Skip to main content

Swiss literature

Swiss literature: The literature of Switzerland is written in German, French, Italian, and Romansh, with German predominating. The extensive literature in Romansh dialect (see Rhaeto-Romanic) is little known outside Switzerland. During the Middle Ages the larger monasteries, notably St. Gall, were known as cultural centers. Among the monks of considerable literary achievements were Notker Balbulus, Notker Labeo, Ulrich Boner, and several monks called Ekkehard. These men wrote mainly in Middle High German, but at the same time High German and Swiss regional dialects came into literary use. Religious writing was established by the great reformer, Zwingli, as well as by Calvin, who lived in Geneva for a time. Later writers in this tradition were, in the 19th cent., Jeremias Gotthelf, and, in the 20th cent., the priest and novelist Heinrich Federer (1866–1928) and Albert Steffen, leader of the anthroposophical movement. The celebrated French writers Jean Jacques Rousseau and Germaine de Staël were born in Switzerland, as was Benjamin Constant. Other writers in French include the literary critics Louis de Muralt (1665–1743), H. F. Amiel, and Édouard Rod, and the novelist C. F. Ramuz. The chief Swiss writers in Italian were Stefans Franscini (1726–1857) and Pietro Peri (1794–1869). Heinrich Pestalozzi was a major innovator in education as well as an outstanding literary figure. Swiss books for children, notably The Swiss Family Robinson by J. D. Wyss, and Heidi by Johanna Spyri, have become worldwide classics. In the 18th cent. major Swiss authors included the poet and scientist Albrecht von Haller, and the critics Johann Bodmer and Johann Breitinger. Leading figures of the 19th cent. were the novelist C. F. Meyer, the historian Jacob Burckhardt, Gottfried Keller, and the art historian Heinrich Wölfflin. The poet C. F. G. Spitteler won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1919. Jakob Schaffner (1875–1944), Friedrich Dürrenmatt, and Max Frisch have also gained international renown in the 20th cent., as have the eminent scholars Emil Staiger and Jean Starobinski. Recent literary talents include Erika Burkart, Otto F. Walter, and Adolf Muschg.

See A. Natan, ed., Swiss Men of Letters (1970); W. Sorell, The Swiss (1972); P. Demetz, After the Fires (1986).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Swiss literature." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Swiss literature." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 13, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/swiss-literature

"Swiss literature." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved November 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/swiss-literature

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.