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Paradigm Shift Divides Estonian Literature

Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

The present situation in literature and its public reception show many signs of a great disruption, a shift from a centuries-old model to an unprecedented one, scholars are saying.

Speaking on ERR radio, University of Tartu researcher Tiit Hennoste said that we can speak of a transition to a completely new literary paradigm. "I think there is a fundamental shift going on bringing to an end the roughly two-hundred-year-old [Estonian] literary model that began with romantic literature in the early 19th century [...] and continued through modernism. We are now in a transition to a totally different literature and different ways of producing it," he said.

Scholars note that contemporary literature has broken into niche divisions similar to those of the reading public, and lacks the common dominating thread and unifying role of former times. According to Piret Viires, Professor of Literature at the University of Tallinn, this can lead to the erosion of common intellectual ground even in the relatively small Estonian-speaking society.

"When we recall Soviet times, the whole nation was reading the same books [...] like The Czar's Madman by Jaan Kross, and knew them," said Viires, noting that few works nowadays grab the attention of the entire public and critics alike.

On December 9, Estonian literary scholars are holding a conference in Tallinn to discuss the developments that took place in the field in the first decade of the century.

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