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Litanic Verse II

Britannia, Germania et Scandinavia

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Edited By Witold Sadowski, Magdalena Kowalska and Magdalena Maria Kubas

The book contains comparative analyses of the development of litanic verse in European poetry, from medieval to modern times. Litanic verse is based on different syntactic devices, such as enumeration, parallelism, anaphora and epiphora. However, it is not to be seen merely as a convention of versification as the popularity of different variants of the verse in Europe reflects the religious, intellectual, social and political history of various European regions. The essays in the second volume focus on litanic verse in the Germanic languages. They discuss predominantly the literatures of Protestant countries (Great Britain, Denmark, Germany, Norway), but also Austrian poetry.

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“You are the harp on which the player breaks in pieces”: German and Austrian Poetry between 1797 and 1914

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The dynamic changes which took place in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries found their reflection in various trends as well as intellectual and literary currents in German and Austrian cultures. Enlightenment rationalism coexisted with utter irrationalism and sentimentalism. The Romantic poets, in their attempt at reconciling the real and the ideal, had to confront imitative poetry emulating the old ways of writing. Realism and naturalism, the art produced by Young Germany (Junges Deutschland), which was ideological and at times politically engaged, as well as modernist symbolism and mythologism, are various ways of approaching reality — the reality to which litanic verse belonged.

In order to examine the influence of the litanic genre on a richly diversified literature, we should take into account the changes in religious mentality, which took place in the Austrian and German societies. The former, under the rule of the traditional, Catholic Habsburg family, was less subject to the process of secularization than the latter. The German-speaking area of Europe was more susceptible to changes because it was more diversified in terms of confessions (in Germany the Protestant North and the largely Catholic South; in Austria, Catholicism). This division was deepened by another cleavage — that between the German states and free cities. This led to confusion and the sense of a lack of belonging, which German nineteenth-century thinkers attributed to the break in Christian unity, effected by Luther (this opinion was expressed by, among others, Novalis in Die Christenheit oder Europa, published in 1799,...

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