Multicultural Central Europe
Is the presence of multiple cultures and languages in Poland and the region a myth or a forgotten reality?
This is the question we study in this course, which takes a bird’s-eye view of the various cultures, languages, and traditions that influenced and continue to influence Poland and the broader region from the middle ages to the early 20th century. Designed as a survey of the region’s diverse languages, literature, and cultures through the lens of ethnic, linguistic, religious minorities, and multicultural cityscapes. Topics include Vikings in Poland, Jewish history in the region, Slavic-German borderlands, and cultural influences from the East. For the final project, students completed a collaborative multimedia mapping project. Features guest lectures by Leszek Gardeła, Tomasz Grusiecki, and Oksana Stoychuk.
Student enrollment: 60. Download the course poster here.
Politics of Laughter: Polish Comedy Culture
Can comedy provide relief and help people survive political turmoil and oppressive political systems?
This is the question we entertained in this course, which introduces students to the history of oppression and power relations in 20th-century Poland and its representations in Polish culture. Among the discussed texts are literature (The Career of Nicodemus Dyzma by Tadeusz Dołęga-Mostowicz), film (The Cruise/Rejs by Marek Piwowski, Sexmission/Seksmisja by Juliusz Machulski), TV (Chairman’s Ear/Ucho prezesa satirical web series), and music (WW2 song Axe, hoe/Siekiera, motyka, Chłopcy radarowcy by Andrzej Rosiewicz). The course package also included an official Spotify playlist featuring Polish protest songs. For the final class project, students designed and presented brand-new posters for selected literary and film texts. Featured a guest lecture/presentation by Irena Frączek (PHC Wisconsin, Madison) on life and resistance in communist Poland.
Student enrollment: 40. Download the course poster here.
Migrant Nation: The Polish-American Experience
When and why did Poles migrate to the Americas? How was their experience reflected in literature and film?
This is the question we entertained in this course, which introduces students to the history of migrations from the Polish lands from the early 18th to the late 20th centuries. Among the discussed texts are literature (e.g., After Bread: A Story of Polish Emigrant Life to America/Za chlebem by Henryk Sienkiewicz, Lost in Translation: Life in a New Language by Eva Hoffman) and film (e.g., Jack Strong by Władysław Pasikowski, Happy New York/Szczęśliwego Nowego Jorku by Andrzej Zaorski), the course examines representations of migratory movements throughout the last two centuries. For the final class project, students completed digital storytelling projects on migration, showcased on the UW–Madison Polish Studies page. Featured a guest visit/poetry reading by Polish-American poet John Guzlowski.
Student enrollment: 12. Download the course poster here.
Europe of Regions and Ethnic Minorities
What is Europe from the perspective of minorities and other traditionally marginalized communities?
This is the question we entertained in this course, which reverses the traditional approach to European area studies. The course introduces students to the ethnic, linguistic, and religious diversity of the European continent, and surveys it through the lens of its non-titular groups and communities. Topics include Silesia, Pomaks, Catalonia, and the Romani community. For the final class project, students prepared policy briefs with recommendations on existing conflicts. Featured guest lectures by Renee Perelmutter on the European Jewish experience and Carolina Costa Candal on Galician regionalism in Spain.
As a language, Polish boasts a centuries-long history and is spoken by some 50 million people worldwide, from the U.S. to Australia. I have been teaching Polish language courses at the college level since 2014 (with a year-long break in 2019/2020), including an intensive Polish course in the summer of 2021. My courses adopt a communicative, interaction-based approach combined with a healthy dose of grammar instruction to provide students with much-needed language scaffolding. My additional teaching materials extend traditional coursework (textbook, grammar) to such topics as Polish culture, media, traditions, and society. Rather than exoticizing Polish, I present it as drawing from and similar in form and substance to more popular European languages.