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Hetmanka and Mother: Representing the Virgin Mary in Modern Poland.

Abstract

Marian devotion has long been a central component of Catholic spirituality, in part because the image of the Virgin has been accommodated effectively within so many diverse cultural contexts. In modern Poland, Marianism gained much of its power from the way it linked seemingly contradictory models of femininity together within a national (or even nationalist) worldview. Mary, the Queen of Poland, has been offered to the faithful as a model for conceptualising the feminine within the nation, a model which is flexible enough to endure because it rests on a basic dichotomy: on the one hand, Mary is a powerful, sometimes militant, protector of Poland; on the other, she is an exemplar of feminine domesticity. She provides an image of authority and power which ultimately (perhaps paradoxically) poses little challenge to traditional norms of femininity – indeed, she is frequently called upon to fortify those norms. Marianism thus provides some of the glue that helps hold together two otherwise distinct strains of Polish national thought, one focused on maintaining conservative gender relations and the other on attaining victory in the international realm.

Marian devotion has long been a central component of Catholic spirituality, in part because the image of the Virgin has been accommodated effectively within so many diverse cultural contexts. In modern Poland, Marianism gained much of its power from the way it linked seemingly contradictory models of femininity together within a national (or even nationalist) worldview. Mary, the Queen of Poland, has been offered to the faithful as a model for conceptualising the feminine within the nation, a model which is flexible enough to endure because it rests on a basic dichotomy: on the one hand, Mary is a powerful, sometimes militant, protector of Poland; on the other, she is an exemplar of feminine domesticity. She provides an image of authority and power which ultimately (perhaps paradoxically) poses little challenge to traditional norms of femininity – indeed, she is frequently called upon to fortify those norms. Marianism thus provides some of the glue that helps hold together two otherwise distinct strains of Polish national thought, one focused on maintaining conservative gender relations and the other on attaining victory in the international realm.

La dévotion mariale est un des piliers de la spiritualité catholique, sans doute parce que l'image de la Vierge s'est prêtée à l'appropriation dans les contextes culturels les plus divers. Dans la Pologne contemporaine, la dévotion mariale tire sa force de son aptitude à tenir ensemble des modèles de féminité en apparence contradictoire. Marie, Reine de la Pologne, a représenté pour les croyants un modèle de féminité nationale, assez flexible pour perdurer parce qu'il joue d'apparents paradoxes. D'un côté, Marie est une protectrice puissante et active de la Pologne. De l'autre, elle est aussi un exemple de féminité domestique et familiale. Elle fournit ainsi une image d'autorité et de pouvoir qui ne menace pas les définitions traditionnelles de la féminité, bien au contraire. Le marialisme fournit ainsi le ciment qui contribue à rapprocher deux courants distincts de la pensée nationale polonaise, l'un qui se préoccupe de maintenir le status quo des relations de genre, l'autre qui poursuit des fins de gloire nationale sur l'échiquier du monde.

Marienverehrung ist seit langem ein zentraler Bestandteil katholischer Spiritualität, und dies liegt zum Teil darin begründet, dass das Bild der Jungfrau sich so hervorragend in viele verschiedene kulturelle Kontexte einfügte. Im modernen Polen hat der Marianismus viel von seiner Überzeugungskraft durch die Art gewonnen, in der er scheinbar widersprüchliche Modelle von Weiblichkeit mit einem nationalen (oder sogar nationalistischen) Weltbild verband. Maria, die Königin Polens, wurde den Gläubigen als ein Modell zur Konzeptualisierung des Weiblichen innerhalb der Nation vorgestellt. Dieses Modell ist flexibel genug, um zu überdauern, da es auf einer grundlegenden Dichotomie beruht: einerseits ist Maria eine mächtige, manchmal militante Beschützerin Polens; andererseits ist sie ein Beispiel weiblicher Häuslichkeit. Sie bietet ein Abbild von Autorität und Macht welches letztlich (und vielleicht paradoxerweise) kaum die traditionellen Normen der Weiblichkeit herausfordert. Tatsächlich wird sie oft angerufen, um diese Normen zu festigen. Der Marianismus liefert somit ein bindendes Element, das zwei ansonsten verschiedene Merkmale des polnischen Nationalismus zusammenfügt: das Bemühen, sowohl konservative Geschlechterbeziehungen zu bewahren, als auch sich in der internationalen Arena zu behaupten.

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I would like to thank Barbara Anderson, Elena Campbell, Bogdana Carpenter, John Connelly, Herb Eagle, Halina Filipowicz, Robert Greene, Val Kivelson, Olga Maiorova, Kristin McGuire, Bill Rosenberg, Jindrich Toman, Katherine Verdery and the two anonymous reviewers for Contemporary European History for their useful comments on earlier drafts of this article
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Contemporary European History
  • ISSN: 0960-7773
  • EISSN: 1469-2171
  • URL: /core/journals/contemporary-european-history
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