Most European countries have singled out certain artists who are believed to represent their native culture better than other artists of their time. Such “national” poets, writers, composers, painters etc. have been given almost a saintly status: they form part of the canon of nationalism as a “civil religion” and are considered to have played a crucial role in the construction of national identities.
The aim of the CSENS-research project (Cultural Saints of the European Nation States) is to compare, from a transnational perspective, the formation and canonization of such Cultural Saints in a number of European countries which in the eighteenth and the nineteenth century were involved in a powerful nation-building process. We are looking for common patterns and variables in the way in which these chosen individuals were singled out as the “real” representatives of their respective national cultures, and how the memory of their lives and deeds is institutionalized in official and popular discourses.