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Literature as Enchantment or the Regained Grandeur of the Novel: An Essay on Salman Rushdie’s Novel The Enchantress of Florence

Abstract

My essay intends to analyze the dialectic relationship between historical reality and fiction in the novel The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie. I will point out a sophisticated and playful story in which the author interweaves elements of history and literature, a game-story that transcends the canonical limits of postmodernism where the novel has constantly been placed by the critical establishment, and goes back to the beginnings, to the anthropological function of play as an essential human activity that was once defined by Johan Huizinga in Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-element in Culture. Moreover, my paper will explore how this play becomes Rushdie’s attempt to return to the original function of literature which used to enchant and inform at the same time. Once these roots have been reached, however, and the secondary reality of the literary game is well-established, Rushdie manages to break the barriers between reality and fiction, and through versatile textual mechanisms, to intermingle history and reality in a way that makes them merge. Consequently, he composes a play within fiction that is just as powerful as reality itself and suggests the fact that representation has more ontological consistency than the represented body or event itself. We exist as long as we are written and talked about, and nothing in the order of reality can be as powerful as the reality of language.

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“Journeys are Meaningful” (Travelling, Travellers, Literary Periods, Literary Journeys)

Abstract

If the changes of the “discourse networks” (Aufschreibesysteme) from 1800 to 1900 model the relations pertaining to the personality, to the cultural determinedness of technology and personality as well as to their interconnections (Kittler 1995), especially having in view the literary mise en scène, it applies all the more to travelling - setting out on a journey, heading towards a destination, pilgrimage and/or wandering as well as the relationship between transport technology and personality. The changes taking place in “transport” are partly of technological, partly (in close connection with the former) indicative of individual and collective claims. The diplomatic, religious, commercial and educational journeys essentially belong to the continuous processes of European centuries; however, the appearance of the railway starts a new era at least to the same extent as the car and the airplane in the twentieth century. The journeys becoming systematic and perhaps most tightly connected to pilgrimages from the Middle Ages on assured the “transfer” of ideas, attitudes and cultural materials in the widest sense; the journeys and personal encounters (of course, taking place, in part, through correspondence) of the more cultured layers mainly, are to be highly appreciated from the viewpoint of the history of mentalities and society.

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The Image of Transylvania in the Works of Two Contemporary Romanian Historians. Translation and Related Views on History

Abstract

“As every inhabited area, culturally Transylvania can also be conceived of mainly as a symbolic space. Starting from its physical, material reality, our perceptions are made up into a subjective image of the area in question. This is the real Transylvania, or rather, the place in connection with which we formulate our ideas and to which we adjust our deeds. This image may seem so real also because it is equally shared by many, occasionally several millions. If many see things in the same way, we could say, this means that they are so in reality, though most of the time we only share prejudices, clichés and misunderstandings” - Sorin Mitu writes. Comparative imagology examines the formation of these collective ideas as well as the issues of identity and attitude to the Other. As a member of the imagology research group at the Department of Humanities of Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania, Miercurea Ciuc, Romania, I translated one chapter of Sorin Mitu’s volume entitled Transilvania mea [My Transylvania]. During the translation process it became obvious to me that if translation is not only linguistic but also cultural transmission, it is especially true for the translation of historical works and that it would be worth examining whether some kind of rapprochement could be detected between the Romanian and Hungarian historical research of the past decades; if yes, whether this is reflected in the mutual translation of the respective works

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Quo Vadis, Homo Viator? / Journeys in Jože Hradil’s Faceless Pictures

Abstract

In Jože Hradil’s Faceless Pictures [Slike brez obrazov] the characters go astray or get into the attraction of adventures and set off for a journey. The spiritual and identity shifts can be interpreted along these eternal human desires as well. A patchwork of remembering and forgetting, the internal journeys of identity preservation, spontaneous or forced assimilation, tolerance and all kinds of politics-induced human deformations are depicted in the novel. The text traces the roles of the journey defined by Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant such as the search for justice, peace, immortality and finding the spiritual center. This study examines how the concrete physical journey changes into an internal road determining the evolution of personality.

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Intercultural Passages in Ottó Tolnai’s Textual Universe

Abstract

The literary palette of Tolnai’s textual universe within the Hungarian literature from Vojvodina is based, among others, upon the intertwining of various cultural entities. The social and cultural spaces of “Big Yugoslavia,” the phenomena, figures, and works of the European-oriented Yugoslav and ethnic culture (literature, painting, book publishing, theatre, sports, etc.), the mentalities of the migrant worker’s life, the legends of the Tito cult embed the narrative procedures of particular texts by Tolnai into a rich culture-historical context. Similarly to the model of Valery’s Mediterranean, the narrator’s Janus-faced Yugoslavia simultaneously generates concrete and utopian spaces, folding upon one another. Above the micro spaces (towns, houses, flats) evolving along the traces of reality, there float the Proustian concepts of scent and colour of the Adriatic sea (salt, azure, mimosa, lavender, laurel). The nostalgia towards the lost Eden rises high and waves about the “grand form” of Big Yugoslavia, the related space of which is the Monarchy. The counterpoints of the grand forms are “the small, void forms,” provinces, regions (Vojvodina, North Bačka) and the micro spaces coded into them. The text analyses of the paper examine the intercultural motions and identityforming culture-historical elements of the outlined space system.

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New Hungarian Mythology Animated
Self-Portraits of the Nation

Abstract

Hungarian civil religion in general, and various ethno-pagan spiritualities in special are deeply unsatisfied with the canonical version(s) of ancient national history. Screening history is an act of powerful pictorial mythologization of historical discourses and also a visual expression of national characterology. In recent years two animated films were released, telling the ancient history of Hungarians, but the stories they tell are very different. Not long after Marcell Jankovics’s Song of the Miraculous Hind1 (Ének a csodaszarvasról, 2002), a long fantasy animation based on ethnographic and historical data, another similar long animation: Heaven’s Sons (Az Ég fiai, 2010) started to circulate on YouTube and other various online Hungarian video-sharing channels. It seems as if the latter, an amateur digital compilation by Tibor Molnár, would have been made in response to the first film, to correct its “errors”, by retelling the key narratives. Built mainly on two recent mythopoetic works: the Arvisura and the Yotengrit (both of them holy scriptures for some Hungarian Ethno-Pagan movements), Molnár’s animation is an excellent summary of a multi-faceted new Hungarian mythology, comprising many alternative historical theses. My paper aims to present two competing images of the Nation on the basis of several parallel scenes, plots and symbolic representations from the two animations. A close comparative investigation of these elements with the help of the Kapitány couple’s mythanalytic method will show the essential differences between the two national self-conceptions expressed through the imaginary

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Disputed Words of Disputed Territories: Whose Is Kürtőskalács?

Abstract

Kürtőskalács, or chimney cake, is a Hungarian bakery specialty, made from sweet, yeast dough. The Hungarian lexeme kürtőskalács has two etymological explanations, and it has a lot of synonyms. The disputes over the paternity of this product between Romanian authorities and Hungarians have made us consider the history and origin of the term, the evolution of the recipe, and other additional information regarding linguistic, cultural, and translational implications (we have identified the first attempts to translate the recipe of the dish into Romanian). The very first written recipe known today dates back to 1784, when Gazda Aszszonyi Böltseségnek Tárháza, Dániel Istvánné Gróf Mária Mikes’s cookery book was issued, although the word had been mentioned in much older documents. The name kürtőskalács has not penetrated the Romanian language yet, although attempts to translate its recipe can be spotted in the 19th century. The words used by Romanians are either transcriptions or borrowings, or adapted or coined variants (cozonac secuiesc, colac secuiesc) or even calques (the case of tulnic, which is used to echo the phonetic similarity of kürt (trumpet) and kürtő (chimney stove) in Hungarian, as tulnic means a kind of trumpet). Our research focuses on the history of this product, the history of the words related to it, taking into account one of the most interesting parts of gastronomic literature, i.e. the history of cookery books.

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Forms of Recall – Politics of Memory. Memory as the Non-Chronological Narrative Form of Historical-Political Identity Quest in the Kádár Regime and Its Survival in the Postcommunist Period

Abstract

In the film art of the Kádár regime the modernist non-chronological narrative mode became the dominant form of remembrance and communicative memory. In the 35-year period between 1956 and 1990 we can find thirty-five films of this type (e.g. Dialogue [Párbeszéd, János Herskó, 1963], Twenty Hours [Húsz óra, Zoltán Fábri, 1965], Cold Days [Hideg napok, András Kovács, 1966], Love [Szerelem, Károly Makk, 1971], Lovefilm [Szerelmesfilm, István Szabó, 1970], Diary for My Children [Napló gyermekeimnek, Márta Mészáros, 1982]), the majority of which thematize the communicative memory of the recent past of the period (World War II, the Hungarian Holocaust, the 1950s, 1956, the Kádár consolidation) as opposed to the amnesia politics of the time. Although this cinematic corpus is connected to the film history of the Kádár era with all its elements (form: modernism; theme: communicative memory; political discourse: recollection; official politics of memory; the counterdiscourse of Kádár’s amnesia politics), it survives in the postcommunist period (e.g. Hungarian Fragment [Pannon töredék, András Sólyom, 1998], White Palms [Fehér tenyér, Szabolcs Hajdu, 2006], Mom and Other Loonies in the Family [Anyám és más futóbolondok a családból, Ibolya Fekete, 2015]). After presenting the non-chronological narrative form of historical-political identity quest, the paper seeks to find reasons for the survival of this form and tries to draw conclusions regarding the social aspect and modes of expression of the Hungarian film history of the postcommunist period.

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Treasury of the National Museum – Jewellery and Numismatic Cabinet

Abstract

The new Treasury of the National Museum will present rare crafts-manship of precious stones and metals in connection with the natural form of these materials. The Treasury will be followed by a Numismatic Cabinet, which will introduce the history of money from Antiquity till today. The Treasury and the Numismatic Cabinet will be interconnected in a joint hall devoted to gold and silver and they will be thematically intertwined in the hallway with the presentation of production technologies. The Treasury is created in close cooperation within the National Museum – the Natural History Museum and the Historical Museum. The base line will consist of minerals from diamonds to quartz and organic matter, which will join together with goldsmiths and artisanal arts into a unique complex. The main goal of the new Numismatic Cabinet is the establishment of a numismatic exposition that will be both scholarly exact and intriguing at the same time, educating visitors of the development of payment methods from Antiquity until today in a comprehensible and attractive way. The chronological exposition will be divided into several basic thematic sequential units.

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People

Abstract

The People exhibition will be composed of several closely interconnected expositions. The first will be the mainly biological-anthropological exposition Man and His Predecessors, which will continually transform into an archaeological and cultural-anthropological exposition Story of the Prehistoric Past. A smaller exhibition devoted to diseases and their treatment will form a standalone unit. The final exposition will be dedicated to Antique arts and culture. The exposition block will encompass the most comprehensive presentation of anthropology, prehistory and Antique material culture in the Czech lands. General patterns of humans, societies and culture will be presented through the development of man and Czech and European prehistory and Antiquity. Interlinking approaches of various disciplines will form the fundament for original and current presentations of individual topics. It will offer not only interpretations and conclusions, but it will also reveal the possibilities and limits of their study methods. The ratio of presentation forms will change throughout the individual parts of the exposition blocks. The visual focal point will pass from models, reconstructions, replicas and dioramas towards the impressive power of original exhibits.

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