My stay at the Center for Cultural Sociology at Yale University came during the summer and fall of 2017 (25 July – 15 November). Although the campus was in vacation mode, all the university libraries were still open. My daily workplace was both the largest one, the Sterling Library, and the smaller ones, Bass Library and Beinecke Library. The Beinecke collects valuable archives of outstanding Polish writers: Aleksander Wat, Witold Gombrowicz, Czesław Miłosz, and Zbigniew Herbert. The Sterling archive collections, in turn, hold works by the great Polish anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski, who worked at Yale at the close of his academic career, and was buried at a New Haven cemetery in 1942. The university libraries’ extensive collections allowed me to continue several projects I currently have underway, in which the experience of trauma that shapes the fortune of Central European history and literary theory holds an important place.
After a brief sojourn in Krakow at the turn of September and October 2017, I returned to the Yale campus, now pulsing with academic life after the vacation period. Apart from numerous meetings with the local professors and students, I participated in several lectures by distinguished guests: W.J.T. Mitchell, Donna Harraway, Rodolphe Gasché, and a symposium on Modernism, World Literature and Totality (The Yale University Department of English). I also took advantage of the impressive collections of the local museums (Yale Center for British Art, Yale University Art Gallery) and those in New York (Guggenheim, MOMA, Metropolitan). A very pleasant touch was provided by my meetings with friends from years past: Kathleen Minahan, Professor Krystyna Iłłakowicz (Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures), and Professor Marci Shore (Department of History), who organized an interesting discussion around a book by Anna Muller, University of Michigan-Dearborn: If the Walls Could Speak: Inside a Woman’s Prison in Communist Poland (Oxford University Press 2018). This book “draws on the personal testimonies of former political prisoners and explores interrogation protocols and cell spy reports,” revealing the traumatic dimension of the expansion of totalitarian ideology, which shaped Polish and Central European history and culture in the latter half of the twentieth century. For their assistance in organizing my stay at Yale, I give thanks to Professor Ron Eyerman and Nadine Amalfi.