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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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3. Norwid’s memory of Rome

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The symbols of memory

Cyprian Norwid’s work is immersed even more deeply in the world of memory, in comparison with the work of the other great Romantic-era poets. Firstly, because the author of Vade-mecum (also as a painter and sculpturer) was more sensitive to cultural memory than the remaining Romantics; secondly, because he lived and wrote in a period when Romanticism – an epoch that had privileged memory as the main source of poetry – was first being evaluated.

In his coming to grips with Romanticism, Norwid struggled with the Romantic forms of memory. One could say that Norwid’s original concept of cultural memory, its place and the role that it could play in the work of a “writer of the merchant and industrial age,”292 is to a large extent what constitutes the originality of his poetry. But also, to refer to formulas proposed by Zofia Stefanowska in her classic texts, the formula of “Norwidian Romanticism” should be extended by the stating that memory is the key factor determining the shape of that Romanticism. This memory differs above all from the one on which Mickiewicz based his charismatic concept of literature, unlike the memory from Krasiński’s works, however, which referred in many ways to the poetical memorization in Słowacki’s work, anticipating forms of memory in our contemporary literature.

Using Jan Assmann’s distinctions, one could say that Norwid’s poetic imagination is constantly moving between the foundation memory of the émigré community, which...

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