1970’s Witkacy’s dramas were the most performed on university campuses’ throughout the United States. Perhaps his crowning posthumous attainment took place when UNESCO declared 1985 to be the International Year of Witkacy. This collection should prove of value to a number of groups of individuals. Those who know absolutely nothing about Witkacy might find this work a very good introduction to him and his work. This publication could certainly prove invaluable for those connected with the theatre; be it as an actor, director, producer or scenographer or indeed a lighting or sound technician. All I think will derive a closer sense of what Witkacy was trying to achieve. Certainly there could be much to both discover and discuss for professionals and students too. This collection is so diverse, interlinked and yet unified it could well be of profound interest to social scientist and indeed historian alike. What is being presented here is largely derived from two conferences which took place at the University of Westminster in 2009 and Washington D.C. in 2010 respectively. It is believed the essays presented here will enable readers to experience a deeper insights than hithertofore. All of this is really courtesy of the exertions of some of the finest Witkacologists in the world. We are therefore proud to have such a wonderful mixture of perspectives from scholars who have written extensively on Witkacy to those who are at the beginning of their scholarly careers as well as those for whom he has been a leisurely pastime. This publication is divided into some seven sections. Firstly we are presented with an account of the history of the Witkacy movement. Secondly a number of essays concern themselves with Witkacy in the realm of the political. The third section concerns itself with Witkacy and Polish Modernism. Then we are presented with explorations of Witkacy’s key concept of the idea of Pure Form. Following this we are offered a series of essays concerned with philosophy, history and politics. The sixth section revolves around questions of identity in Witkacy’s work. In the seventh and final section we are presented with two essays which offer us a brief comparative consideration of his work. Most significantly the publication features an annex: bearing the title; ‘Witkacy’s Portraits and the Slupsk Collection.’ Whilst there are black and white images within the body of the text, there are also some thirty eight colour images providing an excellent representation of Witkacy’s work including some including colour versions of the some twenty eight portraits. It is considered remarkably important for this publication to have had the Slupsk Museum permit us include this selection of visual images from the Witkacy Collection in this volume.

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