National Poets and Cultural Saints of Europe: Commemorative Cults, Canonization, and Cultural Memory

temeljni raziskovalni projekt
Basic Info


The research project “National Poets and Cultural Saints of Europe: Commemorative Cults, Canonization, and Cultural Memory” examines a hitherto poorly researched area. It uses a comparative approach to identify and describe the patterns of commemoration and canonization of national poets and other artists as a specific set of practices that spread across Europe like a wave, starting especially in the 1840s in the context of cultural nationalism. These practices will be studied on the basis of the expanded concept of canonization (in addition to textual practices such as critical edition, exegesis, appropriation, and indoctrination, the concept will also include ritual practices, the use of relics, monumental networks, the role of the educational apparatus, etc.) and treated in the context of the establishment of new imagined communities and their (collective) cultural memory. In this way, the project seeks to reappraise the role of continuous veneration of chosen representatives in the process of forming European nations—especially smaller ones, where the emphasis on literature and language was even greater. At the same time, the project will demonstrate that the effectiveness of this formation is more easily explained if one takes in account the elements that bring national movements into the vicinity of religious practices. Through an interdisciplinary and international combination of literary studies with other disciplines, the project will make a permanent contribution to a better understanding of the underlying structures that still define the relationships and tensions between modern societies in Europe.

The primary goals of the project include refinement of the prevailing concepts in the relevant field of literary studies (national poets, cultural saints, the canon and canonization, commemorative cults, etc.) and subsequent construction of a basic model of the study of canonization in the broader cultural context. This theoretical and methodological framework will be critically tested by a number of diverse case studies. The main focus will be on the canonization of national poets, with case studies spanning from Russia (Alexander Pushkin) to Portugal (Luís de Camões) and from Greece (Dionysios Solomos) to Iceland (Jónas Hallgrímsson). This broad European panorama will also be presented in the form of a bilingual (English and Slovenian) website devoted to National Poets and Cultural Saints of Europe, which will be designed and updated in cooperation with research institutions from across Europe as a lasting platform for comparative studies and scholarly exchange. A number of articles and book chapters will be devoted to individual examples from “small nations”; for instance, to the Czech national poet Karel H. Mácha, the Bulgarian national poet and revolutionary Hristo Botev, and the Montenegrin national poet and clerical and secular ruler Petar II Petrović-Njegoš. To offer a comparative contrast, individual studies will deal with some of the most prominent figures of “major literatures” that were crucial for the dissemination of models of commemorative cults throughout Europe (William Shakespeare, Friedrich Schiller, etc.), and several cases of other artists that were the subject of veneration in the context of cultural nationalism. Special attention will be given to the canonization of the Slovenian poet France Prešeren, which represents a complex case even in the broader European context.


Dović, Marijan. Prešeren po Prešernu: kanonizacija nacionalnega pesnika in kulturnega svetnika. Ljubljana: LUD Literatura, 2017.

Dović, Marijan (w. Jón Karl Helgason:) National Poets, Cultural Saints: Canonization and Commemorative Cults of Writers in Europe. Leiden: Brill, 2017.

Dović, Marijan (ed.): Kulturni svetniki in kanonizacija. Ljubljana: Založba ZRC, ZRC SAZU, 2016.

Juvan, Marko. The Aesthetics and Politics of Belonging: National Poets between “Vernacularism” and “Cosmopolitanism.” Arcadia 52.1 (2017): 10–28.

Vidmar, Luka. Knjižnica Žige Zoisa kot žarišče slovenskega kulturnega nacionalizma. Knjižnica 59.3 (2015): 33–46.

national poets
cultural nationalism
Slovenian cultural nationalism
literary canon
cultural history

Research areas
General and comparative literature, literary criticism, literary theory H390