Ärkamisaeg, Noor-Eesti ja miski nende vahel. Eesti kirjandusloo küsimusi Juhan Kunderi näitel / National Awakening , Young Estonia and Something In Between. Problems of Estonian Literary History in the Example of Juhan Kunder


  • Pille-Riin Larm University of Tartu




Juhan Kunder, Estonian Literary History, Epigonism, Young Estonia


According to the long-standing periodisation of Estonian literary history, the Estonian National Awakening that started in the mid-19th century was followed by a period of lesser creativity and originality, which ended only with the breakthrough of the modernist Young Estonia group in 1905. In the canon of Estonian literature, Juhan Kunder (1852–1888), today known primarily for his fairy tales, one play and lyrics of one song, is placed in this intermediate period.

This article first introduces the significance of Kunder in his time. He was a popular writer and a wellknown pedagogue, and a younger contemporary of the great figures of the National Awakening. As a critic, magazine editor and literary historian, his most important contribution to literary history was in the development of literary thought. It seems that several precedents that have been attributed to the Young Estonia group, e.g., valuing originality, writing well-argued criticism, etc., actually originated from an earlier period.

Based on these observations, the author of this article believes that the current structure of Estonian literary history is not adequately justified, and she points out a semantic shift in the terms in use. It is true that Kunder was largely an epigone of his predecessors, but in the positive sense of the term, meaning that he continued their mission. Similarly, Kunder’s predecessor, the ‘first Young Estonian’ Kreutzwald, and a representative of his 20th-century successors, Friedebert Tuglas, were also epigones. During the period of Russification that started during his era, Kunder’s attitudes could be considered progressive. Kunder was also a 19th-century contemporary of the Young Estonia group and a true Young Estonian in the original sense of the term which emerged in this period: a Young Estonian introduced new initiatives and was a leader of the national movement. Epigonism and membership in Young Estonia can be seen as the keys to cultural continuity and processionality. Kunder is a link between his predecessors and successors; his ambiguous position between the Young Estonians of the 19th and 20th centuries enables us to treat it as a complicated relationship between fathers and sons. The notion of Young Estonia and its justified use as the basis for literary historical periodisation in the still-valid canon of Estonian literature deserves some re-thinking.


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Author Biography

Pille-Riin Larm, University of Tartu

Pille-Riin Larm – doctoral student in Estonian literature at the University of Tartu. Her primary research interests are the 19th-century Estonian literature and the development of literary-critical thought prior to the Young Estonia period.






Artiklid / Articles