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Parnassus and the Agora

Sparse notes on Estonian literary criticism 2013–2014

The article discusses the literary criticism published in the Estonian printed press during 2013–2014 and in the available collections of criticism by classics as well as by modern critics. The focus is on the government supported cultural journals Looming, Vikerkaar and Keel ja Kirjandus, and the newspaper Sirp, which all publish criticism of a satisfactory standard. Compared to Soviet times, when part of the cultural press was censored less strictly, thus enabling hidden reference to social problems, the literary criticism cultivated in independent Estonia is more self-sufficient, mainly dealing with aesthetic problems. An approach to literature as an art in its own rights is typical of collegiate criticism, while academic criticism is more diffuse and more influenced by recent sociologizing approaches, trauma theory, semiotics etc. The literary quarterly Värske Rõhk deserves recognition as a hotbed for young critics. As for privately-owned press, their standards of literary criticism are uneven and their reviews appear irregularly. Since the literary supplement Arkaadia (launched in 1999) of the daily paper Eesti Päevaleht has ceased publication there is presently no adequate reflection of the local literary landscape. Thus, although the Estonian literary scene is not totally void of critical communication, occasionally of debates even, most of it remains in the cultural pages of the press, without noticeable influence on public attitudes and values.