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On Cyprian Norwid. Studies and Essays

Vol. 1: Syntheses

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Edited By Agata Brajerska-Mazur and Edyta Chlebowska

The book is the first volume of an extensive four-volume monograph devoted to the work of Cyprian Norwid (1821–1883), one of the most outstanding Polish authors. The impact of Norwid’s oeuvre does not fade, as he addresses fundamental and timeless issues, such as the moral and spiritual condition of man or his place in the world and history and seeks to answer universal questions. The book contains an extensive selection of contributions which represent different approaches to the poet’s work. They cover various areas of research, including interpretation, thematology, genology, and editing.

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On Norwid’s Poetic Semantics

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Abstract: This chapter – referring to the methodological trend initiated by William Empson – draws attention to a group of phenomena in the field of poetic semantics, which seems to be particularly characteristic for Norwid’s poetics. These are various tensions created between the meanings of individual words, tensions, which are based on polysemy (actual, potential, and created by the author), synonymy, opposition, and association. These phenomena seem to be particularly important for Norwid, even more important than metaphor. Moreover, his repertoire of “operations on meanings” is much wider: creating new semantic wholes by merging or splitting the meanings of words, exploiting the phonological system for a pun-like effect, tending to make meanings allegoric and symbolic. All of this situates Norwid’s poetry within a particular current of linguistic initiated in Polish literature in the Baroque period and later strongly present in contemporary poetry, for which Norwid’s work is not only a frame of reference but also a founding stone.

Keywords: Cyprian Norwid, poetics, poetic semantics, polysemy, linguistic poetry

In this chapter, I would like to draw attention – with reference to the methodological trend initiated by Empson1 – to a certain group of phenomena within poetic semantics which seems particularly characteristic of Norwid’s poetics.

One of the poet’s last poems was the ballad titled “Rozebrana” [“Disrobed”]:

I

Ani jej widzieć wieczorem, ni z rana,

Bo rozebrana…

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