Representing canonical texts in the digital age: the case of the estonian national epic Kalevipoeg


  • Marin Laak Estonian Literary Museum
  • Piret Viires Tallinn University



Digital media, Literary canon, Intertextuality, Literary history in digital environment, Estonian national epic Kalevipoeg, Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald


The article is focused on the role of the new technology in literary studies and poses the question how to explore the new media possibilities to represent literary history, canonical texts included. One of the canonical texts on which the authors of the article focused while working in the framework of the European IT-project “CULTOS - Cultural Units of Learning” (2001-2003) was the Estonian national epic Kalevipoeg  (1857–1861) by F. R. Kreutzwald. The aim of the work during the CULTOS project was to visualize the intertextual relations between the texts of contemporary culture and the source text, the epic Kalevipoeg. Goals associated with digital environment required adjustment in the focus of research; adapting to the requirements of the project a new approach for studying the textuality of the epic in the context of the previous, mainly folkloristic focus was found. Instead of grand visions, microscopic levels of the epic came to the fore, since it was necessary to demonstrate intra- and intertextual connections between small textual units. The contextual interpretation of a national epic as a fact of cultural history, having ruled the tradition of Estonian literary history, had to be replaced by the textual study of Kalevipoeg. The final part of the article introduces briefly a current project “Kreutzwald’s Century: the Estonian Cultural History Web” – an interactive environment of the Estonian literature of the 19th century, creation of which was deeply influenced by the ideas of CULTOS project.