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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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2. Słowacki’s memory of the beginning


The eye of memory

Juliusz Słowacki’s Godzina myśli [An Hour of Thought] is a text capable of justifying a reading focused on the special role of memory. I agree with Czesław Miłosz’s opinion that any attempt to “replace [this work] with reference to the period, current, direction” deprives it of its “exceptionality.”221 The poem – a lyrical autobiography of a young poet – completely and surprisingly rejects the present. Moreover, it astonishes as a programmatic proposal in the third volume of Poezje [Poems] from 1833. Its patriotism is discordant with Słowacki’s later Kordian, which would prove to be a realization of the program of national poetry outlined in that third volume. Furthermore, An Hour of Thought does not refer to the political reality of the Polish emigration and the émigré message defined by Part III of Forefathers’ Eve and Mickiewicz’s The Books and the Pilgrimage of the Polish Nation.

Researchers and critics have put forth an argument that An Hour of Thought is a blaze of light of European Romanticism that emphasizes individualistic content, which then was quickly extinguished in Polish literature. The poem was described as a work opening the “age of poetry,”222 but also as one that, although it was published, could as likely have been left in “Słowacki’s drawer,”223 as Paweł Hertz termed the large bundle of works not complying with the then-current ideal of poetry and not published by the poet. This clear...

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