, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 537–543 | Cite as

The palimpsest of ruins: cultural memory, European literary intertext, and post-romanticism in Simon Jenko’s “Picture VII”



In 1865 short poem “Obraz VII” (Picture VII) published by the Slovenian post-romantic poet Simon Jenko (1835–1869), paradigmatic figures of speech (exclamation, apostrophe, and rhetorical question) subvert the presence of the speaking persona and the subjectively modalized landscape (Stimmungslandschaft) that were characteristic of the obraz genre. Rhetoricity of the lyrical voice may be seen as the trace of the underlying traditional intertext of ruins stemming from the early modern topos, in which the image of demolished buildings is linked to the notion of vanitas vanitatum, i.e., to the idea of the elusiveness of being, society, and culture. Jenko’s short poem is a variation within the vast and intermedial imaginary of ruins that has been central to the fashioning of European cultural identity (viewed as the presence of the past under permanent de- and reconstruction), especially since the eighteenth century. Compared to other variations of the ruin motif in romanticism (e.g., Byron, Uhland, Lenau, Mickiewicz, Petőfi), Jenko’s ascetic, fragmented poem re-writes the topos differently, through semantic undecidability that comes close to the post-modern existential condition.


Ruin poetry Intertextuality Cultural memory Post-romanticism Jenko, Simon (1835–1869) 


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© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Inštitut za slovensko literaturo in literarne vedeZRC SAZULjubljanaSlovenia

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