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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 in Swedish Literature and Culture: Preliminary Remarks


Swedish dictionaries and encyclopaedias define the “litany” as a read or mono-recited form of Christian prayer which consists in enumerating the prayer intentions and repeating the formulae such as “Herre förbarma dig” (“Lord have mercy”) or “Herre hör vår bön” (“Lord hear us”). Most definitions refer the readers to the only extant litany in the liturgy of the Swedish Lutheran Church which is intercessory in nature and on some occasions replaces the common prayer.1 The second meaning of the term “litany,” which comes to the fore in contemporary Swedish, denotes a long enumeration of sorrows and grievances, wailing and plaintive in tone.2 To explain the etymology of this neosemantic term, scholars point to the deprecatory character of the Church litany, which was read in times of sorrow and misfortune.3 Thus, for most Swedes the litany has negative connotations and the broad cultural context in which it is inscribed in Catholic countries remains alien.

This shows the challenge one faces in looking for the traces of the litany, litanic verse and the worldview they promote in Swedish literature. Categories such as “litanic verse” and “the poetic litany” simply do not exist in Swedish literary studies. Similarly, the litany as a form of prayer has been neglected in scholarship and its development has not been examined.

My purpose is to focus upon the presence and trace the evolution of the litany in Swedish literature and culture, taking into consideration also works in...

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