Contemporary literature as a field of praxis has been far more concerned with the question of the individual than has previously been the case in literary theory and scholarship. To what extent is it possible to see the current focus on the individual as a reaction to the poetics of romanticism? A comparative approach to Henrik Wergeland’s poetological manifesto Jan van Huysum’s Flower Piece and Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle will highlight this question, claiming that it does make a certain difference if a poetics of transcendence resides before or after the death of God. How can the artist justify his quest for transcendence at the expense of others in an era where nobody outside the artist can justify his claims?

Keywords: Comparative literature studies, romanticism, narcissism, poetics, ethics, Karl Ove Knausgård, Henrik Wergeland