A Survey of Polish Literature and Culture

By Manfred Kridl; Olga Scherer-Virski | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER VII
POLISH ROMANTICISM BEFORE 1830

ADAM MICKIEWICZ

As a movement, romanticism affected not only literature but also certain other domains of intellectual and cultural life. As already indicated, in different countries and among many writers of the same epoch and of the same general literary direction, the movement revealed a variety of facets. If we take such representative romantic poets and writers as Byron and Shelley in England, Novalis, the brothers Schlegel, Tieck, and Kleist in Germany, Victor Hugo, Lamartine, Musset, and Vigny in France, Manzoni in Italy, Mickiewicz and Słowacki in Poland, Lermontov in Russia, and so on, we notice that each of them represents a distinct creative individuality, a distinct creative style, although the problems they touch upon, and even their literary forms, may be the same or similar. Nevertheless, all of them appear to possess something in common, something which it is difficult to define and which is usually figuratively called the 'spirit of the epoch' or the spirit of a literary or cultural movement. One of these common traits is the claim to creative freedom, which had been propagated earlier and was by now considered basic. This freedom, of course, makes itself felt first of all in its relation to classicist poetics. Romanticism advocates the liberation of art from the chains and limitations imposed on it by classical poetics, especially the strict division between literary genres and the manner of their treatment. During romanticism literary genres do not so much cease to exist -- certain general frames and requirements of the drama and lyric and epic poetry are and must be respected -- as they begin to mingle together, to penetrate one another and form various new combinations which were unknown to or avoided by the classical poets. More than anything it is the lyric element that transforms the traditional forms. The lyric element appears even in the dramatic and epic genres; dramas were imbued with lyricism, while epic poems not only displayed strong lyric elements but abounded

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