Chapter 3. The multiple symbolism of 3 May in Poland after the fall of communism

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The chapter shows the complex symbolism associated with 3 May, wherein secular and religious elements interact. In 3 May, two holidays coincide: the state National Holiday of May Third and the church Feast of Our Lady, Queen of Poland. The National Holiday of May Third commemorates the anniversary of proclaiming the 3 May Constitution in 1791. This event is considered a cornerstone of Polish political symbolism, on which the entire construction of modern Polish national and state identity is founded. The analysis, done from a symbolic constructionist perspective, focuses on discursive symbolism and its use in symbolic politics after the fall of communism in Poland. Rhetorical categories such as genres and topoi, as well as Kenneth Burke’s dramatistic pentad are employed. In terms of Burke’s dramatistic pentad, it is pointed out that president Lech Wałęsa focused on the acting “agent,” with the nation as a collective subject; in President Aleksander Kwaśniewski’s rhetoric, the “act” became central, whereas in President Kaczyński’s rhetoric, the “purpose” moved to the foreground. The chapter presents how Polish presidents and church dignitaries used discursive symbolism to shape state and national identity. It shows the complex interaction of civic, national, and religious identities in the context of Poland’s most important holiday.


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