Rephrasing Nationalism The Aesthetic Battles around a Political Concept in the ‘Junimea’ Generation


Abstract: The generation of writers around the society of ‘Junimea’ in the 1870s‐1880s Romania has been perceived by the traditional scholarship as one that made the much awaited leap towards modernism, thanks to its defence of the ‘aesthetic autonomy’. This paper tries to demonstrate, following the theses of nationalism studies (B. Anderson) adapted to the Romanian cultural analysis by authors like S. Alexandrescu and A. Drace‐Francis, that the prominent writers of that time, Mihai Eminescu, Ion Creangă, Ion Luca Caragiale and others, actively created the literary expression of a ‘new’, modern, positive nationalism. The paper analyses the topics of „modern’ nationalism (the erosion of heroic history, the beautiful peasant life, the folklore full of wisdom), and special attention is given to the rhetoric of the new nationalism, to be found especially in Creangă’s Amintiri din copilărie/ Memories of My Boyhood and Eminescu’s political poems (Scrisoarea III/ Third Letter). The aesthetic sophistication of these texts is at least partly indebted to the complexity of their nationalist message.

Keywords: cultural nationalism, aesthetic autonomy, disillusionment with heroism, national character illustrated in folklore, rhetoric of belonging