Noontime Scholars Lecture: Anca Mandru, “‘Born through literary critique’: Early Romanian Socialism and the Literary Marketplace”

Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea sprang out of the Romanian literary tradition with new methods, new subject matter, and in the political theme of socialism. This interesting historical figure was the centerpiece of Anca Mandru’s presentation, “’Born Through Literary Critique’: Early Romanian Socialism and the Literary Marketplace” in a Noontime Scholars Lecture on November 15, 2016. Set against the backdrop of Romania’s socialist history that began just a few decades after Gherea’s death, Mandru’s discussion focused on his personal history and reception by both the public and intelligentsia.

Anca Mandru

Anca Mandru giving her Noontime Scholars Lecture

Mandru discussed Gherea’s birthplace and Jewishness in terms of a “foreigner’s complex”. Born in the Yekaterinoslav Governorate of the Russian Empire (now in Ukraine), Gherea escaped to Romania at twenty, and began building himself as a literary critic and as a businessman. Mandru stressed that learning Romanian as a 2nd language resulted in grammatical mistakes and choppy Romanian prose that actually affected Romanian literary tradition.

According to Mandru, Gherea was loathed by Romanian critics. Not only was he a non-native Romanian, but his style was unorthodox for the Romanian literary tradition. Because of his strong connection to socialism, his writings did not take on the same a-political literary style like his contemporaries. In addition to his unorthodox writing style, he was also very successful outside of academia. He owned a prosperous restaurant in the Ploieşti railway station, and was often depicted as both a theoretician and butcher in literary journals of the time. Mandru suggested that his connection to the public and distance from the ivory tower of academia popularized his methods and theories, but also made him a target for criticism by other writers.

Despite Gherea being a socialist thinker, his work was not recognized by the Romanian communist party. Mandru suggested that this was due to his opinions on the Russian Revolution. Gherea disagreed with the revolution, and therefore was only recognized later in Romania’s communist history.

Mandru’s presentation offered an introduction to literary tradition in Romania and shed light on the ways in which literary tradition changes throughout history.

Madeline Artibee is a REEEC M.A. student.

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