Romanian Modern Literature (from 1830) Part I

By | February 3, 2022

Classicism and Romanticism (1830–80)

The patriotic striving for liberation from foreign rule and unification of all Romanians received new impulses after the end of the Phanariot rule. A deluge of translations, v. a. from French, the establishment of the theater as a cultural institution, the establishment of magazines, literary societies and schools promoted cultural life in the sense of the constitution of a Romanian cultural nation. The organizers were writers such as Gheorghe Asachi (* 1788, † 1869) and I. Heliade-Rădulescu, who, influenced by French classicism, wanted to convey ideals and taste based on ancient models.

In literature, the effects of various western currents such as classicism, enlightenment and romanticism overlapped and complemented one another. Was the poetry v. a. by poets from the Văcărescu family, among others. Iancu Văcărescu (* 1792, † 1863) and Costache Conachi (* 1778, † 1849) represented and partly committed to the anacreontic model, so after 1830 a young generation of poets (G. Alexandrescu, D. Bolintineanu) brought new themes, motifs and moods into Romanian poetry, reminiscent of models such as Lord Byron, A. de Lamartine, V. Hugo.

The first phase of Romanticism (1830–60) was shaped by the intellectual and cultural atmosphere in the run-up to and during the bourgeois-democratic revolution and extended to the unification of the principalities of Moldova and Wallachia. The “Forty-Eight” (Paşoptişti) headed by N. Bălcescu strived for a free Romanian state as well as a national culture and literature. The journal »Dacia literară«, published by the historian, politician and writer M. Kogălniceanu, propagated a reflection on the values ​​of one’s own history and the approach to folk poetry. Representatives of this national romantic and patriotic literature, which thematized the people and history, were V. Alecsandri, Alecu Russo (* 1819, † 1859) and C. Negruzzi, the founders of modern Romanian novelists.

According to Calculatorinc, the second phase of Romanticism, known as High Romanticism (1860–81), replaced belief in progress with an atmosphere of resignation. The strengthening of reactionary social forces led to the retreat of the new generation of romantics from a world hostile to the arts; they took refuge in the thematization of pristine nature and the common people. M. Eminescu, an outstanding personality with diverse interests in literary, linguistic, scientific and political fields, brought a pessimistic worldview into Romanian literature. His cult of genius, his love of nature and a. his great fantasy designs reveal his kinship with German romanticism. The novel (D. Bolintineanu, N. Filimon).

The most powerful determining force in Romanian intellectual life in the late 19th century was the Junimea literary society, founded in 1863. Its members were young, foreign-educated, mostly Germanophile intellectuals who advocated a qualitative renewal of Romanian culture. Its leading representative, T. Maiorescu, is considered to be the founder of modern, aesthetically sound Romanian literary criticism and became a mentor of literary life at the time. The wide circle of Junimea friends included such important writers as M. Eminescu, the critical-satirical playwright and novelist I. L. Caragiale, the humorous narrator I. Creangă, the author of historical novels Alexandru Odobescu (* 1834, † 1895) and I. Slavici and D. Zamfirescu, who created realistic village prose. G. Coșbuc is considered the »poet of the Romanian peasant« with his popular and patriotic poems and ballads.

Tradition and the onset of modernity (1880–1920)

The societal and social restructuring processes at the end of the century resulted in an increased interest in the representation of urban life and led to the formation of further groups with specific cultural-political and literary programs. Controversial about T. Maiorescu’s aesthetics, the socialist Contemporanul circle around the literary theorist and leading representative of the Romanian socialist movement C. Dobrogeanu-Gherea pleaded for a social function of literature.

But folk ideologies, which were disseminated at the beginning of the 20th century by the magazines »Sămănătorul« (edited by N. Iorga) and »Viața românească« (edited by G. Ibrăileanu), had a stronger effect on the development of literature, and a nationally specific, predominantly peasant life promoted related literature. While Sămănătorism, with recourse to Romanticism, raised the harmonious village society to the ideal (A. Vlahuță, O. Goga, early work by M. Sadoveanu), the writers of socially critical Poporanism, one of the literary historian and critic G. Ibrăileanu, created initiated movement, from a democratic perspective an anti-sentimental and anti-idyllic image of the Romanian village (G. Galaction, I. Agârbiceanu).

Unlike the native seal developed – initiated by A. Macedonski and promoted by literary historians and linguists O. Densuşianu of Symbolism. Important representatives were I. Minulescu, G. Bacovia, D. Anghel and others. The co-founder of Dadaism, T. Tzara, and the leading Romanian avant-garde of the 1920s, I. Vinea, also emerged from this movement of Romanian modernism.

Romanian Modern Literature 1