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Romantic Memory

Studies from the Past and Present


Krzysztof Trybuś

The book depicts the phenomenon of cultural memory preserved in the Polish Romantic literature, predominantly in the works of Mickiewicz, Słowacki, and Norwid (and other European poets). The primary objective is to reconstruct the cultural pattern of continuity established in Poland during the period of catastrophe. The author describes the call for a critical historiography and presents a "Slavic counterpoint" in the history of modern Europe. The key questions of the book are: Will the Romantic lesson about the transformation of history into memory and turning the past into an object of faith turn out to be a lesson about the future? The book is inspired by the German trend of contemporary reflection – "the culture of remembrance" (Erinnerungskultur) founded on the works of the Assmanns.

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The present volume focuses on the topic of memory preserved in Polish Romantic Literature – cultural memory, memory that is strengthened and created by literature, and which, beside Romantic literature, is constantly present in our lives. We experience the pressure of the past in our everyday lives. It goes without saying, that the beginning of the 21st century, particularly in Poland is, in Pierre Nora’s words, an “age of commemoration,” which revises the meaning of the past in the present that “lives on borrowed time” comprised of a series of anniversaries, days of remembrance, and continual celebrations of the triumph of memory over history. It was my intention to present a Romantic project of transformation of history into memory, using the examples of works penned by Adam Mickiewicz (1798–1855), Juliusz Słowacki (1809–1849) and Cyprian Norwid (1821–1883), in order to improve our understanding of the epoch, in which poets searched for a model of cultural continuity during a historical catastrophe, after the fall of the November Uprising in the Polish Kingdom (1830). The book examines the permanence of the above-mentioned model founded on the principle of searching for traces of the past outside of the established cannon of collective memory (relevant now and then). As Mickiewicz would have said, the search for “links connecting our history with the history of European nations” included a call for a critical historiography formulating a “Slavic counterpoint” in the image of the history of modern Europe. Will the Romantic lesson...

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