REEES 214 - Rock Poetry and Political Protest in Poland
Section: 001
Term: FA 2017
Subject: Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies (REEES)
Department: LSA II: Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

This course provides an introduction to Polish culture in the larger context of Slavic and Central European cultures through a detailed study and analysis of “music of protest” (jazz, cabaret, rock , punk) during the 1945-1989 period of Soviet dominance and during the period of transition to democracy and after the establishment of full democratic rule in Poland. This course also provides an introduction to rhetoric and contextual reading of poetry (as well as other forms of expression). We will study in detail texts by some of the most important Polish and other Central European pop, jazz, cabaret, rock, and punk authors and bands with the purpose of identifying devices and strategies used to create meanings. We will connect texts with elements of daily lives of people in Poland (as well as other Central European nations) focusing in particular on: cultural heritage, history, politics, social issues, past and future myths (interpretations of past events and projections of perceived “national goals” into the future). We will study and discuss the “romantic pose” of rock poets (poet as a prophet — the 19th-century concept created by Polish Romantic poets in the context of constructing art as an instrument of the Polish “battle for freedom and independence”). Specifically, we will investigate the “Polish trend” to build poetic texts on the foundation of ideas (rock poetry as an extension of discourse on ideas). We will compare Polish rock poetry to British and American rock poetry to highlight the dominance of “word and meaning” in Polish rock and punk of the 1980’s and 2000’s. Other topics will include:

  • totalitarian structures and poetic response to totalitarian structures,
  • the three taboos in Polish culture (communism, Catholicism, anti-communist opposition),
  • the quest for utopia,
  • the “apologetic nature” of Polish art,
  • the fear of and desire for diversity in Polish culture and history,
  • the construction of a “collective Polish psyche”.

This course addresses a wide range of issues related to the study of history, literature, culture, social and cultural transformations, construction and deconstruction of national, social, and gender mythologies and perceptions. It will focus on responses to the imposition of totalitarian structures and survival within them, responses to historical changes, as well as strategies for constructing national consensus and for dealing with a diversity of ideas and attitudes.

This course will focus on Polish culture but will do so in a global context: it will introduce the students to general and foundational concepts and ideas in communication, semiotics, rhetoric, and the reading of poetic texts. The focus on comprehension of complex synthetic art forms in a social, historical, and political context can be applied to other cultures as well (Polish, Slavic, non-Slavic, past and contemporary). Polish culture will be analyzed in terms of its main building blocks: ethnicity, religion, gender, cultural identity, importance of ideas and verbal communication, opposition between the West and the East, opposition between Enlightenment and Romanticism, opposition between faith and fact, opposition between real and perceived continuity of history and culture. In the process, Polish culture will be defined in all its distinctiveness but with clear attention to the qualities shared with the cultures of other Slavic and Central European nations and states. Students will analyze how literary and non-literary texts (verbal and non-verbal) are constructed, how meanings are created and transmitted, how real and perceived connections between the author and the audience are developed.

This will allow students to enhance their talents for persuasive and expository presentations and allow them to become “intentional” communicators and receivers of communication. Students will be exposed to the full range of human experiences in the face of war, human rights abuses, totalitarian rule, revolution, and political, social, and cultural transformation.

Course Requirements:

  • Attendance;
  • Regular short participation tests;
  • Final exam.
  • 1 argumentative paper (8-12 pages).
  • 1 research paper (8-12 pages).

Intended Audience:

Students seeking to broaden their understanding of foundational concepts in popular culture and its interaction with politics and basic strategies and devices in rhetoric/communication. Students pursuing Slavic majors/minors and seeking to expand their knowledge beyond their primary Slavic field.

Class Format:

Class will be a combination of lecture and discussion each week. Students will be expected to view four films during the academic term.

REEES 214 - Rock Poetry and Political Protest in Poland
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
MW 2:30PM - 4:00PM
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