France Prešeren

Slovenian poetry became an autonomous literary art

France Prešeren (1800-1849) is the first and the greatest Slovenian poet. With his poetry he laid foundations for Slovenian literary language and for Slovenian national identity, with profound influence on the poets and writers of the 19th century. He established Slovenian poetry as an autonomous literary art, demonstrating with his mastery the expressive capacity of Slovenian language. Prešeren’s merit as a poet is in introducing into Slovenian literature the leading European poetic forms and concepts. His poems were grouped thematically on:  love, existence, and politics. At the peak of his romantic love lyrics is ’Sonetni venec’ (Wreath of Sonnets,1834). The cycle ’Sonetje nesreče’ (Sonnets of Unhappiness,1834) is the most complete existential poem. His great poetic work is the epic poem ‘Krst pri Savici’ (Baptism at Savica) which poignantly presents a turbulent era in the early history of Slovene nation, the clash between the remaining pagan warriors and the forces of Christianity. Prešeren set out his cultural and political mission in verses of the poem ‘Zdravljica,’(The Toast,1844), where he expresses his belief in brotherhood of men, the right of all nations to independence, peace and neighbourly harmony. It became the Slovenian national anthem in 1991.
Prešeren directly challenged the conservative literary and state authorities with his poetry, with the call for personal freedom of expression and political independence. The ruling Austro-Hungarian government disapproved of his political views with serious consequences for his career as lawyer. Only after his sixth petition, he was finally allowed to establish a law office in 1846, however not in the capital city Ljubljana but in the township Kranj.
In recognition of Prešeren’s role in Slovenian history, the country celebrates on the eighth of February Prešeren's Day. A great cultural event takes place at Cankarjev Centre and prizes are awarded to prominent writers, painters, architects, composers, set designers and other artists in recognition of their exceptional achievement. On the third of December, the date of Prešeren’s birth, many institutions in Slovenia open their doors to visitors offering special performances, exhibitions and other cultural events.

Photo album: France Prešeren

Further reading:
France Prešeren and Slovenian Identity

Learning activities

1. Construct a timeline
timeline of poems
Linguistic element: nouns, numerals
Write a timeline of Prešeren’s poems and publication dates. Listen to the audio files of Prešeren’s poems on the web site.

2. Write a biography

Text-type: biography, map, legend
Linguistic element: pronouns
Write a short biography of the main events of Prešeren’s life

3. Present the anthem
Text-type: poem, anthem
Linguistic element: verb - present tense
Read about the poem ‘Zdravljica’, and as the source of the national anthem. Read, transcribe  and listen to the audio files of the anthem.
Sing or read aloud the anthem.

4. Recite a poem
Linguistic element: prepositions
Read and listen to the poem  ’Krst pri Savici’. Recite the introduction to the poem.

5. Give a talk
Linguistic element: conjunctions
Give a talk about Prešeren’s importance for the national identity of Slovenians.
Slovenia: Cultural Profile. Romanticism and Prešeren

6. Write a profile
Text-type: profile
Linguistic element: verb - past tense 
Write a profile on Prešeren’s significance for the Slovenian language and literature.
Slovenia: Cultural Profile. Romanticism and Prešeren

Comprehension - reading and responding

Read the text of the lecture ‘France Prešeren and Slovenian identity by Miran Hladnik‘ from the web site of the, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana,

Answer the following questions in English. 
1. How important was France Prešeren’s poetry in the history of Slovenian literature?
2. What is the name of the collection of his work, and when was it published?
3. What is the significance of the poem Zdravljica?
4. What was the conflict between Jernej Kopitar and Prešeren?
5. Describe the poem ‘’Sonetni venec’.
6. Describe the poem ‘’Krst pri Savici’.
7. What role did Prešeren’s poetry play in the development of the Slovene nation?


Slovenia: Cultural Profile. Romanticism and Prešeren

France Prešeren, Sonnets of Unhappiness and other poems, Sanje, Ljubljana, 2000
France Prešeren, Pesmi - Balade in romance, Poezije 1, Sanje, Ljubljana, 2000
France Prešeren, Gazele, Sonetje in druge pesmi, Poezije 11, Sanje, Ljubljana, 2000
France Prešeren, Krst pri Savici, in druge pesmi, Poezije 111, Sanje, Ljubljana, 2000

Prešernova Zdravljica, Jaka, Ljubljana, 1995

Fatur, S, Slovenska leposlovna književnost, Obzorja, Maribor, 1992
Konzak, M, et al, Skrivno življenje besed - berilo za 8. razred osnovne sole, Mladinska knjiga, Ljubljana, 2000
Kocjan, G, France Prešeren v sliki in besedi, Mladinska knjiga, Ljubljana, 1978
Kos, J, France Prešeren - Zbrano delo 1, DZS, Ljubljana, 1965
Kos, J, France Prešeren - Zbrano delo 2, DZS, Ljubljana, 1966
Kos, J, Neznani Prešeren, Cankarjeva založba, Ljubljana, 1994
Kos, J, Pregled slovenskega slovstva, DZS, Ljubljana, 1980
Košir, N, France Prešeren, Matija Potokar, Ljubljana, 1977
Slodnjak, A,  France Prešeren - Poezije, Mladinska knjiga, Ljubljana, 1991
Matthews, W.K, Slodnjak, A,  Poems by France Prešeren, DZS, Ljubljana, 1997
Mušič, Prešeren v upodobitvah, Mladika, Ljubljana, 1993
Mušič, J, Zgodbe o Prešernu, Mladika, Ljubljana, 1993
Zorec, Č, Po Prešernovih stopinjah, Glas Kranj, 1987

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