The articles published in this volume were presented at the joint Swedish-Polish conference entitled SWEDISH-POLISH MODERNISM - LITERATURE-LANGUAGE-CULTURE that took place in Krakow, Poland on April 20-21, 2001.
It has been more than a hundred years since modernism entered the scene and started to develop, but it is not until now that this 20th century literary event has somewhat unexpectedly come to constitute an issue of mutual concern for Swedish and Polish researchers. Even if Swedish - or in a wider perspective - Scandinavian literature at the turn of the 20th century was one of the most important sources of inspiration for Polish modernism, modernism still constitutes an interesting but at the same time somewhat unclear and problematic phenomenon for Swedish and Polish researchers. Both in Swedish and Polish literature - but for completely different reasons - there is an ongoing discussion about not only the origin, features and different periods of modernism, but also its actual existence and effect on the cultures and literatures of both countries.
In both Poland and Sweden, the modernisation of the country was one of the most important social phenomena during the 19th century. On the other hand, modernisation took place somewhat later than in the other European countries. However, one must not forget that it is the major cultural currents that have their origins in classicism and the Enlightenment and that extend up until postmodernism that make Europe something of a unit - at least if one looks at the cultural level - even if the earlier cultural currents only reached Eastern Europe sporadically. These currents affected countries and people in different ways and often acquired specific forms in the individual countries and peoples. They also arrived at different times and in some of the Eastern European countries several of them could be seen at the same time. However, the fact is that they were finally disseminated in some form throughout the whole of Europe.
Now, in the beginning of the 21st century, both Sweden and Poland find themselves in the soon to be expanded region for the European community. Even this fact contributes to people in these countries taking up joint research on the essence of modernism. It was mainly for this reason that modernism was chosen as the topic for this conference. Modernism constitutes a very interesting and fruitful topic for comparative research, a subject that makes it possible to study exactly how the cultural currents have reached countries in Europe and how they have been received, affected, have been affected and transformed in the respective countries. Both in Sweden and Poland there is abundant research dealing with modernism. Therefore there is also every reason for Swedish and Polish researchers to meet around this theme. That this has happened in a third language - English - is also probably symbolic of this new age when English has increasingly been ascribed the role of 'lingua franca' for scholarly discussions and contacts.
There is no doubt that the concept of modernism is still a concept that resists being tied down to fixed definitions. Moreover, it is rather obvious that this concept is defined differently in different countries. One of the goals of the conference therefore was to answer some of the important questions regarding the relation between, for example, modernism and avant garde; modernism and modernity; and modernism and postmodernism etc.
As can be seen from the contributions to the conference, the theme of this publication is not just modernism in the cultures of the two countries, but also and above all the rich problematic nature of modernism in the literatures of the neighbouring countries, that is, Swedish, Polish, Finnish Swedish and Russian, all seen from a Scandinavian and a Polish perspective.
We also hope that this publication - just like the conference that preceded it - will not only provide an opportunity for comparisons between the different countries, but will also increase scholarly contacts between Sweden and Poland in the field of the humanities. Even if paradoxically the humanities in both Poland and Sweden have smaller resources today than was the case a decade ago, it is important to maintain those contacts that have already been made and to try to bring about new ones. As regards Sweden, it can be mentioned that the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities has made a considerable effort to support such contacts, both by the agreement that already exists on exchanges with the Polish Academy of Sciences, an agreement that the Royal Swedish Academy has honored even during difficult times in Poland, and by supporting various initiatives that have been taken for conferences etc. The late Nils Åke Nilsson, professor of Slavic languages, should be especially mentioned, who both as professor of Slavic languages and as a member of the Academy did much to vitalise Swedish-Polish contacts in the field of the humanities.
Being assured that the conference and this publication will provide an opportunity for a fruitful exchange of opinions and knowledge, the undersigned would hereby with pleasure like to present this publication with warm thanks to the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Department of Slavic Languages at Uppsala University, the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Science, the Institute of Polish Studies at Jagiellonian University and to everyone else who helped arrange the conference on modernism.
Sven Gustavsson and Małgorzata Anna Packalén
Stockholm: Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien, Stockholm , 2001. , 261 p.