The title of this volume might inspire scepticism on at least two accounts: firstly, the concept of “cultural model” is reminiscent of the early age of comparative literary studies, and might therefore seem rather antiquated or too closely connected to the traditional concerns of comparative literature, such as the emphasis on the circulation of literary motifs or the focus on cultural centres rather than peripheries; secondly, given the general decline of French cultural influence over the last decades, the volume might appear to deal with matters of a strictly historical nature, with no grip on the current state of affairs in literary and cultural studies. However, French culture had such a decisive impact on Romanian literature throughout the 19th and the 20th century that the history of Romanian literature would hardly make any sense without the concept of “cultural model,” as outmoded as it might seem. One must also bear in mind that the waning of French cultural influence in Romania is only a recent development, and it is less strong in literary theory and cultural studies than it is in literature. It is precisely the peculiarities of this long‑standing Romanian affinity for the French world which are apt to inspire fresh perspectives on traditional concepts in comparative literature, such as influence, synchronisation or cultural asymmetry. Taking all this into account, the current issue of EURESIS aims to map some of the most significant moments in the history of Franco‑Romanian literary and cultural relations, as well as to address theoretical issues underlying the analysis of the French “model” in Romanian culture. Most of the articles included in this volume were initially presented at the Colloquium of the Romanian Association of General and Comparative Literature (ALGCR) which took place in Bucharest on the 16th and the 17th of July 2018, with the special participation of the French Association of General and Comparative Literature.
The opening article, penned by Jean‑Marie Schaeffer, addresses some of the inherent complexities of the concept of cultural model, alluded to above. The paper looks at a few of the main presuppositions of comparative literature—ways of conceptualising literary transfers which tend to go unnoticed but which nevertheless shape the way we think about cultural models and influence. The next article, written by Christophe Imbert, delves into the history of Franco‑Romanian contacts and offers a fresh perspective on the relationship between the two literatures, showing how the poetic sensibility of Maurice de Guérin, Frédéric Mistral, Jean Moréas and Francis Jammes, all of them poets with a marginal status in French literary history, was brought to prominence in another country, long after their fame at home had faded, through the admiration and emulation of Romanian modernist poets. Pierre‑Yves Boissau looks at one of the most famous bicultural intellectuals of Romanian origin, Emil Cioran, and analyses his views on nationhood and nationality. Ioan Pânzaru’s first contribution to this volume examines the two most authoritative Romanian theories of cultural influence—E. Lovinescu’s and Nicolae Iorga’s—and brings into question their pertinence today. Mircea Martin offers an analysis as well as a critique of the Barthesian concept of nuance.
The second section of the current issue focuses on specific historical figures—writers and artists—and the way they engaged with French or Romanian culture from the first half of the nineteenth century all the way to the end of the twentieth century. Simona Drăgan’s paper discusses 19th‑century French painter and lithographer Auguste Raffet’s journey to Southern Russia, which occasioned several very important lithographs of Romanian churches. Exploring the deeper meaning behind Romanian‑French writer Anna de Noailles’ surprising stylistic choices, Dinu Flămând sees her relationship with language as the mark of a true, yet underappreciated poet. Ion Pop re‑examines the dissemination of symbolism on Romanian soil, highlighting the “prismatic deviations” from the French sources of this literary movement in the works of the most important Romanian symbolist poets. Paul Cernat offers an imagological study of the (cross‑)representations of the French foreigner and the Moldavian native in Mihail Sadoveanu’s fiction, while Muguraș Constantinescu compares the self‑translation strategies of three Romanian‑born authors who sought to establish their reputation in France: Panait Istrati, Ilarie Voronca and Emil Cioran. Gina Puică offers valuable information on Théodore Cazaban, a hitherto neglected representative of post‑war Romanian exile. Ioan Pânzaru makes a second contribution to the volume with an analysis of the escape motif in Petru Dumitriu’s work (and life). Cătălina Stoica presents extensive evidence for Henriette Yvonne Stahl’s indebtedness to late‑19th‑century French Decadent literature. Adrian Mureșan looks at one of the most famous figures of Romanian Communist prisons, writer and monk Nicolae Steinhardt, and interprets his declarations of attachment to French existentialism as veiled protests against tyranny. Crina Bud outlines the distinctive features of Adrian Marino’s comparativism by retracing the history of the journal he founded in the 1970s, Cahiers roumains d’études littéraires, a journal whose successor today is EURESIS. Alex Ciorogar and Marius Conkan shift the focus to more recent developments in the methodological framework of Romanian literary studies and argue in favour of two contemporary French approaches: the literary sociology of Jérôme Meizoz (Alex Ciorogar) and Bertrand Westphal’s geocriticism (Marius Conkan). Finally, Ioana Vultur maps the critical reception of contemporary Romanian writer Gabriela Adameșteanu’s novels in France.
The next section, “Forum,” explores the issues of cultural influence and biculturalism from a more personal standpoint, in essays by Serge Fauchereau, Victor Ivanovici and Petre Răileanu. The section entitled “Miscellanea” brings together articles that look at cultural relations from a wider perspective. Corin Braga tackles more general issues concerning the representation of cultural alterity in fiction and examines the way early modern writers resorted to the narrative form of the adventure voyage in order to imagine alien civilizations. Nicolas Aude analyses the French reception of Dostoevsky’s fiction, pointing out the intriguing tendency of French interpreters to read the Russian writer’s novels as confessions. Mathieu Mokhtari moves the discussion from literature to cinema and provides an analysis of the sometimes insurmountable difficulties encountered by the French translators of the Romanian film Aferim!. The volume ends with a book review section which privileges recent Romanian translations of French scholarly works in art theory, intellectual history and literary theory.
The wide scope of the present volume and the stimulating reflections occasioned by its theme seem to indicate that much is still to be said on such a timeworn topic as the French model. The following issues of EURESIS will continue to explore, expand, challenge and reshape the concept of “cultural model” by examining the German and Anglo-American impact on Romanian literature, art and theory.