Juhan Liiv’s conception of poetry in his essay Ääremärkused (Marginalia)

Keywords: Juhan Liiv, Estonian poetry, literary theory, aesthetics, poetics, Friedrich Schiller

I explored Juhan Liiv’s understanding and definition of poetry. The starting point was above all his critical work, mainly his essay Marginalia, which he wrote towards the end of his life. I draw three main conclusions: (1) Liiv did not live in a cultural void. The material he read shows that despite his lack of formal education and his mental imbalances, he was able to delve deep into the German-language sphere of thinking, and doing so held significance for him. There is no reason to assume that his comprehension of poetry evolved in a cultural vacuum. (2) Liiv analyses poetry on the basis of a distinction between sentimental and naïve poetry, which originates from the famous essay Über naive und sentimentalische Dichtung (1795) by Friedrich Schiller. That means Liiv himself positions his comprehension of poetry within the cultural space of German thinking. (3) Liiv constructs his comprehension of poetry in a strong correlation with music both in the aspects of conveying emotions and the use of language.


Tanar Kirs (b. 1986), MA, University of Tartu, PhD student in World Literature; Home Museum of Juhan Liiv, Researcher (Rupsi küla, Peipsiääre vald 60223 Tartumaa),