D.3 Cultural relations between Finno-Ugric (Hungarian/Finnish/Estonian) and Western European (German/French) Literatures and Cultures in the 19-20th Century

Organisers: Emese Egyed, Ildikó P. Varga

Monday–Tuesday, August 22–23, Department of Slavic Studies (Slawistik), room 7

Original symposium call

Monday, August 22


Martin Carayol:

Formation of the short story canon in Finland and Estonia: a few characteristics

This paper studies the roles of the most important canonizing instances in Finland and Estonia: critical articles, critical works, literary prizes, anthologies, translations, and the educational system. Attention is particularly drawn toward critical reception in literary journals, and the way classical short stories are addressed in literary handbooks. Case studies dealing with precise authors and themes lead to several proposals of new theoretical tools for the diachronic study of canons and the description of canonization-related phenomena.

Compared to Western European literatures, short story has been a prominent part of Finnish and Estonian literatures, with authors such as Juhani Aho, Aino Kallas, Leena Krohn and Rosa Liksom (Finland), Friedebert Tuglas, Jaan Kross and Mehis Heinsaar (Estonia), who are the builders and some of the most renowned writers of the Finnish and Estonian literary traditions, and who for the most part are mainly short story writers. For that reason, Finland and Estonia are an appropriate field to study the evolution of short story canons. The observed characteristics can then be implemented and verified in other literatures, to assess the scope of our theoretical tools.


Emese Egyed:

The correspondence between Voltaire and János Fekete – a critical reconstruction

It was considered a myth in the 19th century that János Fekete had corresponded with Voltaire. Even though the fact has been ascertained later, there are still two problems to consider:

  1. in the complete Voltaire-edition by Bestermann the letters from János Fekete are published without their annexes, thus modifying the comprehensive context
  2. it seems that Voltaire (by all evidence, very consciously) has “moved” from his Hungarian aristocrat pen partner to a Russian aristocrat on a rising political trajectory.

All these aspects involve problems of authorship, text identity – all approached by the presentation.


Ildikó Józan:

Languages in the new Europe. Dezső Kosztolányi’s open letter to Antoine Meillet

The open letter (The place of the Hungarian language on the Globe, 1930) that Dezső Kosztolányi (1885–1936) wrote to the most important French linguist of his time, Antoine Meillet (1866–1936), is well known to the Hungarian public. The history of literature takes the gesture of the Hungarian author as an example of patriotism and that of the defence of the Hungarian culture’s values in front of a state that is supposed to be at the origin of the loss of Hungary's territory after the First World War. However, little is known about the French and Hungarian context in which Kosztolányi’s act is based. My paper aims to sketch a picture of the French and Hungarian political and cultural scene and to present one by one its actors by answering simple but previously unclarified questions: Who is Antoine Meillet for French linguistics and politics? How did Hungarian linguistics and the Hungarian political scene receive his works? Did Kosztolányi content himself with the only open letter to answer Meillet? Who is André Thérive and does he really take part in defending Hungarian culture alongside the Hungarian author? How did the French public receive Kosztolányi's letter? What is the role of László (Ladislas) Gara and Aurélien Sauvageot in the case? What does "culture" and "civilization" mean in the interwar period in France and Hungary?


András Kányádi:

The “pleiadization”, a French connexion in Hungary

In 1973, Endre Illés, a well-known editor of the famous publishing house Szépirodalmi Kiadó in Budapest, started a collection Magyar remekírók, a major literary reference during the communism. Its model was Jacques Schiffrin’s famous la Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, both at formal and material level. This paper attempts to shed light on the figure of the editor and the various issues that have contributed to the lasting success of his enterprise.


Katalin Ágnes Bartha:

French Fineness on the Hungarian Stage 

The presentation explores the career of the actress Prielle Kornélia (1826-1906) by looking at theoretical expectations concerning Hungarian acting and the reception of some of the actresses' roles through sources linked to stage productions (scripts, theatre reviews, scenery books, photographs) as well as other written sources related to the theater institution and the actress's daily life.

Even though she was considered the par excellence Hungarian national actress in the national-unifying political context (being the first actress to receive everlasting membership in the National Theater), why was the French theater culture one of the most important elements of her image-building? What did French elegance mean in the Hungarian staging of 19th-century French dramas?


Anikó Polgár:

A versformák helyettesítése és a metrikai hűség elve. A fordítói nézetek alakulása Csengery Jánostól Devecseri Gáborig (The Substitution of Verse Systems and Types and the Principle of the Metrical Adherence. The Changes of the Translation Views from J. Csengery to G. Devecseri)

The relationship to the ancient systems and types of versology in the history of the Hungarian translation was always peculiar. In the end of the 19th and in the begining of the 20th century the Hungarian theoretical background was inspired and influenced by the West-European patterns (especially by German paragons). In contrast with the western languages later the translators hanging on the rendering of the ancient metrical systems refered to the special possibilities of the using of the original quantitive prosody in Hungarian translations. The history of Finnish tradition offers a sharp contrast: in spite of the fact, that the Finnish language is capable for the imitation of the Latin or Greek quantitive prosody, the development of the theoretical background and practical materialisation of the translations of ancient poetry became dissimilar and divergent. The presentation keeps track of the changing development of the prosodical views to the translation of M. Babits, J. Csengery and G. Devecseri. For J. Csengery the point of departure was Wilamowitz-Mollendorf’s conception focusing on the idea, that languages and versology are inseparable, supposing that the German language is inapt for reproduction of the Greek verse system. Csengery used the method of substitution and was looking for the Hungarian „equivalents”. Babits rejected the Wilamowitzian methods, but his translations were inspired materially by J. Csengery. His prosody was radicalised by G. Devecseri by obligeting the principle of the metrical adherence.

Tuesday, August 23


Ildikó Sirató:

Theatre and Drama in Context of Cultural Relations and Comparative Research of Finno-Ugric and Western-European Literatures and Cultures

Connections and relations on the field of theatre and theatrical texts (not only dramas, but stage works using different theatrical tools, languages and effects), are developed increase during last decades. Cultural context of the art works as well, as their meeting events with different language and culture audiences, give us more and more data and cases to study. The waves, effects and cooperation forms could be considered in between national but as well, as in comparative frames. That last point gives the base of recent contribution.

Connections, relations and context earlier based on drama translations (both in linguistic and cultural sense), but the theatrical performance / event could be transposed even without linguistic translation. How could foreign viewers “understand”, behave a performance, what happens with cultural meaning of stage gestures? There are historic and contemporary examples of misunderstanding or missed meanings, but even for an increased new context of a performance. How we can plan, or at least detect and research these phenomena of international theatrical communication?

There are some examples of “strictly national” features, or “aimed to reach foreign audiences to understand us”-type (identifying) attitudes of authors (and many others in between that scale). Which of them could really reach colleagues (theatre-makers), and viewers of Western-Europe?

What are precognitions and preconceptions, expectations of contemporary theatrical scene of Western cultures towards Finno-Ugric ones (in the fields of theatre and drama)? What they want to know, to consider from, and about us? And how we could react their expectations? Is there any scheme, any formula of success today – as there was “prescription of succès-dramaturgy” in 1900-1920s, or points of wide international interest, as national epic in the 19th century.

We take examples of drama and theatrical performance of last decades (mainly from appr. 1990s till today), and from Hungarian, Finnish, and Estonian cultures to find any common features or typical ways to communicate with Western-European – e. g. German, English, Italian, Swedish or French (translators) readers or theatrical audiences. There are interesting cases of cooperation of young theatre-makers on world stages, which could give us some new inspirations to “think out of the box”, too.


Renáta Balázs:

Literary history writing in the beginning of the 20th century: Antal Szerb and Viljo Tarkiainen 

The writing of national literary history has recently been discussed in the frameworks of feminism, postcolonialism and transnationalism. These literary theories have been challenging the national literary histories by questioning who can become a national writer, in which languages the national literature can be written and if it is still possible to write the history of a national literature.

In my research I investigate the Finnish and the Hungarian literary field. The state of literary history has been a crucial issue in both countries, which can be detected in the on-going projects of rewriting the national literary histories. For instance, in Finland the phenomenon of the migrant literature has led to the rethinking of the national literary frame. My focus is on the main works of national literary histories. By analysing and comparing these theoretical works I would like to reveal the strategies playing role in the construction of the contemporary national literary histories. This comparative and metadiscursive approach can show the shaping process of the national literature in the dynamics of canonization and marginalization. The terms of migrant, minority, multicultural, transnational, and transcultural literature are in a strong relation with the national literary field even if they are provoking one another.

In my presentation I concentrate on the first part of the 20th century. In 1934 a new literary history came out both in Hungary and in Finland. Antal Szerb’s work, ’History of Hungarian Literature’ is still popular, which can be illustrated by the fact that a variorum was published of it in 2019. Viljo Tarkiainen, one of the most appreciated Finnish literary scholars, wrote the ’History of Finnish Literature’ also alone.

By a metadiscursive approach, my aim is to investigate how the above-mentioned works represent the national literary history. I believe that a comparative method, which can reveal the strategies playing role in the construction of national literary histories in Finland and in Hungary, can add new perspectives not only to these two literary historians’ images, but also to the understanding of the contemporary meaning(s) of the term national.


Szerb, Antal, 1934: Magyar irodalomtörténet. Révai, Budapest.

Szerb, Antal 2019 [1935]: Magyar irodalomtörténet. Magvető, Budapest.

Szerb, Antal 1939: Karjel, Finnország, Esthonya. Magyar Nemzet, 6.12.1939. ·Tarkiainen, Viljo 1934: Suomen kirjallisuuden historia. Otava, Helsinki.

Tarkiainen, Kari 1987: Viljo Tarkiainen. Suomalainen humanisti. Suomen Kirjallisuuden Seura, Helsinki.

Varpio, Yrjö 1986: Suomalaisen kirjallisuudentutkimuksen historia. WSOY, Porvoo.

Grönstrand, Heidi; Kauranen, Ralf; Löytty, Olli; Melkas, Kukku; Nissilä, Hanna-Leena & Pollari; Mikko 2016: Kansallisen katveesta. Suomen kirjallisuuden ylirajaisuudesta. SKS, Helsinki.


Ildikó Varga:

The role of József Faragó in the Hungarian-Finnish cultural relations

Béla Vikár and József Szinnyei are the most prominent Hungarian figures of the Hungarian-Finnish cultural relations in the first half of the 20th century. Aladár Bán’s name is also highlighted in the history of cultural relations between Hungary and Finland.

There is also an unworthily forgotten figure, József Faragó (1895-1986), whose work in cultural exchange is worth to be investigated. Faragó is known among literary historians and cultural scholars as a secretary of the La Fontaine Literary Society. As secretary he worked mainly on developing the Finnish relations of the Society. Due to his excellent Finnish language skills (his wife was Finnish, Aini Ahtia), he handled the official correspondence of the Society in Finnish language.

However, in addition to his activities in the Society, he was in contact, he corresponded with Otto Manninen and Viljo Tarkiainen, too. I examine Faragó’s correspondence from the cultural exchange point of view.

In my paper, I seek to answer the question of whether József Faragó can be considered a cultural producer or is he merely a mediator in cultural exchange?

Keywords: József Faragó, Hungarian-Finnish relations, cultural producer, cultural exchange


Enikő Molnár-Bodrogi:

Narrative Self-Making in Bengt Pohjanen’s Work

In my lecture, I am analysing the intricate relationship between (self-)narration and identity as it appears in the work of the Meänkieli writer Bengt Pohjanen. I am looking for answers to questions like: which are the most important elements of Pohjanen’s narrative-building and what kind of roles they have? How literary texts take part in the collective construction of cultural narratives?

Identity and narration/ narrativity are intimately tied to each other , and they are fundamental in the construction of the subject. At the same time, the past comes into being by our getting in touch with it, which practically means that we rebuild it by means of memories, under the form of narratives. When we tell stories, we impose order to chaotic events and structure the lived experience.

Examining the question of identity from hermeneutical point of view, it is by memory that a human being understands and interprets the impressions gathered along their experience connected to the world and posteriorly organizes them as events of a narration. On the other hand, the events included into the story are reinterpreted and reformulated in time. As such, self-identity is a continuous self-understanding. Thus, identity can be seen as a dynamic temporal process which is constituted by continuous reinterpretations of cultural narratives.

Pohjanen’s work partially also means personal documentation, where general events are always presented from the narrator’s point of view. At the same time, the unique self-narration gives a picture of the community, filtered through the private life of the narrator. In my lecture, I analyse some important elements of the Pohjanen narrative-building against the background of narratology and I place them into a larger Finno-Ugric minority context. I am focusing on the most important elements of the Meänkieli writer’s (self-)narration, for example the role of different languages in the life of a multilingual person and the need of an own ethnic and language history, deconstructing the official majority history-writing.

Selective bibliography

Anderson, Benedict: Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso. 1983. de Fina, Anna & Georgakopoulou, Alexandra 2015: Introduction. – De Fina, Anna & Georgakopoulou, Alexandra (eds.): The Handbook of Narrative Analysis. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell. 1–17.

Georgakopoulou, Alexandra 2011: Narrative Analysis. – Ruth Wodak, Barbara Johnstone & Paul Kerswill (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of Sociolinguistics. Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC: Sage. 396–411.


Klára Papp:

Analysis of Correspondence of Transylvanian Aristocrat Ladies Focusing on their Cultural Interests

During the last years I made research in the theme of the correspondence of some Transylvanian aristocrat families (Csáky, Jósika, Bánffy). I was focusing on those writings which touched upon the period of the end of the 18th and the begining of the 19th centuries.

It was a striking feature that these ladies of aristocrat origin made so serious tasks in the field of building personal networks parallel with managing the problems of their own families. This phenomena had streghten the role of their close enviroment as it also served their personal interests and will to act.

According to the correspondence, they often presented their cultural interests in a form of making reports on Hungarian and Austrian (Vienna) theatre, ballet, opera and other events, ceremonies and journeys. We are informed on cultural, global, imperial, European political, diplomatic news they could gain and it is possible to clarify the source of these news (personal, newspapers, private experience). Sometimes we have scientific information (from Vienna and Paris) or other news which could help to solve practical problems and this made easy to judge the activities and awareness of correspondent partners.

My paper is on the personalities and correspondence news of some Transylvanian countesses namely, Countess Kata and Borbála Csáky-representatives of the Tansylvanian maiden origin-their daughters Annamária Bornemissza and Rozália Bethlen, a talented cousin Rozália Csáky, Mária Jozefa Teleki /Mrs. Jósika/ and her daughter Borbála Jósika, the wife of Dénes Bánffy /Ágnes Barcsay/ and the daughter of governor György Bánffy /Josefa Bánffy/. The circle of the personalities under examination give us a chance to see how the enviroment of the husband of various position influenced the possibilities of building personal networks, making self-expression and creating values.


Attila Barany:

The Emergence of the Memory and Research of Anglo-Hungarian Relations in the 19th and early 20th century 

I always say to English colleagues that there is only one foreign nation who knows everything of Edward I, King of England. Every school pupil knows how the monarch campaigned against the Welsh rebels, stayed at Montgomery Castle and has an idea where Milford Haven is. Some even have an idea who the “lordjmajor” was. It is because János Arany wrote A walesi bárdok on the suppression of the Celtic poets.

The paper investigates how the poet had a wide knowledge on English history, in what way he had access to sources in the late 1850s. As a modern medievalist myself have long tried to unveil how Arany got to his sources, since his information regarding Lord Montgomery and Milford Haven are all historically justified. How in mid-19th century Hungary English history was well-known?

Shakespeare’s dramas were translated into Hungarian and staged in theatres very early in the 19th century, much earlier than in other parts of Europe, that is, certain fields of his historical plays – Macbeth, King Richard III etc. – had an audience in the public.

The paper is trying to explore the reasons behind this Anglophile attitude.

There was an awakening of an interest of English liberal ideas and the model of constitutional monarchy as early as the Enlightenment, in addition, there was a scholarly interest into the history of England which had stemmed from the peregrinatio of Hungarian Calvinist students into English universities, mainly from the Debrecen Reformed Church College. Ézsaiás Budai was educated in Oxford. Edinburgh had important contacts with Debrecen. One is needless to stress the cultural and intellectual links aristocratic travellers – Széchenyi, Wesselényi etc. – were building up from the 1810s. The liberal-minded nobility were attracted by England.

The ‘outburst’ was also felt in history writing. Emigrant intelligentsia – beyond Pulszky, László Teleki, Kossuth himself as well – spent time in the British Library and examined English history. Some of them, e.g. Simonyi, Hatvani-Horváth rose from amateur level and even published source collections.

A range of topics emerged from the common historical past: a ‘fashionable’ field was the common ideological basis of the Golden Bull and the Magna Carta; another which attracted a large non-scholarly audience was the Hungarian stay of the sons of Edmund Ironside, who supposedly escaped to Hungary and his offspring, St. Margaret of Scotland had a Hungarian descent. A number of Scottish aristocratic families have up to the present day originated their roots to the court of St. Stephen.

The relationship was embraced by professional historians and cultural historians, philologists (Marczali, Jenő Horváth, Fest, István Gál). The research gained a peculiar colour in interwar Hungary, where the field itself meant an opposition to the ruling elite and the country’s strong German commitment, an open door towards the free, Anglo-Saxon world.


Endre Kiss:

Hungarian and European Modernism

In the context of the Hungarian Modernization of the late 19th century we reconstruct the succession of the epochal waves of the European Modernity.

We reconstruct the first wave of the European Modern Age on the basis of the common leading trains of Nietzsche, Ibsen, Zola and their contemporaries. In their anthropology, it was individualistic, in their scientific character it moved at least, for the greatest part, in a positivistic-evolutionist frame, even if it already simulteously reveals strong inclinations toward a criticist development of the positivism. It was strongly socially engaged, it was nevertheless opened to the social problematic and felt itself directly responsible for the future of the humanity. Also ideologies of the labour movement grew partly on its already solid basis in this direction, whilst they entered in large interactions with it. The naturalism and the impressionism were regarded as the most relevant articulations of this first wave.

The second period of the European Modern Age can be summarized most adequately with Oscar Wilde’s following sentence : „The life is lacking in forms in a frightening extent”. The subject, always again objectified in this wave will no longer be overcome in the sense of the first wave. It wants to become the essence, if not substance of the world, and indeed just in that form, which it presents. He wants to accomplish a specific emancipation achievement.The individual of the second wave wants to become essence without any emancipation success, he wants to raise, in this way, his ultimate and fortuitous existence to a specifically eternal and metaphysical dimension, without wanting however to succeed a „performance” for that in the sense of the first wave. The own existential problematic is substantialized in its being itself. The world does not create the individual, the individual wants to impose its essence to the world, he wants that this essence be recognized by the world.

The third wave of this Modern Age is not only not individualistic in all its leading anthropological concepts, it is simultaneously most resolutely collectivistic. Its scientific nature is no longer characterized by positivistic ideologies, but by names like Marx, Freud or Einstein. The mimetic principle is for its artistic articulations characteristic only in the very finest transmissions. This wave, that is to be identified with the avant-gardism, dispels the mimetic principle in every traditional form. It is then not, as usual, only about a typically positive process of the "abstraction", it is generally about the fact that instead of any mimesis, the creation of an independent, self-legitimated world appears as direct objective and simultaneously as a new legitimation of the art. The very determining idea of this third wave is the will of a total overthrow of culture and society in a fully new form and with conceptual intentions, and this construction of the new must go with the radical destruction of the old. This attitude is deliberate up to the last details and is the product of historical-philosophical and cultural-critical reflections. The third wave of the Modern Age is also considered as avantgardism, as largely destructive and deconstructive. The (former) representational sphere of the diverse genres of art is critically relativized, if not just destroyed. The destruction can however also reach the own elements of the diverse genres of art, even more, it can include in itself the entire medium of the diverse articulations. The third wave of the Modern Age can also be observed in an explicit form as the definitive end of the mimetic principle.

The central goal of the coming presentation is to show how relate the leading Hungarian Modernists to the reconstructed Thee Waves of the Europaean Modernism.


Annamária Biró:

The German Reception of László Márton's Novels

The starting point of my presentation consists of László Márton's novel Minerva's Hideout and its German translations. In this work László Márton places in the center of events a Hungarian literary figure from the 19th century, thus directing the Hungarian readers to apply the mechanisms of referential reading when interpreting the text. For the German readers, however, the name of Johann B. and his activity do not mean much, therefore the novel is primarily read as a Linz-novel, without paying attention to the elements derived from Hungarian literary events. Starting from the distinct nature of the reception, I examine how typical this is for the German reception of László Márton's other novels, and for the general response to the author often present in the German-language medium.


Gabriella-Nóra Tar:

The Image of Hungarians in The Novels of Contemporary German-speaking Authors from Transylvania 

The lecture will focus on the image of Hungarians in works by contemporary German-speaking authors from Transylvania, Eginald Schlattner (born 1933), Joachim Wittstock (b. 1939) and Carmen Elisabeth Puchianu (b. 1956).

All texts selected for analysis were published in German after the turn of the millennium and were written in and about the Transylvanian region, so the image of Hungarians can be considered in this works part of a broader historical and social context. The lecture will address the following questions: Who, what becomes the bearer of Hungarian identity at the text level? How do these Hungarian images behave in the novels discussed to the representation of other ethnic groups? How do the Hungarian images by Schlattner, Wittstock and Puchianu differ from each other?


Emese Sófalvi:

Reception of the Viennese triad’s compositions in Transylvania at the beginning of the 19th century 

In concordance to the the political and artisitic achievements, musical historiography in Transylvania presents the 19th century as the period of national awakening and the initiation of the local national school. Scholars agree over the importance of using historical facts critically and combine them with musical sources: manuscripts of the local composers. Latest research in the archives of Cluj and Sibiu reveal documents which specify the exact references between Transylvanian composers and aristocrats and the members of the Viennese Triad. Musical manuscripts, posters, librettos, contemporary newspapers or private memoirs widen the field of primary and secundary sources. It is a plausible hypothesis to suggest that personal links between Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven and Transylvanian Kleinmeisters and members of the local aristocracy determined and influenced their reception. Still, it is more likely that through the cultural transfers of the theater, works of popular, smaller Viennese composers (such as Josef Gelinek, Maximilian Stadler, Josef Weigl or Johann Georg Albrechtsberger) had also had an impact on the Hungarian public and the local artists. Analyse of the musical manuscripts, the early works of Austrian and Bohemian composers (Philipp Caudella, Georg Ruzitska, Anton Polz, Dominik Grosspeter) settled in Transylvania but with direct links to the Habsburg musical center, present undoubtly aspects of the classical style in their option of genre, species or form.