Small disciplines: Romanian Studies beyond "East" and "West"

Small disciplines provide important knowledge about the modern world. Small as they are, they play a major role in shaping the profile and structure of German universities and have a notable impact on the perception of German academics in the international context. And yet they have to fight for recognition: Who knows about Romanian Studies for example?

Dr. Iulia Dondorici

Dr. Iulia Dondorici

Fotoatelier Kettenbach

Within its funding line "Small disciplines - Great Potentials", the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is supporting a research project on Romanian Studies at Freie Universität Berlin: The aim of the project is to integrate Romanian Studies into the discipline Romance Studies, which is currently dominated by West-roman languages and cultures.

The majority of universities in Germany offer Romance Studies in French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese languages and literature. "Small" languages such as Romanian, Galician or Sardinian, which have been part of Romance Studies since its foundation in the 19th century, are less and less represented in German scholarship today. "The expansion of Romance Studies into Eastern Europe is absolutely necessary, because it enables us to react appropriately to recent political and cultural developments. In view of the current challenges of a globalized world, more and more students want to deal with the full spectra of Romance languages and literatures", says Prof. Dr. Susanne Zepp, Institute of Romance Philology, Freie Universität Berlin.

New awareness of Romanian Studies

The project "Romanian Literatures as an integral part of a transnational Romance Studies", which is part of the research area of Prof. Dr. Susanne Zepp at the Institute of Romance Philology at Freie Universität Berlin, is conducted by Dr. Iulia Dondorici. Her current research focuses on the transnational aspects of the artistic and literary avant-garde movements of the 20th century.

"I would like to create a new awareness of Romanian Studies as an indispensable part of a modern, transnational Romance Studies," says Dondorici. Within the current global framework of literary studies, however, these smaller languages, and particularly Romanian Studies, might offer important contributions.

Connecting Western and Eastern Europe, they are able to provide students and scholars with a more complex and appropriate view of global cultural and literary processes that goes beyond "Western" cultures. The integration of Romanian Studies into Romance Studies means that students and scholars can deal with literatures and cultures from Bucovina or Transylvania as naturally as with literatures and cultures from Alsace, Northern Italy or Andalusia

Dr. Iulia Dondorici

Romanian avant-garde beyond "East" and "West"

With this project, students and young researchers gain access to a broader scientific competence on Eastern Europe beyond established patterns of interpretation of "East" and "West". "The Romanian avant-garde has the potential to fundamentally enrich and expand common notions of transnational literature," says Dondorici. In the first half of the 20th century, the Romanian avant-garde were widely internationalized movements with a strong cosmopolitan dimension. They combined history with a larger international perspective. "Well-known writers and artists like Tristan Tzara, Benjamin Fondane, Victor Brauner or Constantin Brâncuși contributed decisively not only to the avant-garde in Bucharest”, explains Dondorici, "they gradually became key protagonists of the avant-garde movements in other European metropolises such as Paris and Zurich. The best example of this international orientation is the group "Integral" (1925-1928), which is the focus of my research project. Its members participated simultaneously in the avant-garde in Bucharest and Paris, and published the multilingual magazine Integral".

Based on the study of this important, but still completely unexplored European avant-garde group, Dondorici is also developing the theoretical tools for a transnational literary history of the avant-garde, which focuses on migration and multilingualism. "Thus, I will show that Romanian Studies can enrich Romance Studies with fascinating case studies from a unique local literary history, providing at the same time significant theoretical contributions to its current transnational orientation". Small philological disciplines are essential for the study of Europe in all its aspects!