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Romanian Joyce

From Hostility to Hospitality

Arleen Ionescu

This study makes Romania’s largely unknown Joycean heritage visible to an international readership. Reviewing Joyce’s critical reception and translations, as well as the writer’s influence on Romanian prose, it brings Derrida’s notion of «hostipitality» to comparative literary and translation studies in order to theorize the impact of politics and ideology on fiction. After an original survey of the links between Romanian modernism/postmodernism and Western literature, it focuses on alternate trends of hostility and hospitality towards Joyce, especially his techniques and style. It examines how translations dealt with themes prone to communist censorship (politics, sexuality, religion, food), before discussing Joyce’s impact on Romanian writers such as Eliade, Biberi, Bălăiţă and Oţoiu.
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This study was born from the conviction that, although the overall reception of James Joyce in Europe had been well documented, Romania’s particular place and contribution still deserved a more systematic treatment. I am grateful to all those who have encouraged me to pursue such a project, in their belief that the specific ways in which Joyce was read, published, reviewed, translated and recreated in Romania were worth investigating.

This monograph would not have been possible without the effort, generosity and dedication of many people and institutions. First I wish to thank Sorin Alexandrescu, an outstanding and inspirational Romanian scholar, for offering me constructive feedback on my analysis of Mircea Eliade; Vladimir Tismăneanu for all his encouragement and trust in my work, as well as his invaluable advice on Romanian communism; and Erika Mihálycsa for our numerous fruitful exchanges on our common academic hobby, Joyce and translation.

More generally, I owe a special debt to scholars and friends in the large Joyce community, namely Valérie Benejam, M. Caneda Cabrera, Daniel Ferrer, Geert Lernout, Jean-Michel Rabaté, Sam Slote, Wim Van Mierlo and especially Fritz Senn and the Zurich James Joyce Foundation, who provided so much intellectual stimulation while I held a Scholarship there in 2000; to Alexander Baumgarten, Ivan Callus, Stefan Herbrechter, Vladislava Gordić Petković, Laura Marin, my ‘spiritual sister’, Christopher Müller, Manuela Rossini, Chris Weedon, and Emma West for graciously debating with me several aspects of modernism and critical theory....

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