Machine for Living: Urban Domesticity in Polish Literature & Cinema 1969-2008

Studia Slavica Upsaliensia No. 50


By: My Svensson
November 2015
Uppsala University
Distributed by Coronet Books
ISBN: 9789155492861
191 Pages
$57.50 Paper original


The aim of this dissertation is to study urban domesticity in Polish film and literature against the background of the political and social transformations that have taken place in recent decades. The study begins with the so-called belle époque of the Polish People’s Republic and the decade of Edward Gierek, continues through the political upheavals, the period of martial law, and the system transformation of 1989 and the two following decades, which have been marked by the introduction of democracy, global capitalism, consumerism etc.

The primary sources consist of almost thirty literary and cinematic works from various genres covering a period of forty years – twenty before the system change, and twenty after. Their common denominator is their setting in the socialist housing projects (blokowisko).  The dissertation places itself in the field of geocriticism and literary/cinematic spatiality. The object of the study is the ̒social space’ (Henri Lefebvre) of the urban home, and the main analytical frames are spatial representations and narrative space, which are viewed as important in shaping both character and plot. The analysis also draws from cultural theory by Michel Foucault, Marc Augé, Mikhail Bakhtin, Mircea Eliade, and Loïc Wacquant.

The dissertation detects a shift in the representations of the urban home that indicates that the home has become more private and secluded after 1989, also suggesting that a spatial and social marginalization of the socialist housing projects has occurred. These findings are interpreted as consistent with theories in human geography on changes in the perception and experience of space due to global paradigm shifts and changes in the production system.