Customs and Culture in Poland under the Last Saxon King
Selections from Opis obyczajów za panowania Augusta III by father Jędrzej Kitowicz, 1728-1804
Jędrzej Kitowicz was a parish priest in central Poland with a military and worldly past. In his later years, after putting the affairs of his parish in order, he composed a colorful chronicle of all aspects and walks of life under King August III. He seems to have written mostly from memory, creating in the process the most complete record that exists of society in eighteenth-century Poland. A man with omnivorous tastes, a keen sense of observation, and a wry—at times bawdy—sense of humor, Kitowicz's realistic and robust literary technique has been compared in its earthiness and evocativeness to Flemish genre painting. A noteworthy example of eighteenth-century writing and narrative talent, his Opis reveals an astounding visual memory and a modern ethnographer's eye for material culture.
The present book consists of fifty-one chapters, including all of the most celebrated ones, from Father Kitowicz's Opis, complete with a comprehensive introduction. Topics include religious beliefs, customs and institutions, child-rearing, education, the judiciary and the military. Particularly vivid are the descriptions of the lives of the nobility, ranging from cooking through men's and women's wear to household entertainments and drinking habits. A commentary by the editor introduces each chapter.
About the Authors
Jędrzej Kitowicz (1728–1804) was a parish priest in central Poland with a military and worldly past. In his later years, after putting the affairs of his parish in order, he composed a colorful chronicle of all aspects and walks of life under King August III.
Oscar E. Swan is Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pittsburgh.
Armed with the curiosity and meticulousness of an ethnologist, Father Jędrzej Kitowicz observes the changing landscape of eighteenth-century Poland through the lens of objects, customs, habits, and regulations. Quintessentially Polish himself, Kitowicz represents major native vices and virtues: fear of foreign influences, short-sighted conservatism, at times even misogyny, but also curiosity, unique powers of perception, and a desire to order the chaotic world. Consequently, his ubiquitous, sometimes sardonic sense of humor is laced with underlying worry for the future of Poland, inscribing the publication into the long tradition of national melancholic narratives. Customs and Culture in Poland under the Last Saxon King, masterfully translated by Professor Oscar Swan of the University of Pittsburgh is an inexhaustible source of information not only for historians, but also scholars who examine the difficult relations between east and west, religious studies, political sciences, and, above all, material culture enthusiasts.—Agnieszka Jezyk
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