Swiss literature


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Swiss literature.

The literature of Switzerland is written in German, French, Italian, and Romansh, with German predominating. The extensive literature in Romansh dialect (see Rhaeto-RomanicRhaeto-Romanic
, generic name for several related dialects of the Romance group of the Italic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Romance languages). These dialects are now considered sufficiently similar to form a single unit in the Romance group.
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) is little known outside Switzerland. During the Middle Ages the larger monasteries, notably St. Gall, were known as cultural centers. Among the monks of considerable literary achievements were Notker BalbulusNotker Balbulus
, c.840–912, German monk and scholar, abbot of St. Gall (from 890). He composed liturgical poetry and music. Notker's life of Charlemagne preserves much of the matter of the Charlemagne legend. While Notker was abbot of St.
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, Notker LabeoNotker Labeo
, c.950–1022, German monk, also known as Teŭtonĭcus. He was a teacher at St. Gall. Notker translated into Old High German Boethius' Consolations of Philosophy, Capella's Marriage of Mercury and Philology, Pope Gregory I's Morals,
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, Ulrich BonerBoner or Bonerius, Ulrich
, fl. 14th cent., Swiss fabulist, a Dominican monk. His Edelstein (c.1345), a collection of 100 moralizing beast fables, was one of the first German books to be printed (1461).
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, and several monks called EkkehardEkkehard
, name of several medieval German authors, monks of the monastery of St. Gall, which is in present-day Switzerland. Ekkehard I wrote the famous Latin epic Waltharius (c.930), celebrating the deeds of the Alemannic prince Walter. Ekkehard II, fl.
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. These men wrote mainly in Middle High German, but at the same time High German and Swiss regional dialects came into literary use. Religious writing was established by the great reformer, ZwingliZwingli, Huldreich or Ulrich
, 1484–1531, Swiss Protestant reformer. Education of a Reformer
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, as well as by Calvin, who lived in Geneva for a time. Later writers in this tradition were, in the 19th cent., Jeremias GotthelfGotthelf, Jeremias
, 1797–1854, Swiss writer and clergyman. His real name was Albert Bitzius; his pen name is that of the hero of his autobiographical Bauernspiegel (1837).
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, and, in the 20th cent., the priest and novelist Heinrich Federer (1866–1928) and Albert Steffen, leader of the anthroposophical movement. The celebrated French writers Jean Jacques Rousseau and Germaine de Staël were born in Switzerland, as was Benjamin Constant. Other writers in French include the literary critics Louis de Muralt (1665–1743), H. F. AmielAmiel, Henri Frédéric
, 1821–81, Swiss critic. He was unsuccessful and unnoticed during his life, but the posthumous publication of his Journal intime (1883, tr. of augmented ed. 1936) aroused great interest.
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, and Édouard Rod, and the novelist C. F. RamuzRamuz, Charles Ferdinand
, 1878–1947, Swiss novelist. His works deal with the simple people of his native canton of Vaud. Among his major novels are Le Règne de l'esprit malin (1917; tr.
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. The chief Swiss writers in Italian were Stefans Franscini (1726–1857) and Pietro Peri (1794–1869). Heinrich PestalozziPestalozzi, Johann Heinrich
, 1746–1827, Swiss educational reformer, b. Zürich. His theories laid the foundation of modern elementary education. He studied theology at the Univ.
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 was a major innovator in education as well as an outstanding literary figure. Swiss books for children, notably The Swiss Family Robinson by J. D. Wyss, and Heidi by Johanna Spyri, have become worldwide classics. In the 18th cent. major Swiss authors included the poet and scientist Albrecht von Haller, and the critics Johann Bodmer and Johann Breitinger. Leading figures of the 19th cent. were the novelist C. F. MeyerMeyer, Conrad Ferdinand
, 1825–98, Swiss poet and novelist. He studied history and art and later turned to literature. He is best known for his historical novellas, which are marked by a feeling for the spirit of past ages, keen psychological insight, and deep concern for
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, the historian Jacob BurckhardtBurckhardt, Jacob or Jakob Christoph
, 1818–97, Swiss historian, one of the founders of the cultural interpretation of history. He studied under Ranke at the Univ.
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, Gottfried KellerKeller, Gottfried
, 1819–90, Swiss novelist, poet, and short-story writer. His vital, realistic, and purposeful fiction gives him a high place among 19th-century authors. Chief among his works is the "educational" novel, Der grüne Heinrich (1854–55; tr.
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, and the art historian Heinrich WölfflinWölfflin, Heinrich
, 1864–1945, Swiss art historian. Wölfflin's formal stylistic analysis of motifs and composition in art combined cultural history and psychological insight into the creative process to form a complete aesthetic system.
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. The poet C. F. G. SpittelerSpitteler, Carl Friedrich Georg
, 1845–1924, Swiss poet, whose pseudonym was Carl Felix Tandem. He was awarded the 1919 Nobel Prize in Literature. His chief works include the epics Prometheus und Epimetheus (1881, tr.
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 won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1919. Jakob Schaffner (1875–1944), Friedrich DürrenmattDürrenmatt, Friedrich
, 1921–90, Swiss playwright and novelist. Dürrenmatt's writings depict a world both comic and grotesque. As a young German-speaking playwright in Switzerland, he was witness to the rise of fascism in neighboring countries but insulated from
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, and Max FrischFrisch, Max,
1911–91, Swiss writer. He obtained a diploma in architecture in 1941, and his designs included the Zürich Recreation Park. After 1955 he became recognized as one of Europe's major literary voices. In the novels Stiller (1954, tr.
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 have also gained international renown in the 20th cent., as have the eminent scholars Emil Staiger and Jean Starobinski. Recent literary talents include Erika Burkart, Otto F. Walter, and Adolf Muschg.

Bibliography

See A. Natan, ed., Swiss Men of Letters (1970); W. Sorell, The Swiss (1972); P. Demetz, After the Fires (1986).

References in periodicals archive ?
Scholars from Britain and elsewhere in Europe explore German and Swiss literature from the perspectives of literary connections and exchanges, mapping cities and oceans, crossing borders, translation, and linguistic creativity.
Individuality, Interrelations, and Self-Images in Swiss Literature.
Max Frisch and Friedrich Durrenmatt were unquestionably the towering figures of Swiss literature in the second half of the twentieth century.

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