The 18th-Century Research Group, later Section, which was created in 1970 with József Szauder’s guidance, was led by József Szauder himself until his death in 1975, then by Lajos Hopp until his death (1996), and then by György Kókay. Since 2000, the work has been managed by Gábor Tüskés.
The primary goal of the research, textology and science organizing programme is to explore and evaluate the literary heritage of the 18th century with a special regard to the antecedents, cultural historical tendencies and European contextof the Enlightenment. This ambition was represented for example by the study volume Literature and Enlightenment (Irodalom és felvilágosodás, 1974) edited by József Szauder and Andor Tarnai.
The focus points of the activities of the Section are the edition of texts and sources and the history of science and genres. The complete critical edition of Kelemen Mikes was issued between 1964 and 1988, the critical editions of Ferenc II Rákóczi and György Bessenyei’s works have been completed, and the critical edition of György Kalmár’s oeuvre is to be completed in the near future. The publication of the sources of 17th and 18th-century scholastic acting has started and significantly progressed within the frameworks of the series titled The Sources and Literature of Scholastic Acting in Hungary (A magyarországi iskolai színjátszás forrásai és irodalma) and Old Hungarian Dramatic Memories 18th Century (Régi Magyar Drámai Emlékek XVIII. század). The Section issued the source publication titled Protestant Scholastic Dramas in Latin from the 17th and 18th Centuries (Latin nyelvű protestáns iskoladrámák a XVII–XVIII. századból; Ludi scaenici linguae latinae protestantum in Hungaria e saeculo XVII–XVIII) in 2005. Until 2013, fourteen volumes have been published within the frameworks of the series Collection of Old Hungarian Poets 18th Century (Régi Magyar Költők Tára XVIII. század). One of the results of science historical research is the bibliography titled Literary History Writing in the 18th Century (Irodalomtörténet-írás a XVIII. században), which is available digitally. The test version of the so far completed part of the digital Mikes-dictionary is also available. The colleagues of the Section have published numerous individual monographs and study volumes.
Between 1994 and 2013, nine researches (supported by HSRF, the Hungarian Scentific Research Fund) were in progress at the Section: on the European relationships of narrative literature; emblematics; Ferenc II Rákóczi’s letters and shorter writings; the history of Hungarian literary science and criticism between 1701 and 1772; the genres of ecclesiestical literature; György Kalmár’s activities; Kelemen Mikes’s oeuvre; and the genres of public poetry.
Some colleagues of the Section teach at different universities and have strong relationships with university workshops dealing with the literature of the 18th century. The basic characteristics of the research activity are: processing on the basis of one’s own basic research and original source exploration; consequent application of the comparative approach and the principle of interdisciplinarity; putting into the foreground areas that have not been appropriately explored so far and sheding light on them with new methods; continuous publication of the results at international forums of the profession; involving external colleagues in the exploration, processing and publication of sources.
Together with the Hungarian 18th-Century Research Society (Magyar XVIII. Századi Társaság) and the working team around itself, the Section organizes monthly discussion sessions and biennial or triennial scientific councils. The sessions on the Enlightenment held in Mátrafüred in the 70s and 80s are standing out from the series of international conferences – their material was published between 1971 and 1987 in six volumes titled La Lumière en Hongrie, en Europe Centrale et en Europe Orientale. In 2002, together with the National Széchenyi Library and the Bod Péter Society, the Section organized a conference titled Péter Bod, Cultivator of Historia Litteraria (Bod Péter, a historia litteraria művelője, published in 2004), and another one with the Grimmelshausen Society titled Das Ungarnbild in der deutschen Literatur der frühen Neuzeit (published in 2005). In 2004, it organized a conference with the title Historia Litteraria in the 18th Century (Historia litteraria a XVIII. Században) for the 300th anniversary of Ferenc Faludi’s birth and 10th anniversary of Andor Tarnai’s death (its material was published in 2006). In 2007, researchers from several countries participated in a council on the two Miklós Zrínyi’s literary remembrance with the title Militia et litterae (its material was issued in 2009). In 2008, the Section organized a conference in Eger, on the narrative genres of the Early Modern Age, titled Fortunatus, Melusine, Genofeva (the volume was published in 2010). The Section remembered the 250th anniversary of Kelemen Mikes’s death with an international conference (the presentations were published in 2012 in two volumes: one in Hungarian and one in original language). The Section also organizes smaller-scale workshop conferences: it held one in 2010 in Budapest on Ádám Pálóczi Horváth’s works (the studies were published in 2011) and another one in 2014 in Miskolc on the translated literatureof the 18th century.