The Aesthetics and Politics of Belonging: National Poets between “Vernacularism” and “Cosmopolitanism”

Marko Juvan 1
  • 1 ZRC SAZU Institute of Slovenian Literature and Literary Studies, SI-1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Marko Juvan
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  • ZRC SAZU Institute of Slovenian Literature and Literary Studies, SI-1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
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Abstract

Jameson’s concept of modern third-world literature as national allegory is also pertinent for the 19th-century peripheries of the first-world literature. Aware of their dependence on imperial powers, the protagonists of (semi)peripheral national movements longed for the recognition of their nascent collective identity by the lawgiving Other – the symbolic order of ‘universal’ tradition. The figures of “national poets” (Nemoianu) were invented to represent their respective nations to the gaze of the Other, symbolized by the emerging world literature and empowered through the inter-state system dominated by the core countries. In a secular parallel to the canonization of saints in the Catholic Church, “worlding” (Kadir) a national poet was crucial in the (unfulfilled) longing for his/her universal acknowledgment as belonging to the hyper-canon. While several national poets involved in national movements showed a “vernacular” tendency (Terian), Schiller and Goethe represented the more “cosmopolitan” model of a national classic. Such ‘affiliation’ to the universal aesthetic canon is also characteristic of the politics of Slovenian romantic movement and its poet, France Prešeren. Although Prešeren’s poetry, which was exposed to Austrian censorship, only sparsely employs an explicit political discourse, his imaginary worlding and intertextual transfer of universal aesthetic repertoires from the established literatures into a Habsburg periphery fashioned a cosmopolitan strategy of cultural nationalism. Prešeren has been venerated in Slovenia since the late 19th-century as the singular national classic whose oeuvre compensates for the apparent lack of classical and modern traditions in Slovenian and deserves to be recognized worldwide.

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