Scholarly article on topic 'The Romanian Literature after 1990. Conceptual and Directional Modifications in the Critical Discourse'

The Romanian Literature after 1990. Conceptual and Directional Modifications in the Critical Discourse Academic research paper on "Social and economic geography"

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Abstract of research paper on Social and economic geography, author of scientific article — Nicolae Ioana

Abstract The essential political changes occurring after the 22nd of December 1989 in Romania resulted in significant transformations in the field of literature as well, under the aspect of thematic adaptations to the new reality, as well as in terms of a search for new artistic forms. However, the most important and the most rapid mutations were registered by literary criticism, which, while entering a new era, with a radically different political, economic, informational and existential makeup, is compelled to reconsider its attitudes, to re-evaluate the literature created before 1989, to find and make operational concepts appropriate for the current phenomena, to delineate and clarify the status of literature, directions and conditions for axiological existence under the new circumstances. Primarily, this period gave shape to two critical trends: a radical one, aiming to re-evaluate the canon and to update it in terms of a moral-political grid, and a moderate one, upholding the supremacy of the aesthetic criterion in any critical work.

Academic research paper on topic "The Romanian Literature after 1990. Conceptual and Directional Modifications in the Critical Discourse"

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Social and Behavioral Sciences

Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 63 (2012) 4-9 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

The 4th Edition of the International Conference: Paradigms of the Ideological Discourse 2012

The Romanian Literature after 1990. Conceptual and Directional Modifications in the Critical Discourse

Nicolae Ioanaa *

_a Professor, PhD, "Dunarea de Jos University of Galati", Romania_

Abstract

The essential political changes occurring after the 22nd of December 1989 in Romania resulted in significant transformations in the field of literature as well, under the aspect of thematic adaptations to the new reality, as well as in terms of a search for new artistic forms. However, the most important and the most rapid mutations were registered by literary criticism, which, while entering a new era, with a radically different political, economic, informational and existential makeup, is compelled to reconsider its attitudes, to re-evaluate the literature created before 1989, to find and make operational concepts appropriate for the current phenomena, to delineate and clarify the status of literature, directions and conditions for axiological existence under the new circumstances. Primarily, this period gave shape to two critical trends: a radical one, aiming to re-evaluate the canon and to update it in terms of a moral-political grid, and a moderate one, upholding the supremacy of the aesthetic criterion in any critical work.

© 2012 TheAuthors.PublishedbyElsevier Ltd.Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Dunarea de Jos UniversityofGalati

Keywords: political change, critical discourse, moral-political grid, aesthetic criterion

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Introduction

Along its historical existence, the endeavours of the Romanian literary criticism were taken, most often than not, with various notes, under the mark of certain political ideologies, either allowing it to be influenced by or distancing itself from them; either they were imposed on it, or it willingly placed itself under their authority. Therefore, so as to better understand the specificity of these determinations during the period we chose for our analysis, we firstly need to draw a short history of literary criticism, in its main stages of existence.

* Nicolae Ioana. Tel.: +40 0721214486 E-mail address: andreigrigor@yahoo.com

1877-0428 © 2012 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Dunarea de Jos University of Galati doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.10.002

The avatars of literary criticism from its beginnings to 1948

The very beginnings of Romanian literary criticism, institutionalized in the second half of the 19th century due to the activity of Titu Maiorescu and Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea, are structured under the influence of such ideologies' socio-political guidelines. The position and the cultural attitude adopted by the Junimea mentor are not strangers to his convictions and activity under perfect agreement with the ideology and policy of the conservative party, which he also represented in various cabinets as Minister of Religious Affairs and Education. In his turn, Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea also builds his critical stance in keeping with the socialist ideology that fuelled his social and political thought. How much and in what manner these adherences influence the activity of the two literary critics is not the purpose of this paper. It is certain, however, that in this first important moment of Romanian literary criticism two tendencies take shape and they will confront each other with various points of emphasis during the next periods, including the one that is the focus for our analysis in this study. Primarily, the stake of this confrontation has two aspects: the tendency to preserve literature's aesthetic autonomy: "all that is the result of exclusive reflection, politics, morality, scientific theories etc., do not belong to the sphere of poetry, and any attempt to include them resulted in failure" [1] or: "for any sane mind it is obvious that a comedy has nothing to do with party politics" (our translation) [2] versus the tendency to associate literary creation to a doctrine and an action of a political nature and to claim it as an instrument for propaganda or for social change: "the artist's creation will express, in one way or another, the tendencies of the age, of the society he lives in. Therefore, there has never existed, nor will exist art without tendency. For, if art touches the social life, then it will express its social tendencies" (our translation) [3].

In between the two world wars, matters concerning literary criticism do not differ greatly from the positions adopted in the beginnings briefly presented above.

Two of the most important literary groups constituted in the interwar period are supported by the critical activities which, somewhat, continue the two directions established in the 19th century by Titu Maiorescu and Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea.

Eugen Lovinescu, the critic of the group formed around the magazine Sburatorul, follows Maiorescu's belief in the autonomy of the aesthetic and, on this theoretical basis, it strives to synchronize Romanian literature with Western literatures and to modernize it by adopting new artistic formulae specific to that European timeframe. Accordingly, his merits are remarkable, and Romanian literature is greatly indebted to his modernizing efforts. Nevertheless, one should mention that not even the modernist critic, noted for his devotion to the principles of aesthetic autonomy and the primacy of the aesthetic over the ideological, remains indifferent to the seduction of political doctrines. When the effects of this seduction are stronger, they also surface in the erroneous, but, fortunately, not very frequent, value-judgements from Eugen Lovinescu's critical work. The most flagrant case is that of the text dedicated to Caragiale, whose work is analysed unfairly, the critic considering it un-contemporary and, therefore, also aesthetically obsolete, and joining the ranks of the playwright's vilifiers from the end of the 19th century by accusing him of "immorality," "reactionism" etc. [4]. The explanation for this surprising judgement error rests in the fact that, without being an overt political militant of the liberal party, Eugen Lovinescu is a fervent supporter of the liberal doctrine. Since Caragiale's work criticises, by means of comedy and satire, the social, moral and political effects of the inadequate implementation of liberalism in the second half of the 19th century, it seems plausible that Eugen Lovinescu's deeply liberal inclinations might have been insulted, which determined him to berate the anti-liberal attitude of the playwright. It is an example of the manner in which the critical judgement and act can be subjectively altered under the influence of political doctrines.

The trend instituted by Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea is continued in the period between the two world wars by the traditionalist group surrounding the magazine Viata Romaneasca and led by the critic Garabet Ibraileanu. His approach does not preserve the sociologist overtones of Gherea's criticism, but it is guided by an ideology of identity and it, therefore, emphasizes the ethnical-ethic elements of the literary work. From this perspective, the criticism practiced by Garabet Ibraileanu is, to a great extent, valid, since it does not ignore the aesthetic principle. By the contrary, under various aspects concerning the artistic production of the literary work, his critical thought comes close to Eugen Lovinescu's. Seen from this angle, their positions are not irreconcilable.

The most flagrant case of political interference with the critical activity and with the administration of literary institutions is, in the interwar period, the exclusion of the aestheticizing critics from the Magazine of the Royal Foundations, after Dumitru Caracostea and some of his affiliates assume control, all of the latter being supporters of the legionary movement (fascist in its nature): "Starting with this number, the first one issued in conformity with the directions of the new management, there is a six-month suspension of the contribution to the Magazine of the Royal Foundation of the critics who have an aestheticizing formation, of manifest liberalizing inclinations, or even sympathies for the Semitic ideology and literature. That is, until the new directives, which have been issued since April 1941, are sufficiently popularized by the magazine. From this date onward the magazine, aiming to complement, not to destroy everything that was good, will receive contributions from the old critics only to the extent in which they prove that they acknowledge the literary requirements of the age" [5].

The period of communist totalitarianism: 1948-1989

The longest and the most complex period, from the perspective of this strange and, more often than not, unsuitable marriage is the one following the second world war, more precisely between 1948-1989, i.e. from the definitive establishment of the communist regime to its fall. Even since the 23rd of August 1944, aesthetic criticism becomes the target of a defamatory campaign conducted by writers and publications closer to leftist ideology. After 1948, this campaign becomes institutionalized and it dedicates its activity to placing aesthetic criticism under interdiction, while exclusively making Marxist criticism (of Soviet inspiration) official. Any form of aestheticism is considered a manifestation of the bourgeois-landowner ideology or of the decadent West's culture. In an article published several years ago, we find a synthetic presentation of this period:

La campagne contre l'esthétisme dans la critique se déroulera dans trois directions principales:

- Dans des articles théoriques destinés à démontrer la supériorité de la critique marxiste sur celle esthétique à laquelle on reproche le caractère bourgeois, le réactionnarisme, l'action dans le service des exploiteurs, et plus récemment, les idéologies fascistes. Les modèles de la nouvelle critique sont identifiés surtout dans les précurseurs de la critique soviétique (Bielinsky et Dobroliubov qui reçoivent des éloges dans la presse de parti et culturelle), dans les textes de Lénine, Staline et Jdanov qui sont devenus le repère obligatoire dans presque tous les textes sur sujet. Le modèle autochtone est Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea, glorifié en permanence. Dans la contemporanéité, la critique marxiste ne réussit pas à fabriquer un modèle, malgré les louanges pour Sorin Toma après la publication de l'article célèbre contre la poésie de Tudor Arghezi et malgré les prix dont Ion Vitner se réjouit. Une occasion exploitée intensément au sens de la contestation de la critique esthétique est représentée par les moments anniversaires ou commémoratifs dédiés surtout aux classiques: Mihai Eminescu, I.L. Caragiale, Ion Creangâ.

- Par des articles de suppression ou de déformation de l'œuvre des plus importants partisans de l'esthétisme dans la critique, à partir de son fondement et jusqu'à la contemporanéité immédiate : Titu Maiorescu, Eugen Lovinescu, George Câlinescu, Pompiliu Constantinescu, Vladimir Streinu, Çerban Cioculescu.

- Par l'identification, le démasquement et la sanction de tous « les glissements sur la pente de l'esthétisme » et de toutes tendances formalistes, cosmopolites, réactionnaires dont les critiques marxistes de l'époque sont parfois « coupables » [6].

We should mention, however, that, after almost a decade and a half of unfortunate enforcement and use of Marxist criticism, with a discourse constructed at the level of the vulgar sociologism and on the doctrinal bases of the "class struggle", starting with the half of the seventh decade of the previous century, aesthetic criticism gradually recuperates its lost ground and promotes its discourse structured according to the principles of aesthetic specificity.

Thus, literary criticism creates a breach in the ideologico-literary system, built and imposed throughout the sixth decade and it gradually escapes political control and constraints. This fact has significant effects on at least three levels of Romanian literature:

1. The retrieval of the values excluded from the literary circuit and placed under charges of ideology: Titu Maiorescu, Lucian Blaga, Ion Barbu, Eugen Lovinescu etc.

2. The promotion and support of the authentic aesthetical values which start to appear as early as the seventh decade, a phenomenon which would later be coined as the 60's generation: Nichita Stanescu, Marin Sorescu, Fanuç Neagu, Augustin Buzura, Nicolae Breban, Dumitru Radu Popescu etc.

3. The retrieval and reintroduction in the literary circuit of some Romanian writers in exile, the most important example being that of Mircea Eliade.

All these are possible due to the convergent efforts of literary criticism, which, by the efforts of critics and aestheticians belonging to previous generations (Ovid S. Crohmâlniceanu - converted from an inconsistent dogmatism to principled aestheticism, Çerban Cioculescu, Liviu Rusu, Alexandru Piru etc.), as well as by the works of the young literary critics, who now assert themselves and who will carry the flag of aestheticism until 1989 (Eugen Simion, Nicolae Manolescu, Valeriu Cristea, Matei Câlinescu, Gabriel Dimisianu and others).

Politics and literary criticism after 1990

Cultural phenomena occurring in Romania after the regime change of 1989 are highly complex and they require and extensive analysis. This paper is an attempt to extract, from the complexity and, in many cases, the quite confused inter-relatedness of the cultural and political facts, a coherent image of the outlines of literary criticism in this context.

The first aspect which should be mentioned, as synthetically as possible, seems to be a paradox: before 1989, for almost two decades, Romanian literary criticism took considerable efforts to evade political control and influences and even to act against them; after 1989, literary life, literary magazines, the writers and, naturally, literary criticism became over-politicized, of their own accord. It is a phenomenon whose climax was registered in the first years after 1990, but which continues even today, confounding critical criteria and, therefore, the literary value scale. Nevertheless, it is encouraging to notice that in several recent studies, this issue is approached in a more balanced, impartial and analytically well-fundamented manner: "Après la chute des régimes totalitaires en Europe Orientale, le discours critique s'est souvent attaché à un exercice de déconstruction visant la culture et, en particulier, la littérature publiée dans un contexte socioculturel qui a favorisé l'intrusion du politique dans le territoire de l'esthétique. Soit qu'il s'agisse de la littérature étiquetée comme « asservie », en tant qu'instrument de légitimation du pouvoir totalitaire, soit qu'il s'agisse, par contre, de la littérature « subversive », et en particulier du roman politique, la critique a privilégié, maintes fois, le critère politique au détriment du critère esthétique, en soulignant l'impacte de l'idéologie sur la construction des espaces fictionnels" [7].

We refer here to associating the critical work with one or another of the political options, which, in the conditions of a multiparty system, took shape in post-communism Romania, as well as to the "policies" and group literary interests, which, actually, regard the same fight for power in the cultural field.

Primarily, Romanian literary criticism registered, immediately after 1989, two trends, that we will attempt to develop in the following lines. Moreover, they are also mentioned in the studies of some young people who, since they were not involved in the political debates of the 90s, have the chance of a great objective detachment from these phenomena: "The phenomenon of critical revisions polarizes literary life after 1989 by taking trenchant stands which legitimize or question the European potential of the formulas and of the fictional imaginary in an age marked by political terror, thus bringing forth the structuring criteria of the two types of discourse: the moral-political criterion and the aesthetic criterion" (our translation) [8].

1. The aestheticism subordinated to politics

This direction is characterized by abandoning or at least reducing dramatically the importance of the aesthetic factor in comparison with the political one. This phenomenon has, in its turn, two main motivations.

On the one hand, there is the forced and wrong perception and assimilation of the majority of literary creations before 1989 with the political imperatives of the respective period. The resentments, which are otherwise justified, against a non-democratic political regime were also projected, without the necessary deliberations, onto the artistic creations of the communist era, considered ab initio under suspicion of protection from the political power or of compromising with the latter. Henceforth, the questioning of the literary canon as it was established before December 1989, for the simple reason that it would have been "officially" constituted, in keeping with the political conveniences of the respective age. Simultaneously, the most important writers from this canon were - often without valid arguments - accused of making a compromise with the communist regime. An example of critical obtuseness is the statement that by the very fact that they wrote during this regime they sanctioned it. Marin Preda, Nichita Stanescu, Marin Sorescu, George Calinescu, Dumitru Radu Popescu, Fanuj Neagu etc. were only some of the most frequent targets of these attacks. Thus oriented, a part of the literary criticism after 1989 coined concepts that have almost nothing to do with aesthetic creation: "opportunism", "collaborationism", "moral abdication", "nomenclature", "political compromise", "nationalism" etc. - i.e. a series of notions which could, perhaps, find support on a moral ground, but could only determine an aesthetic value judgement in a blatantly unspecific manner.

The second set of motivations for this critical approach consists of the various political options of the Romanian writers, in the multiparty system established after 1990. According to the political perception belonging to one party or another, this critical approach minimized the work of those writers considered to have an undesirable political option, while other authors were overestimated.

A specific aspect of this critical approach is the discussion of the classic writers from the perspective of a completely misunderstood political Europeanness. The most irrational example is the case of Mihai Eminescu, whose work, considered "proto-legionary" (?!) is minimized, while the national poet himself is maligned.

Among the magazines that gave voice to such a critical "program" we could list Contemporanul, Romania literara, Contrapunct, Calende etc., and among the critics who upheld it are Gheorghe Grigurcu, Alexandru George, to a certain extent Nicolae Manolescu, Eugen Negrici.

2. Aestheticism, apoliticism

Alternatively, several prestigious names of Romanian criticism defined and employed the aesthetic approach after 1990, trying to preserve the artistic criterion as a priority specific in the formulation of evaluations and in the organization of a valid canon. It is quite true that the possibilities of mediatic expression available for this critical approach were relatively scarce, which seems to point at the paradoxes that can appear in the relationship political power - cultural power - mediatic power. Nevertheless, at least the magazines Literatorul and Caiete critice managed to defend in an unbiased and convincing manner the principle of aesthetic autonomy and, above all, the principle of the aesthetic criterion's supremacy over the ideologico-political criterion. Eugen Simion, Alexandra Piru, Valeriu Cristea, Lucian Chi^u, Andrei Grigor are only few of the literary critics who, particularly in the 90s, supported this approach in their articles.

It is noteworthy that new voices seem to appear from among the younger academics, assuming the essentials of aesthetic criticism and subjecting older or more recent literary creations to a serious critical examination, meant to determine value without allowing the axiological judgements to be perturbed by extra-aesthetic elements. We quote here two examples, both remarkable in their tone, earnestness and professionalism: Nicoleta Ifrim, who, in addition to her preoccupation with the study of Eminescu's work, also follows the phenomenon we debated here, and Alina Crihana, primarily interested in the manner in which the 60's generation, the strongest generation of post-war creation, managed to resist by culture under the conditions of the communist regime.

Conclusions

Romanian literary criticism after 1990 registers a paradoxical phenomenon. The tendency to escape the control of communist politics - which was not actually as strong in the last two totalitarian decades - resulted in a reversed politicization, due to the mistaken premise that all literature created before 1989 lacks authenticity, as

well as due to the questionably motivated desire to change the literary canon in keeping with criteria foreign to literary axiology. This phenomenon gave way to dramatic confusions with long-term effects, to the prejudice of a correct perception of the artistic work's specificities even in unfavourable political contexts.

References

[1] Maiorescu, Titu, O cercetare critica a poeziei române de la 1867 / A Critical Approach on the Romanian Poetry of 1867, in Critice/ Critical Approaches, Minerva, Bucharest, 1973.

[2] Maiorescu, Titu, Comediile domnului Caragiale / Mister Caragiale' Comedies in Critice/ Critical Approaches, op.cit.

[3] Dobrogeanu-Gherea C., Tendentionismul tezismul ín arta / The Role of Tendency and Thesis in Art in Critice (Studii articole) / Critical Approaches (Studies and Articles), Minerva, 1983.

[4] Lovinescu, Eugen (1928), Critice / Critical approaches, vol. VI, Ancora, Bucharest.

[5] Revista Fundatiilor Regale (1941), Anul VIII, nr. 7, iulie.

[6] Marin, Simona (2010), Modalités d'imposer la critique marxiste dans les premières années du communisme roumain, in Communication interculturelle et littérature, nr. 3 (11), 111-114.

[7] Milea, Doinita, Crihanâ, Alina (2010), Sincronizan : discurs literar / discurs social-politic /Inter-relations : Literary Discourse / Social, Political Discourse, Communication interculturelle et littérature, n°2 (10)Avril-mai-juin, 106.

[8] Ifrim, Nicoleta (2011), Identitate culturalâ. Perspective critice asupra discursului identitar románese în perioada postdecembristâ / Cultural Identity. Critical Approach on the Romanian Identity Discourse of the Post-December Age, chap. Metamorfoze ale discursului critic románese postdecembrist dilemele identitare / The Metamorphosis of the Romanian Post-December Critique and the Identity Dilemmas, 32-47, Europlus, Galati.