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The Literature of Polish Romanticism in Its European Contexts

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Edited By Krzysztof Trybuś

The book contains essays on the heterogeneity of Polish Romantic literature and its links with Europe’s cultural heritage. The essays deal with, among other topics, the idea of beauty and truth, correspondences between the arts, the role of tradition and memory in the Romantic era, and the significance of mysticism and irony. The authors of the essays write about such seemingly distant issues as music and revolution in Chopin’s times, and travel to places as disparate as Siberia and Italy. Their thematically diverse reflections are linked by questions they pose about the romantic roots of today’s Europe. The works of Mickiewicz and other Romantic poets discussed in this book thus clearly do not concern merely the past, but also speak to the present day, describing the experiences of everyday life in its various dimensions.

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Music in Romantic Literature and Criticism – Approximations

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Abstract: The chapter addresses the dramatic works of Juliusz Słowacki as well as Polish literary criticism of the nineteenth century. Analysis of selected plays by the artist and examples of literary criticism show that music as a metalanguage, very much like its metaphor of a human body presented as a musical instrument, is a fundamental notion for understanding Polish Romanticism.

Keywords: Romanticism, music, dramaturgy, literary criticism, metaphor

The role of music – its forms, themes and ideas – was so important and nuanced for Romantic poetry and criticism that it can only be discussed in terms of approximations that highlight specific aspects of this complex issue. Romantic poets believed that reality was structured in a way similar to music and thus formulated their poetical theories along musical principles. While the word ‘poetry’ was often used to refer to art in general, this did not stop Romantic critics from discussing the superiority of music in comparison to all other arts. I distinguish between ‘poetry’ and ‘criticism’ for the sake of my argument here, but it should be noted that in Romanticism poetry itself often fulfilled metapoetic and critical functions, and critical essays were often structured like a literary text.

Before I discuss the aforementioned approximations, I shall briefly address the relations between music and Romantic poetry. To begin with, Romantic lyrical poetry, like other forms of poetry, may be phonically and structurally perceived as ‘singing’ – as verbal equivalents of musical sounds. Secondly, long poetical...

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