"In Their Footsteps: Collected Essays in Honor of Prof. Zoltán Abádi-Nagy and Prof. Bálint Rozsnyai" – Review by Nóra Borthaiser
Nóra Borthaiser is doctoral student at the Institute of English and American Studies, University of Szeged. Email:
Eger Journal of American Studies. Special Issue in Honor of Professor Zoltán Abádi-Nagy.
Vadon Lehel, Ed.
Eger: Department of American Studies, Eszterházy Károly College, Líceum Kiadó, 2010.
2 vols. 350+353 pages.
ISSN: 1786-2337 and 1786-2337
Kultúrán innen és túl – Írások Rozsnyai Bálint tiszteletére. [Within and Without Culture: Essays in Honor of Bálint Rozsnyai.]
Vajda Zoltán, Ed.
Szeged: JATEPress, 2009.
The years 2009 and 2010 presented us with valuable collections of essays in the field of American Studies written in honor of two outstanding Hungarian professors: Zoltán Abádi-Nagy from the University of Debrecen and Bálint Rozsnyai from the University of Szeged. These collections are the two-volume English language Eger Journal of American Studies. Special Issue in Honor of Professor Zoltán Abádi-Nagy, edited by Lehel Vadon in 2010 and the bilingual Kultúrán innen és túl – Írások Rozsnyai Bálint tiszteletére [Within and Without Culture: Essays in Honor of Bálint Rozsnyai] edited by Zoltán Vajda in 2009. Scholars and students of English and American Studies owe a great debt to Abádi-Nagy and Rozsnyai: their active and pioneering contribution set and developed American Studies among prestigious Hungarian institutional frameworks. Their leadership, ambition and tireless effort brought many changes within and outside their home universities. Abádi-Nagy and Rozsnyai served as presidents of the Hungarian Society for the Study of English (HUSSE) and as heads of their institutes’ doctoral schools. As ACLS and Fulbright professors, Abádi-Nagy and Rozsnyai held courses at numerous American universities. To honor their work, their colleagues―many of them their former students―compiled almost one thousand pages of publications including fifty-four essays and nine book reviews in three edited volumes. The essays show the research areas of Hungarian Americanists and cover various fields of study comprising US and Canadian literature and literary theory, social anthropology and postcolonial studies, visual culture, US history and society; translation studies and linguistics, as well as various essays on academic life. Not surprisingly, most of the essays are about literature and history but the collection on postcolonial and social anthropological topics is also impressive. Other writings, especially on academic life seem to be ‘backstage’ essays where we can get an inside view on several aspects. However, they are equally important because one can find the less visible history of academic programs pertaining to American studies. Among these studies is the reflection on the Fulbright Program in Hungary by Huba Brückner (Eger Journal) and on the research work of Abádi-Nagy by Lehel Vadon in Eger Journal and Rozsnyai by Anna Fenyvesi and Miklós Kontra in Kultúrán innen és túl.
In the cluster of literary approaches, Enikő Bollobás contributed to each edition with two excellent papers on subject semiotics: “At Play, to the Full: On the Subject Performed in Gender Passing” for Eger Journal and “Subjectivity, Intention and Agency: Towards a Theory of the Performing Subject” for Kultúrán innen és túl. These two essays provide ground-breaking ideas on gender-passing and on the performing subject in American literature. Bollobás focuses on the working mechanism of full passing and play passing as forms of gender passing. Gabriella Varró‘s (2010), discussion of real and imagined places in Williams´s and Shepard´s plays is especially interesting. Varró successfully applies the contact-zone model for describing these spaces and also provides the reader with the mythic dimension of them. At this point, it is worth turning some pages to Zsolt Virágos´s essay (2010) on the epistemology of myths. Here he summarizes his research on given myths (coined as M1, M2 and partly M3) and their re-appearance in literature. Physical, symbolical and imaginary spaces inspired Ágnes Zsófia Kovács (2010), who elaborates on Edith Wharton´s nonfiction work about architecture focusing on symbolic special spaces of women; Judit Molnár´s short essay (2010) discusses places and spaces in a postcolonial understanding through Austin Clarke´s memoir Growing Stupid under the Union Jack (1980). Jon Roberts´s essay “Radical Preferences, Capital Assumptions: Bartleby among Gentlemen” in Kultúrán innen és túl focuses on Melville´s Bartleby, the Scrivener (1853) and the different physical and symbolic spheres of employees and employers. There are an impressing number of essays related to gender questions in literature. Lenke Németh―whose book entitled “All It Is, It’s a Carnival:” Reading David Mamet’s Women Characters with Bakhtin is reviewed by Mária Kurdi in the same Eger Journal – draws a parallel between female playwrights in the 1910s and the 1970s and describes the differences of acknowledging female artistic talent in her essay on the power of art in Rachel Crother’s He and She and Tine Howe’s Painting Churches. Péter Szaffkó writes on John Hirsh and the American theatre (2010); Edina Szalay (2010) discusses the relationship of the Gothic and Sentimentalism in 19th century women´s literature, touching also on the differences between male and female gothic. Louisa M. Alcott´s two less known novels, Little Men and Jo´s Boys constitute the center of Gabriella Vöő´s essay (2010) on the notions of disciplined masculinity, in which she investigates gender roles and dynamics in public as well as in the private spheres of life. György Novák’s very personal and, at the same time, fairly entertaining letter to Rozsnyai in Kultúrán innen és túl informs the reader about hard-boiled crime stories written by women and ‘starring’ female detectives from the 1980s to the present day. This writing focuses on the characterization of Eva Whitley, the detective character and a professional wrestler in Liza Cody´s three novels. Novák quotes from the Hungarian translation of the novels translated by his students. Twentieth-century North American literature is the topic of Katalin Kürtösi’s, Zoltán Simon’s and David L. Vanderwerken’s essays in Eger Journal. Kürtösi focuses on the effect of European modernists and movements (futurism, cubism) on Canadian poetry between 1910 and 1930; Simon convincingly unveils the intertextual play between Mark Twain´s The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn (1884) and Toni Morrison´s Beloved (1987) through the character-pair of Huck and Jim, and that of Amy Denver and Sethe; Vanderwerken writes about Kurt Vonnegut´s Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) claiming that the last forty years of American history with its wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan produced new Billy Pilgrims in the American society.
Postcolonial (especially Native American) literatures and topics in social anthropology are also featured in the collection of essays. In Eger Journal Katalin Bíróné-Nagy elaborates on the similarities of the colonizer and the tyrannical father in the Freudian sense in Sherman Alexie´s 1995 novel Reservation Blues, while István Bitskey talks about the organization of travels in early modern Hungary emphasizing the first Hungarian who set foot in the New World, István Budai Parmenius (1583). The same book serves as example for Judit Szathmári´s essay from the same edition in which she explores the “long neglected humor inherent in American Indian cultures” – a truly entertaining writing. In the same volume, Judit Kádár takes a psychoanalytic standpoint in understanding captivity novels though Deborah Larsen´s The White (2003), providing charts and long quotations to support her argument. “Ritual and Redemption in the Narrative of Father Isaac Jogues (1643)” is the title of András Tarnóc´s essay (2010) in which he analyzes the Catholic missionary´s captivity by the Mohawks. Tarnóc pays special attention to the significance of rituals and power structures in Father Isaac Jorgues´s captivity experience. The same volume features Robert E. Bieder’s work (2010) in which he discusses Johann Georg Kohl’s a 19th century travels among the Ojibwa Indians of Lake Superior. In Kultúrán innen és túl Ildikó Sz. Kristóf and György Endre Szőnyi share a couple of chapters of their American travel diary. In 2001, the couple explored the American Southwest and visited Hopi Indians in the footsteps of the German art historian Aby Warburg.
Considering the dynamic development of the area of visual culture, essays from this field were fewer as one would expect. Moreover, it is academics from the University of Szeged who contributed to the collections with essays related to visual culture. Irén Annus writes on the influence of Victorianism and Victorian ideology on 19th and 20th-century American women painters in her essays on “Victorianism and the Art of Mary Cassatt” In Kultúrán innen és túl and “Victorian Motherhood in the Art of Lilly Martin Spencer” in Eger Journal. In Kultúrán innen és túl, Réka M. Cristian examines the production circumstances of Who´s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, directed in 1965 by Mike Nichols by focusing on the question of multiple auteurship. In the same volume, Zoltán Dragon´s “Software and Film: Film´s Place in Digital Culture” provides an up-to-date description of the ways in which technological and digital development minimizes the creative human input in filmmaking. Erzsébet Barát´s essay (2009) investigates the limits and the semiotic conditions of representing the female body in political contexts. Her examples derive from American and Hungarian political campaign posters and photos.
Politics, Hungarian-American political relations and current issues in US politics and society are central issues in many of the collections’ texts. Zoltán Vajda contributed to the collections with two papers on Thomas Jefferson, one on moral sentiments of blacks and race relations (2009) and the other, on Jefferson on civilization and affection (2010), worth reading as complementary essays. István Kornél Vida´s essay (2010) continues the analysis on Jefferson and investigates the Jeffersonian ideas that might have had influence on Abraham Lincoln´s politics and attitude towards the Blacks. Tibor Glant (2010) talks about the myth of Woodrow Wilson´s Fourteen Points in Hungary by applying Schivelbusch´s mechanism of the “culture of defeat”. Éva Mathey (2010) describes Hungarian revisionist hopes towards the US as well as the other side of the same coin: US reactions and opinion about Hungary between the World Wars. Zoltán Peterecz´s essay (2010) remains in the post WWI reconstruction era of the 1920s and takes an economic-financial standpoint: he observes the processes of nominating American officials to the League of Nations in Hungary and in Austria. Furthermore, the collection published in honor of Abádi-Nagy provides reviews about books written in the topic of US-Hungarian history in the 20th century. Tibor Glant´s book Kettős tükörben [Through a Double Prism], published in 2008 and reviewed by Zoltán Peterecz, investigates US public opinion about Hungary during World War I, whereas his other book, Remember Hungary 1956 (2007) reviewed by Máté Gergely Balogh provides essays on the echoes of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 as seen in American media, political memory, academic memory, literature and fine arts. Tibor Frank´s Double Exile (2009), reviewed by Zoltán Peterecz, draws a portrait on Jewish-Hungarian professionals―Leo Szilárd, John von Neumann, Edward Teller, Theodore von Kármán―who decided to leave Hungary via Germany to the United States. The Eger Journal‘s paper on current political and social issues in the US is Tamás Magyarics´s excellent writing (2010) on US National Security concepts in the period between the Cold War and the Obama administration, an outstandingly informative essay despite a number of typos left in the text. John Jablonski (2010) and Benjamin Chaffin Brooks (2010) also published on social questions: the former discusses the importance of correct speech, composition and rhetoric as tools of citizens to state their opinion; the latter aims at finding a link between perceived quality of life and the US economic model of schooling. This latter research was carried out through oral history investigation involving nine participants with varied socio-economic backgrounds. Brooks´s essay also provides an excellent summary of the US economic model of schooling from Jefferson to Obama´s educational goals. Hoover Dwight´s “The End of Race?” from Kultúrán innen és túl is a similarly remarkable summary on the role of Blacks in American politics from the beginnings of the nation through Barack Obama´s presidential election. Even though the essay is highly enlightening, it lacks references. James M. Carlson´s analysis (2009) of US TV viewing statistics shows that political mistrust among the US society is in direct proportion with the number of hours spent watching TV. The politics of globalization is the topic of Paul Kantor´s essay (2009), in which he focuses on the impact of globalization on regional level: his in-depth analysis discusses the questions on economic competitiveness of the New York City Region.
Many texts focus on issues of reception, cross-cultural dialogue and translation. Mihály Balázs’s Hungarian-language study in Kultúrán innen és túl discusses Francis Bacon´s reception in Hungary and Transylvania pointing out the omission of two units in the 1950´s Hungarian translation of Bacon´s New Atlantis (1624); Mihály Szajbély presents Mór Jókai’s case with reality; Tibor Fabinyi’s Hungarian text investigates the influence of the Bible on English literature with the help of Northrop Frye´s The Great Code. He also provides the outline of William Tyndale´s life and work, which materialized in translating the Bible to English. Also in Kultúrán innen és túl, István Kenesei unveils the secret of Noam Chomsky’s success in “Chomsky’s Century;” Miklós Péti, in turn, talks on Dryden, Homer, Milton and Pope while Attilla Kiss’s deconstructive puppet farce brings intertexually forth the tragedy of the revenger in the same volume. In Eger Journal, Thomas Cooper (2010) claims that literary translations are culturally coded and varied in their methods and functions. He provides vivid examples from English, Hungarian, German and French in a really impressive piece on translation studies.
Besides the two professors in honor of whom the collections were edited, Zoltán Abádi-Nagy and Bálint Rozsnyai, the above-mentioned volumes include reviews on volumes dedicated to the pioneering English and American Studies work of Sarolta Kretzoi and László Országh. Gabriella Varró‘s excellent review of Lehel Vadon’s vast bibliography on American Literature and Literary Scholarship in Hungary is also worth special mention.
The variety of research fields and the high quality work of Hungarian researchers and academics are (apart from minor typos) adequately represented in these two essay collections. Both Kutúrán innen és túl and Eger Journal balance elegantly between the personal and the academic to provide Zoltán Abádi-Nagy and Bálint Rozsnyai, two outstanding professors of American Studies, with a suitable present from their colleagues and students.