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Abstract

This article offers a new reading of the complex, multidimensional, palimpsest identity of the eponymous hero of The King Spirit. Intended to be a total work of art (Gesamtkunstwerk), Juliusz Słowacki’s epic poem remains unfi nished, in a number of versions that are driven by two impulses, a centrifugal force reducing the poem to a string of inchoate fragments and a centripetal counterforce working for the poem’s unity. The same vectors seem to exert a permanent tension on the central character of the poem, a complex web of relations between body and soul, individual and universal consciousness, boundless and limited knowledge, the bright light of revelation and the inadequacy of words, and, last not least, between inspiration, memory and imagination. The peculiar construction of the ‘I’ in The King Spirit may also be seen as an attempt to relinquish the aesthetic mode of existence for the religious one (as described by Søren Kierkegaard). The poem could then be read as a dramatic record of that transition.
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