The classical form of the nation: The convergence of Greek and folk forms in Czech and Russian literature in the 1810s

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


At the turn of the nineteenth century, folkloric discourse and genres were not a part of serious literary practice in either Czech or Russian literature, though for different reasons. In Russia, where literature remained largely a pastime for the nobility, the sentimentalist movement had privileged light genres and salon discourse. Several collections of folk-songs were published in the later eighteenth century, but in literary practice folkloric discourse was limited to the lower genres and humorous verse, including the mock epic and humorous verse tales composed in the russkii sklad – a rough approximation of folkloric verse form (lines composed of three trochees with a dactylic ending, or sometimes a trochaic hexameter). The publication of Kirsha Danilov's collection of Russian byliny in 1804 – byliny are Russian folk epics, and this is the classic collection – met with far less fanfare than one might expect, given the lively Russian interest at the time in the poetry of Ossian. And the lone voice calling for a renewal of the Russian poetic tradition based on folk poetry before 1810 belonged to Aleksei Merzliakov, a non-noble who became the first professor of Russian eloquence and poetry at the university in Moscow in 1805. Merzliakov himself published a number of poems that imitated folkloric models and enjoyed a certain degree of popularity, but met with critical neglect. It was only in 1830, with the re-publication of these folksong imitations, that they were recognised as a significant contribution to the development of an original Russian national literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Voice of the People
Subtitle of host publicationWriting the European Folk Revival, 1760-1914
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherAnthem Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781843313533
ISBN (Print)1843318946, 9781843318941
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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