Crnjanski’s New Textuality: The Poetic Play Mask (1918)

in Transcultural Studies
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This essay is about the emergence of a new sensibility and a new textuality in Serbian Modernism/postmodernism, constituted by the poetic and prose works of Miloš Crnjanksi amongst other. A survey of earlier, 19th century Serbian prose and drama, demonstrates that the Modernist/postmodern poetics had its antecedents in the works of Jovan Sterija Popović and Đorđe Marković Koder, which demonstrates the continuity of Serbian literature through the all the phases inherent in European (French) literatures of the 19th and 20th century. Crnjanski’s early poetic play Mask is analysed through the sensibility of a new “world malaise” and the poetic principle of “Sumatraism” which make up Crnjanksi’s “Nihilism.” This is decoded as a sensibility close to the Absurd, which has consequences for the structure of Crnjanski’s subsequent works as well as for the development of Yugolsav/Serbian Modernism/postmodernism.

Transcultural Studies

A Journal in Interdisciplinary Research




In one of the art critics from 1920, Miloš Crnjanski claims: “The one who does not understand today’s Expressionistic art, can not consider himself a creator” [“Ko не разуме данашњу експресионистичку уметност, не може себе сматрати ствараоцем”]. See: Miloš Crnjanski, “O izložbi ratnih slikara” [“On the exhibition of war artists”], in: Miloš Crnjanski, Eseji i članci I [Essays and Articles i], Dela Miloša Crnjnaskog [Works of Miloš Crnjanski]. (Beograd/Lausanne: Zadužbina Miloša Crnjanskog/L’age d’homme, 1999), Volume x, p. 428.


Ibid, p.30.


Ibid, p. 24.


Ibid, p.16. In its origins, the term “svetski bol” (“world malaise”) in Serbian is a loanword from the German noun “Weltschmerz”. It denotes the state of deep concern caused by the deficiency and imperfections of the world. The Romanticist term “Weltschmerz” is coined by the German author Jean Paul Richter in order to define the discrepancy between the ideal projection of reality and reality itself. This kind of standpoint towards reality and its relationship with the idealistic projections (except in works of Lord Bayron, Giacomo Leopardi, Alfred de Musset, Nikolaus Lenau, Hermann Hesse, Heinrich Heine and others and others) is also reflected in the most representative works of the pre-Romanticist Mal du siècle epoch (e.g. Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, 1761 or Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Jullie or The New Heloise, 1774.).


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