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Reviewed by:
  • Romanian Literature as World Literature ed. by Mircea Martin, Christian Moraru, and Andrei Terian
  • Letitia Guran
Martin, Mircea, Christian Moraru, and Andrei Terian, eds. Romanian Literature as World Literature. London & New York: Bloomsbury, 2018. Pp. 376. $84.00 US hardcover; $59.40 US ebook.

As its editors and contributors explicitly claim, Romanian Literature as World Literature (RLWL) is a manifesto that functions at multiple levels. At the most fundamental level, the book addresses issues of critical misreading and (self-)misrepresentation that have been perpetuated internally by the nationalist paradigm dominating Romanian literary history for the past two centuries. On the world market, misreadings of Romanian literature were caused by the ideological impositions of the Iron Curtain era, the lack of good translations, and the biased mechanisms of promotion coupled with cultural colonialism. Under these circumstances, the editors and contributors make the case for an urgent repositioning of Romanian literature on the world scene by claiming that "when reframed intersectionally, as nodal sub-systems of a vaster, ever fluid continuum, the so-called 'marginal,' 'minor,' and 'small' literatures acquire an unforeseen and unorthodox centrality" ("Introduction" 5). The first step that Romanian criticism should take, therefore, in keeping with theories in world criticism welcoming connections beyond spatial borderlines, is to destabilize the "one language-one nation-one literature organic correspondence" ("Introduction" 9). Since it was the prevalent nationalist paradigm of literary history and criticism throughout modernity that made categories such as locality and specificity of the "national spirit" central, it is time to bring neglected worldwide networks of cultural interaction front and centre.

What the book proposes instead, in concert with the latest developments and debates in network and system theories, postcolonial studies, and comparative literature are new ways of discussing the world literary canon, of rearranging the world cultural map, and of promoting the kind of literary criticism that is "world-oriented," "nodal," and based on a "liquid epistemology"-a criticism that takes us beyond "nationally territorialized realit[ies]" ("Introduction" 16). The critical models at work in the book can be surmised from the references proposed in most of the chapters: Wai Chee Dimock, David Damrosch, Pascale Casanova, Emily Apter, Arjun Appadurai, Homi Bhabha, Anthony Appiah, John Neubauer, Marcel Cornis-Pope, Gayatri Spivak, Mario Valdez, Linda Hutcheon, Katherine Verdery, Larry Wolff, and Romanian names equally engaged in the redefinition of world literatures.

Placing deterritorialization of literary history at the forefront, the contributors propose to "weaken the 'umbilical cord' between determinate locations and cultural formations such as discourse, identity, and community" ("Introduction" 7) which have been traditionally considered as organically linked to certain national territories. In decupling the spaces of "nation" and "literature" the book challenges the nation-building project of modernity (Goldis) rooted in the premise of the "indissoluble [End Page 686] connection among language, literature, and nation" (Moraru 9). More importantly, it takes on the urgent task of questioning the "homogeneous," "ethnocentric," "racialist," and even "racist" viewpoint (11) of G. Calinescu's magnum opus, Istoria literaturii romane de la origini pana-n prezent (1941), which has dominated the landscape of Romanian literary historiography since its publication, and authoritatively imposed the critical style that the contributors to and editors of this book challenge and seek to replace. As Andrei Terian maintains, this approach breaks the "epistemological mold of methodological nationalism" and proposes instead "supra-, extra-, and transnational sites of expression, commerce and interchange" (13). The result is, in the wake of Dimock and Spivak, a reading that "unpack[s] a text's wordliness […] as a bundle of relations with other texts, people, and places" (18) beyond those circumscribed by the nation-state. Alex Goldis argues that such an interactional approach, which reconsiders the relationships between translations and transcultural intertextuality on the one hand and creativity/originality on the other, is able to reposition Romanian literature in the world arena as a system of flows and interactions.

Carmen Musat points out that at the beginning of the twentieth century, Eugen Lovinescu, the Romanian proponent of cultural synchronization, followed similar principles when maintaining that cultural imitation has been and should be a necessary step in creating original artworks. Though many misunderstood Lovinescu's enthusiasm for...


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