Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe

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Critical writing : Croatian

  • Cultural criticism, activist writingCroatian
  • Cultural Field:
    Texts and stories
  • Author:
    Milanko, Andrea
  • Text:

    Ljudevit Gaj’s foundation of the newspaper Novine horvatske (1835, later renamed Novine ilirske) and its accompanying literary supplement, the Danica horvatska, slavonska i dalmatinska (1836, thereupon Danica ilirska) provided a significant platform for the budding Croatian national revival. The various literary genres and intellectual pursuits that it gathered in its pages were all dedicated to the popularization of high art and the elevation of popular culture. While it imposed a linguistic and orthographic standard, this did not preclude disputes over region, class or political stance.

    By the 1840s, after the standardized language was by and large established and accepted, a discrepancy between Gaj and the other prominent intellectual Stanko Vraz arose. They held different views about the role of literature in articulating an emerging national identity, and under Gaj’s editorial policy, Danica marginalized literary criticism. Vraz founded a new literary journal, Kolo (1842-53); he used it as a platform to denounce the poetics of patriotic propagandism, especially in his article Odgovor braći što žele da pjevam davorije (“Answer to the brothers who want me to sing «Davoria»-verse”). Also, Kolo in 1843 published the essay/manifesto Tri stvari knjiženstva: Ukus, sloga, kritika (“Three matters of literacy: Taste, balance, criticism”), by Vraz’s fellow-editor Ljudevit Farkaš Vukotinović.

    During the post-1848 absolutist backlash, the journal Neven (1852-60) published mostly prose fiction about Ottoman rule and anti-Turkish uprisings. Since the reading public was geared largely towards German and/or French popular fiction, patriotic intellectuals like Vatroslav Jagić proclaimed that literature should be in tune with the “authentic people’s spirit”. August Šenoa’s critical survey of the state of literature (Naša književnost, “Our literature”, 1865) likewise called for a native-rooted literary production, and in addition defended a literary autonomy free from political, educational and pedagogical instrumentalization. In line with the criticism of Janko Jurković (1855) and Jovan Hranilović’s (1882), who advocated aesthetic priorities over patriotic tendencies, the most prestigious literary magazine of the later 19th century largely abandoned the role of patriotic medium: Vienac (1869-1903). Alongside literary works, it provided space for public disputes among critics and readers’ opinions on Croatian literary production.

    In the more relaxed political climate of the 1860s, three major political parties arose; their supporters included writers who permeated their literary works with their political ideas. This in turn triggered literary disputes, e.g. over Realism and Naturalism during the 1880s. Although the idea of literary autonomy was generally endorsed, Croatian writers of the 19th century more often instilled their work with pedagogical and patriotic content. It was only at the end of the 19th century, with the beginning of modernism, that Croatian drama, poetry and fiction almost fully abandoned their involvement with the political struggle.

    Word Count: 448

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  • Barac, Antun; Hrvatske književnosti od Preporoda do stvaranja Jugoslavije (Zagreb: JAZU, 1964).

    Coha, Suzana; “Mitom stvorena i mitotvorbena ideologija hrvatskoga narodnog preporoda, ilirizma i romantizma”, in Užarević, J. (ed.); Romantizam i pitanja modernog subjekta (Zagreb: Disput, 2008), 377-426.

    Protrka, Marina; Stvaranje književne nacije: Oblikovanje kanona u hrvatskoj književnoj periodici 19. stoljeća (Zagreb: Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, 2008).

    Ravlić, Jakša (ed.); Hrvatski narodni preporod (Zagreb, Zora: Matica hrvatska, 1965).

    Šicel, Miroslav; Programski spisi hrvatskog narodnog preporoda (Zagreb: Matica hrvatska, 1997).

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    All articles in the Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe edited by Joep Leerssen are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://www.spinnet.eu.

    © the author and SPIN. Cite as follows (or as adapted to your stylesheet of choice): Milanko, Andrea, 2022. "Critical writing : Croatian", Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe, ed. Joep Leerssen (electronic version; Amsterdam: Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms, https://ernie.uva.nl/), article version, last changed 16-03-2022, consulted 07-06-2023.