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The cultural collaboration between Jacob Grimm and Vuk Karadžić

A fruitful friendship connecting Western Europe to the Balkans

 


by:
Giustina Selvelli, PhD Student, Ca' Foscari University of Venice

 

Abstract

The following article aims at presenting a significant case of intercultural relations between Germany and Serbia that took place during the first half of the 19th Century thanks to the epistolary correspondence between Jacob Grimm and Vuk Karadžić. The German scholar started exploring Serbian language and culture in order to reach a better knowledge of the folk songs Vuk Karadžić was collecting at the time.
These songs constituted for Jacob Grimm an essential term of comparison which allowed him to give more concreteness to his theories and researches about “natural language” and encouraged him to explore the field of Indo-European comparative philology. On the other side, Jacob Grimm's support helped Vuk Karadžić in his struggle for the codification of a written language in his country, on the basis of the popular one.
The role played by Grimm, together with Goethe, in the diffusion and appreciation of Serbian folk songs is inestimable: thanks to him Western Europe got to know the culture of a part of the continent, towards which prejudices and ignorance were still prevailing. The idea of reciprocal approaching of cultures was also inscribed in Goethe's conception of Weltliteratur, which considered translation as a fundamental part of German culture and the condition for its further growth since Luther's translation of the Bible.

 

Table of Contents

Abstract
Keywords
Introduction
The Rising Attention for South-Slavic Popular Culture
Jacob Grimm's First Contact with Serbian Language and Vuk Karadžić
Jacob Grimm's Reviews of the Serbian Folk Songs
Grimm's Support to Karadžić's Struggle for the Language
The Indo-European Way
'Anti-orientalism' and Weltliteratur
Conclusions
Bibliography
Author

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