Portuguese-Romanian intercultural connections Abstract of the

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Portuguese-Romanian intercultural connections Abstract of the
Portuguese-Romanian intercultural connections
Abstract of the conference
The conference Portuguese-Romanian intercultural connections is a starting point of a
imaginary travel starting from literature and books.
Since ancient times, travel and maturation represented a literary theme of intercultural
revelations. The theoretical knowledge content reveals the fact that literature is first of all a
journey beyond the boundaries of what an ordinary people can see and understand traveling.
The purpose of learning underlines that through the translations, a foreign unknown literature
becomes an imaginary land, representative for the spirit and the culture of the real one. The
conference contains information about the first translations from the literature of that real
territory, the history of translations, of the translators, of the books translated. Each of these
histories is in fact a cultural image, both Romanian and Portuguese.
The conference will contain illustrative information about:
1. Modern Romanian culture and civilization
2. Romania and Portugal: Linguistic Similitude and differences
3. Romanian patrimony in Portugal
4. Bucharest, the charmed city: its history and cultural richness
5. Discovering the richness from the temple of books: a Portuguese Romanian
bibliography
Modern Romanian civilization emerged in the first half of the nineteenth century. It was with the
generation of 1848, however, that Romania was systematically and extensively exposed to
Western European ideas. This generation undertook the task of importing and imitating Western
institutions and methods. Nevertheless, Eugen Lovinescu further claimed, the imitation was not
pursued uncritically, as these intellectuals hoped to achieve a ‘synchronic’ balance between
Western ideas and Romanian realities. ‘Imitation’ and ‘synchronism’ are the two principles
dominating Lovinescu’s sociology of culture. Imitation, as an explanatory sociological
mechanism in the formation of societies, was a very fashionable concept at the time, particularly
in France, as illustrated by French sociologist and social psychologist Gabriel Tarde’s Les Lois
de l’imitation (1890). Following Tarde, Lovinescu assumed that human psychology was the only
modality to grasp social mechanisms whereby society functioned as a cohesive entity.
According to Tarde, ‘imitation’ and ‘innovation’ were the two guiding forces of society, controlling
and shaping social activities.
The interplay between imitation and innovation not only regulated the functioning of society but
also generated a new cultural condition, one which Lovinescu named synchronism. This
phenomenon explained the ways in which Western ideas were imitated and appropriated by
Romanian intellectual and political elites. Lovinescu subsequently enunciated seven phases of
imitation, each governed by its own sociological laws. During the first phase, Romanian elites
used imitation as the main means of introducing Western ideas into Romanian culture. This
imitation occurred without Romanians questioning the nature of things they adopted, as
evidenced by the second phase of cultural development. However, in the third phase a ‘critical
spirit’ also emerged, becoming active during the fourth phase. The presence of the critical spirit
did not stop the ‘process of imitation’; instead it questioned its validity. According to the law of
innovation, a nation’s originality was not the result of spontaneous creativity (as traditionalist
authors claimed), but the effect of adaptation and relocation of ideas and cultural models. Any
imitation eventually took a specific national form. During the fifth phase, imitation occurred,
albeit according to a different mechanism than the one described by Tarde. For Lovinescu, the
substance (Romanian culture) imitated the form (the West). In this way, Lovinescu described
the sixth phase, when it became clear that imitation was not only confined to the present time; it
could be projected into the past as well. In the case of nations without a cultural past (like
Romania), traditional ideas were “sociologically impossible” as they were largely the
consequence of cultural developments elsewhere. Nevertheless—as the seventh phase
demonstrated—the lack of this normative cultural past created, essentially, the propitious
conditions for modern Romanian civilization to emerge. In conclusion, Lovinescu believed that
due to its synchronic nature (the result of both processes of imitation and innovation) Romanian
culture was inevitably moving towards the West, and the Romanians would at some point
become ‘true Europeans.’ Generally described as one of the most outspoken of the Romanian
modernists, Eugen Lovinescu played a rather atypical role in the debate between the
Europeanists and the anti-Western traditionalists during the interwar period. He framed his
vision about cultural modernization and the role of the state differently than his contemporaries.
In the debate on Romania’s cultural role in Europe, Lovinescu’s suggestion of adopting Western
European values in their entirety as well as his unflagging critique of Slavic influences and
implicitly of Orthodox Christianity were met with reticence even by some of the proEuropeanists. Although invoked during the 1980s, when Romanian national communism
orchestrated a general appropriation of traditional currents within Romanian culture, it was
during the 1990s that Lovinescu and his program of cultural transformation were integrated
within a proper framework of discussion about European modernity in Romania.