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Comparative Hungarian Cultural Studies

Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek
Louise O. Vasvári
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Purdue University Press
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    Comparative Hungarian Cultural Studies
    Book Description:

    The studies presented in the collected volume Comparative Hungarian Cultural Studies -- edited by Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek and Louise O. Vasvári -- are intended as an addition to scholarship in (comparative) cultural studies. More specifically, the articles represent scholarship about Central and East European culture with special attention to Hungarian culture, literature, cinema, new media, and other areas of cultural expression. On the landscape of scholarship in Central and East Europe (including Hungary), cultural studies has acquired at best spotty interest and studies in the volume aim at forging interest in the field. The volume's articles are in five parts: part one, "History Theory and Methodology of Comparative Hungarian Cultural Studies," include studies on the prehistory of multicultural and multilingual Central Europe, where vernacular literatures were first institutionalized for developing a sense of national identity. Part two, "Comparative Hungarian Cultural Studies and Literature and Culture" is about the re-evaluation of canonical works, as well as Jewish studies which has been explored inadequately in Central European scholarship. Part three, "Comparative Hungarian Cultural Studies and Other Arts," includes articles on race, jazz, operetta, and art, fin-de-siècle architecture, communist-era female fashion, and cinema. In part four, "Comparative Hungarian Cultural Studies and Gender," articles are about aspects of gender and sex(uality) with examples from fin-de-siècle transvestism, current media depictions of heterodox sexualities, and gendered language in the workplace. The volume's last section, part five, "Comparative Hungarian Cultural Studies of Contemporary Hungary," includes articles about post-1989 issues of race and ethnic relations, citizenship and public life, and new media.

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-175-2
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
  3. Introduction to Comparative Hungarian Cultural Studies
    (pp. 1-8)
    Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek and Louise O. Vasvári

    The articles presented in this volume are intended as an addition to scholarship in comparative cultural studies and the study of Central and East European culture with special attention to Hungarian culture. The studies in the volume are from a wide array of fields in the humanities and social sciences including literary study, sociology, history, political science, architecture, fine arts, painting, oral literature, linguistics, music, new media, cinema, and television. With regard to the underlying theoretical framework and its application in various fields, it is important to point out that on the landscape of scholarship in Central and East Europe,...

  4. Part One History, Theory, and Methodology for Comparative Hungarian Cultural Studies
    • The Study of Hungarian Culture as Comparative Central European Cultural Studies
      (pp. 11-33)
      Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek and Louise O. Vasvári

      As we discuss in the section below, "Comparative Hungarian cultural studies as comparative Central European cultural studies," cultural studies in Central and East European scholarship in general and in Hungarian scholarship in particular has not acquired widespread interest for a number of reasons, unlike in the Anglophone world or in the landscape of scholarship in general. Hence—while there is ample material as to what cultural studies offers to and produces in humanities and social sciences scholarship—we introduce the field in a summary manner, followed by an introduction to the field of "comparative cultural studies," its application in the...

    • Literacy, Culture, and History in the Work of Thienemann and Hajnal
      (pp. 34-46)
      András Kiséry

      Arguably one of the most important changes transforming literary and cultural studies in the last three decades has been the emergence of interest in media in which literary communication and cultural exchange occur. In turn, this manifested itself partly in the rise of "media studies" to the status of a discipline, but it has been more pervasive than that: the history of the book and the history of reading have become burgeoning fields of research, and serious engagement with them is now an unavoidable part even of mainstream literary scholarship (on the history of media and literary study, see, e.g.,...

    • Vámbéry, Victorian Culture, and Stoker's Dracula
      (pp. 47-58)
      David Mandler

      In an age of celebrated British travelers and explorers such as Richard Burton, David Livingston, and many others, the rise of Ármin (Arminius) Vámbéry (1832-1913) to the status of London's lion of the season in 1864, followed by his subsequent fifty-year cultural presence in Great Britain as both the most famous representative and explicator of the Hungarian nation, might appear to be an unlikely phenomenon (on this, see also Mandler). Yet, despite his obscure origins, which he later transformed into an asset in his life-long project of projecting a recognizable image of himself, documentary evidence demonstrates that Vámbéry, born Herman...

    • Memory and Modernity in Fodor's Geographical Work on Hungary
      (pp. 59-71)
      Steven Jobbitt

      On Christmas Day 1946, Ferenc Fodor put the finishing touches on a completed draft ofA magyar lét földrajza(The Geography of Hungarian Existence), a monumental, 689-page manuscript he had begun two years earlier, during the first days of the Soviet army's siege of Budapest. Noting perhaps melodramatically that the title had come to him "on a dark afternoon in late December 1944 … amidst the noise of the siege and the explosions of bombs," Fodor stated that, from the outset, his study could be about nothing other than the nature and meaning of Hungarian "being" in a violent and...

    • The Fragmented (Cultural) Body in Polcz's Asszony a fronton (A Woman on the Front)
      (pp. 72-86)
      Louise O. Vasvári

      In feminist scholarship the study of autobiography, or the generically broader and more useful term "life writing," is useful for showing how we might read the geography of identity of the postmodern subject as positioned in multiple discourses. Considered within such a frame, autobiographical accounts are fallible re-enacted life histories that need to be interrogated for their cultural structures and for their culturally formed blindness and unconscious programming. Life writing is a process of textual identity production that is also increasingly important in the contemporary world for its strategic use of a life frame that straddles major social and cultural...

  5. Part Two Comparative Hungarian Cultural Studies of Literature and Culture
    • Contemporary Hungarian Literary Criticism and the Memory of the Socialist Past
      (pp. 89-101)
      Györgyi Horváth

      Is there any difference between contemporary Central/East European and West European/ US-American thinking concerning the political function of literary studies? Does the memory of the common socialist past in which the politicization of the aesthetic was an everyday experience still have an effect on contemporary literary criticism in Central and East Europe? To be sure, Central and East European literatures, with regard to their institutional, political, economical, and social conditions, went through radical changes since the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1989, cultural industries have been decentralized and privatized, and control of the government and the communist party over...

    • The Absurd as a Form of Realism in Hungarian Literature
      (pp. 102-112)
      Lilla Tőke

      Despite the prevalence and popularity of absurdist aesthetics in Central and East European art, there is surprisingly little systematic study of this cultural tradition. The few analyses available consider the phenomenon solely within the framework of a modernist, existentialist philosophy. My postulate is that absurd literature, theater, and cinema in Central and East Europe concerns itself neither with the universe as a whole, nor with the modern individual's alienated position in this universe. It is not the product of any, general ontological condition, nor is it a symptom of historical disruption, a crisis in the "chrono-logical discourse." Rather, absurd art...

    • On the German and English Versions of Márai's A gyertyák csonkig égnek (Die Glut and Embers)
      (pp. 113-122)
      Peter Sherwood

      Sándor Márai (1900-1989) was already a well-known and distinguished writer when he left Hungary in 1948, never to return from an exile spent for the most part in the US. His work was banned by the communist regime and he refused all contact, vowing never to return while the regime remained in power. Nonetheless his Canadian (Hungarian-language) publisher's editions of his diaries—it is for his contribution to this distinctively Hungarian variety of the memoir genre that he will be best remembered—were regularly smuggled into communist Hungary and circulated widely among his many admirers. The republication of the entire...

    • Exile, Homeland, and Milieu in the Oral Lore of Carpatho-Rusyn Jews
      (pp. 123-136)
      Ilana Rosen

      The oral or folk narrative of various Jewish Israeli origin or ethnic groups depicts the life of Jews in exile over hundreds of years and through recurrent passages in place, as well as central themes or motifs that persisted in this narrative. In this article I present a literary-cultural reading of memories and narratives of Israeli Jews who used to be part of Hungarian Jewry. Surprisingly, Jewish exile narratives—in general—do not emphasize longing for the Promised Land to the extent we would expect, considering the religious dictates relating to the place of the Land in the life of...

  6. Part Three Comparative Hungarian Cultural Studies and the Other Arts
    • Nation, Gender, and Race in the Ragtime Culture of Millennial Budapest
      (pp. 139-149)
      Éva Federmayer

      United in 1873 from three towns—Óbuda, Buda, and Pest—the newly enlarged Budapest was swept by the millennial exposition and celebrations in 1896, the spirit of which remained unabated roughly until the outbreak of World War I (see Lukács; Vörös; Nemes,The Once and Future Budapest). Not only in urban infrastructure but also in terms of symbolic politics, Budapest became the heart of Hungary (Gyáni 9). The imagined community (Anderson) was busy defining itself, mapping the body of the nation onto an imaginary history (see Gerő,Imagined History.) In an effort to stage a new Hungary firmly ensconced in...

    • Jewish (Over)tones in Viennese and Budapest Operetta
      (pp. 150-160)
      Ivan Sanders

      It is often noted that many of the artists responsible for the second flowering of Viennese operetta at the beginning of the twentieth century—composers, librettists, producers, performers—were actually Hungarian. What is less frequently discussed is that most of them were Jewish born. Among the composers there is, first and foremost, Imre Kálmán, and such lesser lights as Viktor Jacobi, Albert Szirmai, Pál Ábrahám in Hungary, prominent Austrian operetta composers like Oscar Straus and Leo Fall, and a number of others. The notable exception is Ferenc Lehár, although he, too, was a typical product of the dual monarchy. His...

    • Curtiz, Hungarian Cinema, and Hollywood
      (pp. 161-170)
      Catherine Portuges

      The Hungarian Jewish film director Michael Curtiz is one of the most enigmatic of film directors, often underrated despite his craftsmanship and versatility (on Curtiz's biography, see, e.g., Viviani). Although his emigration from Hungary preceded the Holocaust, his pre-Hollywood life remains marginalized in film history, notwithstanding a voluminous filmography that includes his 1942 masterpiece,Casablanca. Renowned for its portrayal of the triumph of antifascist resistance and solidarity over cynicism and isolationism, its cast and crew represented 35 different countries of origin, many of whom were Jewish refugees, émigré(e)s, and exiles from nazi persecution who had been banned from the European...

    • Lost Dreams and Sacred Visions in the Art of Ámos
      (pp. 171-181)
      Debra Pfister

      In late 1944, while the German army attempted to sustain its military offensive against the allies, Imre Ámos was taken, along with his battalion, to serve as a forced laborer (munkaszolgálatos) and then was taken to a concentration camp at Ohrdruf (near Weimar), where he perished. Despite his disappearance and death in the chaos of the last days of the war, Ámos's life and the times in which he lived are alive in the body of work he left behind. Faced with anti-Semitism and the challenges of being an artist in interwar Hungary, Ámos pursued his career seeking ways to...

    • Art Nouveau and Hungarian Cultural Nationalism
      (pp. 182-194)
      Megan Brandow-Faller

      In 1902 a fierce debate erupted in the Hungarian Parliament, with members not contesting politics, finance, or war, but the proper vernacular of modern architecture with regard to the ornate house of parliament along the Danube (see Szabadi). Hungary's neo-GothicOrszágházhad been inaugurated only six years earlier in celebration of the national millennium and the autonomy gained from the 1867Kiegyezés(Compromise), which gave Hungary control over internal affairs, excepting diplomacy, war, and finance. By the turn of the century, however, national extremists were tiring of the dual rule and cultural representations thereof. Although historicist buildings like the Parliament...

  7. Part Four Comparative Hungarian Cultural Studies and Gender Studies
    • Hungarian Political Posters, Clinton, and the (Im)possibility of Political Drag
      (pp. 197-207)
      Erzsébet Barát

      In this article I explore the contested relationship between popular cultural entertainment and party politics and interrogate the terms of feminine citizenship in elite party politics. The data for my comparative analysis is the controversy around Hillary Clinton's femininity in the US presidential campaign and the outcome of the allegedly alternative "lesbian" billboards that were meant to promote participation at the 2002 elections in Hungary. I argue that the debates in the US and Hungary did not help to change the cultural backlash against female citizenship. The backlash shows above all the contemporary need for (woman) politicians and political movements...

    • The Cold War, Fashion, and Resistance in 1950s Hungary
      (pp. 208-219)
      Katalin Medvedev

      In this article I discuss the social, ideological, and economic differences between the United States and Hungary during the 1950s through the examination of the expressive features of women's dress. The main purposes of this analysis are to explain how dress served as a significant means of conveying the divisions between the capitalist West and communist East during the Cold War and how the female body became one of the crucial sites for waging the everyday battles of the Cold War opponents. Because less information is available about the construction of gender and the sartorial practices of women in communist...

    • Sándor/Sarolta Vay, a Gender Bender in Fin-de-Siècle Hungary
      (pp. 220-231)
      Anna Borgos

      In my article I discuss the problematics of gender-bending with the example of count Sándor (born Sarolta) Vay de Vaja et Luskod, a Hungarian aristocrat and journalist. She was born a woman, but was raised as a boy and lived the life of the traditional gentry of the period. I introduce and analyze how she/he was described and located by her/his contemporaries and how she/he saw and thought about herself. Her life raise a set of questions regarding concepts of sex and gender, nature and performance, normality and perversion (for more on Vay, see, e.g., Mak).

      Vay was born in...

    • Women Managers Communicating Gender in Hungary
      (pp. 232-244)
      Nóra Schleicher

      Scholars of gender and language have been interested in workplace interaction (e.g., Holmes; Kendall and Tannen; Coates; Tannen, "Talking") where focus was mostly on the interaction styles of men and women in managerial positions or in other professional occupations (e.g., physicians, teachers) including research examining women in a working class environment (e.g., McElhinny). Studies have also focused on the gendered nature of workplaces themselves. However, most of the results come from research carried out in the English-speaking world and to date no research had been done on the relation of gender and language in a Hungarian workplace setting. My research...

  8. Part Five Comparative Hungarian Cultural Studies of Contemporary Hungary
    • Commemoration and Contestation of the 1956 Revolution in Hungary
      (pp. 247-258)
      John Joseph Cash

      "Today everyone is his or her own historian," writes John Gilles (17) and in Central and East Europe since 1989 the democratization of history has come hand-in-hand with political democratization, economic change, and cultural transformation. In response to such change, the struggle to preserve and define certain identities and memories reveals contemporary political fault lines and the influence of the postmodern when it is represented in commemorations of historical events. The fiftieth anniversary commemoration of Hungary's 1956 Revolution in 2006 is a case in point.

      My aim in this article is to explore what happens when commemoration represents a historical...

    • About the Jewish Renaissance in Post-1989 Hungary
      (pp. 259-269)
      Kata Zsófia Vincze

      According to some scholars, in post-1989 Central and East Europe there is a revival occurring among a number of ethnic groups of the region (see, e.g., Gitelman; Kovács and Vajda; Mars). In my fieldwork in Hungary I found evidence that the ethnic renaissance in Judaism has produced "born again" Jews, who no longer hide their ethnic origin, but choose to emphasize it by selecting "typical" ethnic characteristics in which they express their newly discovered ethnicity. For Hungarian Jews being openly Jewish often means not only becoming observant but also building new communities, learning about forgotten history, tradition and the Hebrew...

    • Aspects of Contemporary Hungarian Literature and Cinema
      (pp. 270-283)
      Ryan Michael Kehoe

      In his 2003 article, "Necropolitics," Achille Mbembe defines necropower as the global deployment of various technologies of occupation, domination, and exploitation that results in the creation of "death worlds," or new kinds of social formations in which "vast populations are subjected to conditions of life conferring upon them the status ofliving dead" (40). Mbembe's argument is predicated on the assumption "that the ultimate expression of sovereignty resides, to a large degree, in the power and the capacity to dictate who may live and who must die" (11). Ranjana Khanna, summarizing Mbembe's understanding of sovereignty, observes: "Drawing on Agamben, and...

    • Linguistic Address Systems in Post-1989 Hungarian Urban Discourse
      (pp. 284-295)
      Erika Sólyom

      Studies in linguistics indicate that linguistic shift from formality towards informality occurs in countries where political changes, especially those of democratization, take place (see, e.g., Zhang; Krouglov; Keshavarz; Paulston Bratt). And such happens to be the case in Hungary after the demise of the Soviet empire in 1989 when the country began to transform itself from a communist regime to a democratic society. The objective of my sociolinguistic research is to find out whether in the current use of the rapidly changing sociolinguistic landscape of post-1989 Hungary there is a shift in the use of formal address (magázás) towards informal...

    • Images of Roma in Post-1989 Hungarian Media
      (pp. 296-307)
      László Kürti

      Imagine this: we are invited inside a decrepit and disorderly peasant cottage. The male host displays his bed ornamented with two stuffed bunny dolls, a television set, and a VCR. Moving beyond the room, the camera pans towards the window where a cow grazes outside as the host yells at the animal in broken Slavic: be quiet! Once outside, he stands beside a bleached-blonde woman whom he passionately kisses on the mouth for several seconds; he tells us that she is actually his sister, "the number 4 prostitute in all of Kazakhstan." The 2006 low-budget "mockumentary" comedyBorat: Cultural Learnings...

    • The Budapest Cow Parade and the Construction of Cultural Citizenship
      (pp. 308-319)
      Lajos Császi and Mary Gluck

      The creative affinities between the late modern city and new forms of cultural consumption and global citizenship have attracted increasing attention from cultural theorists and scholars in urban studies. Henry Jenkins has labeled the phenomenon "pop cosmopolitanism," by which he means "new forms of global consciousness and cultural competency" that are fostered by "a taste for international food, dance, music, art, or literature," as well as by the "consumption of Japanese anime and manga, Bollywood films and bhangra, and Hong Kong action movies" (117). Our objective in this article is to explore the implications of this new cultural trend by...

    • Urbanities of Budapest and Prague as Communicated in New Municipal Media
      (pp. 320-331)
      Agata Anna Lisiak

      The development of Budapest and Prague as brands was prompted by two phenomena that happened almost at the same time: the reopening of these two cities to the world after decades of isolation and the progress of information technology that helped create and popularize new media. Before 1989, the non-communist rest of the world categorized Central European capitals simply as part of the Soviet block. If distinguished at all, Budapest and Prague were associated predominantly with the repressed revolutions of 1956 and 1968, respectively, rather than with their historic heritage and beauty. After 1989 and with the help of new...

    • The Anti-Other in Post-1989 Austria and Hungary
      (pp. 332-344)
      Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek

      In the theoretical and applied framework of comparative cultural studies one of the points of departure is that scholarship is implicitly and/or explicitly ideological and that this ought to be recognized and acted upon. Another element of the framework is the proposition that in all instances and situations with regard to the problematics of the Other the only solution and process is dialogue rather than the continuation of or renewed entrenchment in essentialism (see Tötösy de Zepetnek,Comparative Literature, "From Comparative," "The New Humanities"):

      Comparative cultural studies is the theoretical, as well as methodological postulate to move and dialogue between...

  9. Part Six Bibliography for the Study of Hungarian Culture
    • Selected Bibliography for Work in Comparative Hungarian Cultural Studies
      (pp. 347-370)
      Louise O. Vasvári, Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek and Carlo Salzani
  10. Index
    (pp. 371-376)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 377-377)