Lars Gustafsson, Klassicism och statsintresse. Stilutveckling och statlig språk- och litteraturpolitik i 1600-talets Sverige (Classicism and governmental concern. Stylistic development and governmental linguistic and literary policy in 17th Century Sweden)
This study discusses the development of linguistic and literary classicism in the Swedish 17th century. The classicist tendency is seen in connection with governmental and ecclesiastical linguistic concerns: the classicist demand for linguistic simplicity and clarity, perspicuitas (as opposed to the baroque predilection for ornamentation, ornatus) complied with the authorities’ demands on language and literature as an effective means of public communication. Stylistic ideals, rooted in traditional rhetorical and poetological doctrine, hence came to perform a political function, something which probably was of greater significance for the development of 17th Century Swedish classicism, than the influence of its French counterpart.
An important agent in the development of a functional and easily accessible language was the Royal Chancellery. The chancellery was the designated authority as far as official linguistic policy was concerned. In Queen Christina’s view the chancellery was in this respect to perform duties similar to those of the French Academy.
Petrus Lagerlöf (1648–1699), professor of eloquence at Uppsala University, functioned during the 1690-s by appointment by the chancellery, as a stylistic and linguistic critic. In this capacity he scrutinized Haquin Spegel’s (1645–1714) biblical epic Thet öpna Paradis (“The opened Paradise”) upon royal demand. In this assignment Lagerlöf (much like Spegel himself ) pushed for a classicist ideal, not least in his stylistic concerns, where he demanded a clear separation between the sublime, the mediocre and the low style. The government’s concern with Spegel’s poem and its linguistic form is likely to be explained by its perceived politico-religious importance as a didactic, religious text.
Olof Hermelin (1658–1709) became known as a Latin poet in the style of the baroque. During his career in the chancellery in the early 18th Century, he however came to orientate himself towards a more classicist position. In the present study this tendency towards stylistic reorientation is seen in connection with his function as royal propagandist during the military campaigns of King Charles XII.
At the end of the 17th Century a classicist tendency can hence be perceived in public linguistic concern, as well as in Swedish Latin poetry. This tendency however does not directly challenge the stylistic ideals of the literary baroque. Rather classicist and baroque traits coexist, but they perform different functions within the literary realm. Whereas the baroque style continues to dominate for instance the panegyric genres, classicist style, with its demand for perspicuitas, comes to the forefront where governmental and ecclesiastical interests require a clear and easily accessible linguistic form.
Uppsala: Svenska Litteratursällskapet , 2010. Vol. 131, 7-37 p.