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2022 / Katabasis and Nekyia: about topoi and their transformations

2022 / Katabasis and Nekyia: about topoi and their transformations

Tekstualia issue No. 4 (71) 2022

“The technique of microscopic philological research allowed us to discover in texts of various origins elements with an identical structure that we should consider as constants of expression in European literature”, wrote E.R. Curtius. These constants are topoi (from Latin ‒ loci communes), and their very definition comes from textbooks of classical rhetoric. In this issue, we invite researchers from various disciplines to reflect on two of the oldest, and at the same time the most widespread, topoi ‒ katabasis, i.e. the descent into the world of the dead and nekyia, i.e. a visit to the world of the living by the souls or spectres of the dead.

The aim of this volume is an attempt ata reconstruction of the history of these topoi ‒ from their beginnings (mysterious, disappearing in the darkness of history) to today’s realisations (in literature, fine arts, film, theatre and other texts of culture). An equally important intention is to show and analyse the individual transformations of katabasis and nekyia, and to pose questions about their purposefulness and functions.

For who ‒ and this reflection gave rise to the concept of the quarterly edition described here ‒ did not descend to the land of the dead? Gilgamesh and Aeneas, Orpheus and Christ, and Ariosto’s Astolfo. Towards hell headed the hero of Dante’s Divine Comedy, or Theseus… In The Odyssey the phantasms, lured by Circe’s bloody sacrifice, went on their way to the world of the living, where they encountered Odysseus, and Mickiewicz's Forefathers Eve is the most famous nekyia in our culture. But after all, to refer to a slightly different register, even Jack, the character in the famous film by Lars von Trier, wanders to the world of the dead. And isn’t the spontaneous emergence of the souls of victims of discrimination and racism, as in the case of dybbuks (in the drama by Sz. An-ski or a story by Hanna Krall) or the spectre of the black bluesman Charlie Shaw in Hari Kunzru’s White Tears, or even Night of the living Jews ‒ some kind of nekyia? A peculiar one, as it is not preceded by a call from the world of the living ‒ which has recently turned its head away from the underworld. But isn’t it a fact, that what has been repressed, returns with an intensified power? Therefore it is time to follow the footsteps of the living, who directed their steps towards that land, and the dead who ‒ summoned or not ‒ come from that land in order to try to find out, what were the reasons of so many wanderings, and what shapes they have taken over the centuries.

Managing editors: Marcin Czardybon, Marta Buława

Deadline for article submissions: September 30, 2022

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