The present article is a reconsideration of the role of a well known but still quite ambiguous phenomenon of Polish cultural history: Catastrophism is understood here as a necessary by-product of 19th century Polish messianism. Since its very beginning messianistic thought has made use of a catastrophist mode of discourse: Historical events and political tendencies which are not compatible with the ideas of messianistic historiosophy are described as germs of future catastrophes and consigned to the realm of evil. The rhetoric of catastrophe is a means to manage the incommensurabilities between messianistic thought and historical reality. Often though, figures of exclusion and defensive struggle gain predominance, thus transforming the messianist utopia into a system of control and/or aggressive missionarism, as illustrated here on the basis of the writings of Jozef Maria Hoene-Wronski and Jerzy Braun.
Jens Herlth, Université de Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland
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