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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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A Short History of Literary Romania: From Early Twentieth Century to the Post-Communist Age



If the first decade of twentieth-century Romanian literary criticism was dominated by an enduring habit to conflate ‘modernism’ and ‘modernity’, in the second half, two main Romanian critics set themselves the task of clearing up the terminological confusion: Adrian Marino, in his monograph Modern, modernism, modernitate (1969), where he attempted to make aesthetics and criticism speak a common language, and Matei Călinescu, whose Five Faces of Modernity (1987) comprised modernism, avant-garde, decadence, kitsch, and postmodernism. For Marino modernism could be applied to all innovating trends and movements in history, be they religious, philosophical or artistic, and it included symbolism, naturalism, expressionism, expressionist futurism, but especially the avant-garde, that superlative tendency of literary modernism which included Dadaism, Surrealism, Abstractionism, and Purism.1 In Călinescu’s view, with the exception of the Hispano-American version of literary modernism at the end of the nineteenth century, no literary trend was worthy of the label. Within a more wide-ranging re-evaluation of modernism than can be summarised here, he singled out Rubén Darío, who in an article published in 1888 in the Chilean Revista de Arte y Letras praised the ‘modernist’ qualities of the Mexican poet Ricardo Contreras (‘el absoluto modernismo en la expresión’).2 The movement of modernism represented by ‘a small but triumphant and proud group of writers and poets from Spanish America’3 dates as far back as 1890. From then on, the term would be used to describe those Latin American writers known for their...

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