Enlightenment and Classicism

A significant impetus for the development of Slovak literary identity was given by the tolerant Enlightenment climate of the reign of Empress Maria Theresa (1740-1780) and by the reforms of Joseph II. (1780-1790). Various learned societies and printed periodicals were established. In 1783 the Prešpurské noviny (Bratislava Newspaper), written in Czech, was published in Bratislava, and a learned society known as Societas slavica established a monthly called Staré noviny literního omění (Old Newspapers of Literary Arts, 1785) in Banská Bystrica.
Various learned societies issued almanacs during this period, but the most significant of these was the Slovenské učené tovarišstvo (Slovak Learned Society), which affiliated the Catholic intelligentsia. It was this society that was linked to the first attempt to codify standard Slovak. Its founder was Anton Bernolák, who on the basis of Cultural Western Slovak compiled the Slovak grammar and a five-language dictionary. The advocates of this codification were called the Bernoláks and the term Bernolak Slovak was adopted for Bernolák’s language. Before the Bernoláks, an unsuccessful attempt was made to codify the Slovak literary language by Jozef Ignác Bajza, who wrote his successful novel René mláďenca príhodi a skúsenosťi (Adventures and Experiences of a Young Man called René, 1784-1875) in Cultural Western Slovak. Authors of Lutheran religious beliefs continued in the tradition of using Czech as their literary language.
At the beginning of the 19th century the literary-aesthetic situation in Slovakia was represented mainly by Bohuslav Tablicy’s work Poezye, Paměti česko-slovenských básnířův aneb veršovcův (Poetry, Memoirs of the Czechoslovak Poets and Rhymers, 1806-1812). This was the first history of poetry written in the national language and was to become the source to be followed by future generations of literary historians. Pavol Jozef Safárik’s collection of poems Tatranská múza s lýrou slovanskou (The Tatra Muse with a Slavic Lyre, 1814) belongs equally to Slovak and Czech literature, presenting a rationalistic life stance on issues of the Slovak and Slavic world. Safárik together with the Bernoláks and Frantisek Palacký, ranked among the promoters of the quantitative prosodic system. The outstanding authors of Enlightenment-rationalistic ideo-aesthetic orientation include Ján Chalupka, author of numerous comedies and of the satirical novel Bendegúz (1841), and Jonáš Záborský, author of the novel Faustiáda (1864). The poet Ján Hollý enjoys an exceptional standing among the authors of the Slovak Classicist aesthetic; he used the poetic possibilities of Bernolák‘s Slovak in three of his national epik poems, Svätopluk (1833), Cyrillo-Methodiada (1835) and Sláv (1839), as well as in other genres of Classical poetry (idylls, odes, elegies etc.).