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Litanic Verse II

Britannia, Germania et Scandinavia


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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Litany Undercover: Denmark and Norway from the Middle Ages to the Eighteenth Century


When the term “Scandinavian litanic verse” is mentioned, one should be prepared for incredulous looks or suspicious comments: “Litanic verse? In Scandinavia? But there is none!” Indeed, there is a widespread though intuitive conviction that Protestant countries, including Denmark and Norway, lack an interest in Christian spirituality, not to mention liturgical genres. The issue of Christianity in Scandinavia, however, will not be discussed in detail in this article, as its primary aim is to identify and reflect on the different forms of litanic verse in Denmark and Norway between the Middle Ages and the end of the eighteenth century. Litany as a prayer or even as a verse may not be immediately obvious during this period, but it does exist, providing evidence that the litanic formula is stronger and more deeply-rooted than it may seem. In the discussion that follows we intend to demonstrate how litanic verse evolved in Denmark and Norway during the time under consideration, how it manifested itself in different poetic forms, and which genres it resorted to in order to disguise its original identity, since Danish-Norwegian litanic verse does not flaunt its litanic provenance, but remains undercover.

The current state of Danish research on the subject of litany, both structural and semantic, seems to support our view. Litanic or litany-inspired verse is not found in major publications, nor is it discussed in academic papers.1 The most extensive Danish handbook on versification, i.e. the two-volume Dansk vershistorie (1994, 2000, A History of Danish...

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