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Romantic Memory

Studies from the Past and Present

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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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1. Why memory? On the research approach

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Why memory?1 Why introduce this strange category of memory – always balancing on the verge of present and past, dream and reality, existence and reflection – to the interpretation of the works of Adam Mickiewicz and other Romantic-era poets? At the very beginning of my investigation, I would answer: mainly, to open things up to the consequences of further questions. This question about the significance of memory in the works of the Romantic poets leads to other questions, in particular to questions about interrelations between memory and history, and between memory and tradition. And that in turn means that one can and should ask about issues in these works that are seemingly known, seemingly described and explained long ago.

My investigation of the role and significance of memory in literature takes into account the entire recent trend of interest in memory, widely represented by literary researchers, philosophers, culture experts and historians. Political and journalistic manifestations of contemporary “returns of memory” remain at the margins of this trend, although they enhance the process that Pierre Nora has termed the entrance to the “age of commemoration.”2

We may distinguish a study by Marek Zaleski on forms of memory from an extensive canon of texts applying perspectives from literary studies to the issue of memory.3 Zaleski refers to research conducted by Edward Casey, an American researcher of the phenomenon of memory,4 while consequently positioning the past (the time being remembered) presented in literature within the scope...

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