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Polish Literature  
page: 1  2  

Lesbian Literature

Earlier Polish literature frequently presents love, friendship, and (implicitly) homoerotic relationships between women. Narcyza Zmichowska (1819-1876) in her romantic ballad The Pagan Woman (Poganka, 1846) portrays, obliquely and in disguise, her relationship with Paulina Zbyszewska. In the novel The White Rose (Biala roza, 1861), one woman declares her love for another.

Paulina Kuczalska-Reinschmit (1859-1921), an early feminist writer, combines homoeroticism and the struggle for women's rights in the novel Sisters (Siostry, 1908). The protagonist decides to rear an illegitimate son of her father with her partner, a female doctor.

Another early twentieth-century writer, Aniela Gruszecka (1884-1976), treats lesbianism as an option in the search for female identity in An Adventure in an Unknown Country (Przygoda w nieznanym kraju, 1933).

However, lesbianism was not presented explicitly in Polish literature until the 1990s. The central figure of the new lesbian literature is Izabela Filipiak (b. 1961), author of the novels Death and Spiral (Smierc i spirala, 1992) and Absolute Amnesia (Absolutna amnezja, 1995) and the book of poems Madame Intuita (2002). Filipiak is the first openly lesbian literary figure in Poland.

Ewa Shiling's collection of short stories The Mirror (Lustro, 1998) is also an interesting contribution to the new lesbian literature. Shiling (b. 1963) reflects on the social difficulties lesbians experience as a result of their "differentness," and also considers how lesbians are oppressed doubly, first as women and then as lesbians.

Most recently, Magdalena Okoniewska (b. 1962) published My World Is a Woman. Diary of a Lesbian (Moj swiat jest kobieta. Dziennik lesbijki, 2004).


Although Polish literature is frequently homoerotic, homosexual motifs do not materialize as deliberate literary strategies until the twentieth century. Even then, they were most often coded or camouflaged, developed through literary allusions rather than stated directly or openly. Only during the last twenty years have Polish writers spoken explicity about homosexuality, or indeed about sex and the body in general.

Alessandro Amenta

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social sciences >> Overview:  Poland

Although Poland has a rudimentary gay subculture and a favorable legal situation, the country's anti-gay attitudes make life difficult for individual gay men and lesbians.

social sciences >> Overview:  Warsaw

Despite the now favorable legal situation, the Roman Catholic opposition to gay rights shapes national attitudes in Poland, holding back the progress of Warsaw's gay and lesbian community; and most of Warsaw's gays and lesbians are still in the closet.

literature >> Michelangelo Buonarroti

Best known for his genius in art and architecture, Michelangelo was also an accomplished author of homoerotic poetry.

arts >> Michelangelo Buonarroti

The most famous artist who ever lived, Michelangelo left an enormous legacy in sculpture, painting, drawing, architecture, and poetry; while the artist's sexual behavior cannot be documented, the homoerotic character of his drawings, letters, and poetry is unmistakable.


Basiuk, Tomasz, Dominika Ferens, and Tomasz Sikora, eds. A Queer Mixture: Gender Perspectives on Minority Sexual Identities / Odmiany odmienca: Mniejszosciowe orientacje seksualne w perspektywie gender. Katowice: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Slask, 2002.

Cuber, Marta. "Les-silent-story. O polskiej prozie lesbijskiej." ("Less Silent Story. About Polish Lesbian Prose.") Ha!art n. 14 (2003).

Johlinga, Wolfgang, ed. Dyskretne namietnosci. Antologia polskiej prozy homoerotycznej. (Discreet Passions. An Anthology of Polish Homoerotic Prose.) Poznan: Softpress, 1992.

Ritz, German. Nic w labirncie pozadania. Gender i plecew literaturze polskiej od romantyzmu do postmodernizmu. (A Thread in the Labyrinth of Desire. Gender and Sexuality in Polish Literature from Romanticism to Postmodernism.) Warszawa: Wiedza Powszechna, 2002.


    Citation Information
    Author: Amenta, Alessandro  
    Entry Title: Polish Literature  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated April 9, 2004  
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    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
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    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
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