"The 1940s: Polish Poetry and the Holocaust"
Dr. Aleksandra Kremer (she/her) is a tenure-track associate professor of Slavic languages and literatures at Harvard University. She received her PhD in literary studies from the University of Warsaw, her MPhil in European literature from the University of Cambridge, and her BA/MA degrees in Polish and English from the University of Warsaw. Before joining Harvard in 2016, she taught at the University of Warsaw and was a visiting scholar at the University of Michigan.
Dr. Kremer’s main area of research and teaching is Polish literature and culture. Her first book, Przypadki poezji konkretnej. Studia pięciu książek (The Twists and Turns of Concrete Poetry: Case Studies of Five Books), was published in Warsaw with IBL PAN in 2015. It explores the role of book series and book design in the concrete poetry movement in German-speaking and Anglophone countries and in Poland in the 1950s and ‘60s. Her second book, The Sound of Modern Polish Poetry: Performance and Recording after World War II, was published with Harvard University Press in 2021. The book documents how key Polish poets tested the possibilities of their physical voices, often by means of tape recording, and introduced new poetic practices and genres to Polish culture. Their audio recordings reveal new aesthetics of poetry reading and novel concepts of the poetic self that emerged in Poland after World War II.
Dr. Kremer was awarded the Leon and Edith Milman Fellowship for the project “The 1940s: Polish Poetry and the Holocaust.” During the fellowship, Dr. Kremer will work on her third book project, which revisits the question of poetry’s response to the Holocaust, and reexamines the relation between “war literature” and “Holocaust literature” written in Polish in the 1940s, both during and after World War II. The project traces and examines the dispersed signals of a new anti-lyrical style that started to emerge during the war in some Polish and Polish-Jewish texts. These poems and corresponding critical discussions appeared well before Theodor Adorno’s 1949 dictum that it is barbaric to write poetry after Auschwitz, but they did not become a coherent project in the 1940s. The project reexamines the roots of this style and asks more broadly about the relations between poetic form and moral reckoning. It pays special attention to the way in which intertextual references were used at that time. The study is based on poetry and criticism that appeared in wartime clandestine publications and in the postwar Polish and Polish-Jewish press.