Bożena Shallcross

Bożena Shallcross
Professor and Director of Graduate Studies
Foster 508
Office Hours: Tuesdays 1:00 – 4:00 PM
Ph.D., Institute for Literary Research, Polish Academy of Science & Letters, Warsaw, 1983.
Teaching at UChicago since 2001
Research Interests: Cultural studies; Polish/Jewish studies (in particular the Holocaust); relationship between literature and visual arts; material culture and thing theory; identity and modes of habitation. Polish literature: 20th and 21st centuries; translation studies.

"As of late, I brought to the fore the material sphere of a radically different historical setting—the Holocaust—in order to establish the precarious ontology of trivial, everyday things in extreme conditions of the genocide."


My primary research concern has always been the relationship established between a creative subjectivity and the outside world. In this sense, I dealt with various concepts related to the once fundamental division between the seeing subject and the seen sphere, mainly, works of art as represented in literature, visual arts, and a physical world. 

My research evolved from interrogating the late stage of Polish symbolist poetry and its perceptual revisions of Western European visual arts into an exploration of the late modernist destabilization of the poetic subject and art-object divide from the perspective of epiphanic encounters with art.

As of late, I brought to the fore the material sphere of a radically different historical settingthe Holocaustin order to establish the precarious ontology of trivial, everyday things in extreme conditions of the genocide.

Currently, I am working on several major projects such as articles, conferences and monographs; of the latter the most advanced are the book manuscript, tentatively entitled Inscriptions and Intimacy, and an anthology of texts by various authors entitled The Jewish Inn: From Architecture to Phantasm.

Work with Students

I have served on thirty PhD committees (either as the first or the second reader) and twenty MAs. This cooperation has had a very wide scope ranging from theoretical, historical or comparative foci to reassessments of single authors, as well as inter-art transmission and traumatic experiences of genocide.

In my work with undergraduate students, (independent research or BA projects), I consider how to their own ideas and interests and build a foundation for their conceptualization.

I have also mentored several foreign scholars whose post-doctoral work/second book projects engaged artistic responses to the Holocaust, art-historical developments within Polish modernism, concepts of labor and action, and, as of late, issues in poetry translation.   

Affiliated Departments and Centers

The Joyce Z. and Jacob Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies; Chicago Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality; Program in Poetry and Poetics; Comparative Literatures Department, resource faculty.


Obligations of the Holocaust poetry researchers tied to the basic goals of poetry.
[Powinności badaczek i badaczy poezji Holocaustu wiążą się z zadaniami poezji w ogóle.]

Anita Jarzyna interviews Professor Bożena Shallcross, annotated interview, Narracje o Zagładzie, 2019: 5, 23-43.

"Between Desire and Inaction: On the Domestic Interiority in Orzeszkowa’a On the Niemen River,” in Another Canon. The 19th Century Polish Literature, English language anthology, Grażyna Borkowska and Lidia Wiśniewska eds. (Muenster, Germany: LIT-Verlag, 2019), refereed, 60-73.

“War and Violence: How to Rescue a Wartime Artifact,” in Cambridge University Press Handbook of Culture Studies, Lu Ann De Cunzo and Catharine Dann Roeber eds., by invitation, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), forthcoming in 2020), 30.

“Powinności badaczek i badaczy poezji Holokaustu wiążą się z zadaniami poezji w ogóle,” Anita Jarzyna interviews Bożena Shallcross, for Narracje o Zagładzie, 2020:1, 21.

Scandalous Glass House,” in Centering the Periphery: Polish Jewish Culture Beyond the Capital, Natalia Aleksiun, Halina Goldberg, Nancy Sinkoff eds., under review, 20.

“Krasicki cum Kant: Reading The Adventures of Mr. Nicholas Wisdom,” lead book chapter, in Światowa historia literatury polskiej. Interpretacje, [World History of Polish Literature: Interpretations], bilingual Polish-English anthology, Magdalena Popiel and Tomasz Bilczewski, eds., by invitation, (Kraków: Universitas), forthcoming in 2020, refereed, in press, 42.

Requiem for a Canon? The Peculiar Case of the Trans-Atlantic Canon,” in Being Poland: A New History of Polish Literature and Culture since 1918, Tamara Trojanowska, Joanna Niżyńska, & Przemysław Czapliński, et al., eds. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018), refereed, 153-164.

“Materialność i logosfera codzienności,” topical issue New Humanities, Teksty Drugie, 2017: 1, refereed, 334-348.

“Efekt niesprzątniętego pokoju,” in (Nie)przezroczystość normalności. Obrazy ładu, porządku w literaturze polskiej XIX i XX wieku, Hanna Gosk and Bożena Karwowska, eds. (Warsaw: Dom Wydawniczy Elipsa, 2014), 244-263.

Previously Taught Courses

  • The Holocaust Object 
  • Cinema and the Holocaust
  • Survival
  • Kieślowski’s French Cinema
  • Kieślowski, The Decalogue
  • Narratives of Assimilation
  • Theories of Vision
  • The Writer as Philosopher: Gombrowicz
  • Bruno Schulz: An Unfinished Modernist Project
  • Word and Image: Reassessing Interdisciplinarity

Current Courses

REES 27019 /37019 Holocaust Object

(ANTH 23910 / ANTH 35035 / HIST 23413 / HIST 33413 / JWSC 29500 )

In this course, we explore various ontological and representational modes of the Holocaust material object world as it was represented during World War II. Then, we interrogate the post-Holocaust artifacts and material remnants, as they are displayed, curated, controlled, and narrated in the memorial sites and museums of former ghettos and extermination and concentration camps. These sites which—once the locations of genocide—are now places of remembrance, the (post)human, and material remnants also serve educational purposes. Therefore, we study the ways in which this material world, ranging from infrastructure to detritus, has been subjected to two, often conflicting, tasks of representation and preservation, which we view through a prism of authenticity. In order to study representation, we critically engage a textual and visual reading of museum narrations and fiction writings; to tackle the demands of preservation, we apply a neo-materialist approach. Of special interest are survivors’ testimonies as appended to the artifacts they donated. The course will also equip you with salient critical tools for future creative research in Holocaust studies.

2020-2021 Autumn
Literature and Linguistics

REES 27026 /37026 Kieslowski: The Decalogue

(CMST 26705 / CMST 36705 / FNDL 24003)

In this course, we study the monumental series "The Decalogue" by one of the most influential filmmakers from Poland, Krzysztof Kieślowski. Without mechanically relating the films to the Ten Commandments, Kieślowski explores the relevance of the biblical moral rules to the state of modern man forced to make ethical choices. Each part of the series contests the absolutism of moral axioms through narrative twists and reversals in a wide, universalized sphere. An analysis of the films will be accompanied by readings from Kieślowski's own writings and interviews, including criticism by Zizek, Insdorf, and others.

2020-2021 Autumn
Literature and Linguistics