Critical Editions of Classical Oeuvres
The text corpus of classical Hungarian literature is a precious, inalianable part of our national cultural heritage. Being aware of this, a basic task of the Institute is to research, process and publish – with critical demand – texts, sources and documents which are either in Hungarian or from Hungary or are important from the aspects of Hungarian literature. This task is done by the sections of the Institute on the basis of competence in the given theme or period. Although in recent years the number of text publishing workshops has joyfully raised on the research basis of universities, the Institute still ranks first among them. Besides its own scientific capacities, cooperating with the Committee on Textology of the HAS, it organizes and keeps track of the research activities of other institutions, especially those of the colleagues of national public collections. In addition to the theme-specific or period-specific series, the Institute looks after a significant part of the critical editions of major 15–16th-century writers.
As the new forms of financing science and publishing books emerged in the 90s, the structure of the textological work of the Institute also changed. The patronage of the state was changed to the expanding possibilities of research subsidies: the application system of foundations and other forms of supporting science. However, as it is a small language area and national literature, textology remained a primarily national task of science organization and financing, even besides participating in international projects. The Institute, as a textological workshop and methodological basis, cannot ignore the new possibilities offered by electronic recording technologies and publishing.
The History of Hungarian Literary Studies and Criticism
The launch of this enterprise had been initiated in the middle of the 1960s, however the work only started in the 70s. Its subject is the history of Hungarian literary thinking, that is researching what the writer and the reader, in certain periods from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, were thinking about literature, on the basis of what criteria they were judging literary layers, and what was the basis of literary histories and literary reviews.
Regarding that this area had been almost completely unexplored in Hungarian literary studies and even basic research had been missing, the programme was realized in a coherent sequence of individual monographs instead of a synthetic manual. The first step was to plan the volumes of the long period until the end of the 19th century; a working group was formed for this task under Andor Tarnai’s supervision. After Tarnai’s death, the job was taken over by László Szörényi. In 1986, the preparation of the volumes dealing with the first half of the 20th century was started with György Tverdota’s guidance – now divided on the basis of tendencies as it is a very rich material. A new series titled Literary Studies and Criticism (Irodalomtudomány és Kritika) was launched so that the volumes could be published.
Cultural History in the Antiquity (MAMŰL)
Edited by Péter Kőszeghy, the Balassi Publishing House (Balassi Kiadó) issued the 13 volumes of the Lexicon of Hungarian Cultural History (the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Age) – Magyar Művelődéstörténeti Lexikon (középkor és kora újkor) – between 2003 and 2013, while the 14th volume with the indexes came out in 2014. The digital version, which will be more expanded and will contain more sub-databases than the former one, is now written in the Institute with the support of Hungarian Scientific Research Fund (HSRF, Országos Tudományos Kutatási Alapprogramok) and the HAS. The digital MAMŰL is to be available to the public from the end of 2016.
Doromb. Studies on Public Poetry
The works on a manual of Hungarian press history started in the 1970s. The manual was planned to consist of four volumes. This was the first occasion that a detailed and, at the same time, synthetic collection was to be prepared on our periodical press. The work was preceded by several pre-studies and a bibliograph on press history issued in 1972. The first volume of the series gives a picture of the periodical and journal literature of the 18th century and of the Hungarian Enlightenment and Reform Age highlighting what an important role the press played in the political, literary and cultural life of the age. The second part, which discusses press history until 1892, came out in two volumes. The editor-in-chief of the volumes was Miklós Szabolcsi, the series editor was Tamás Dersi, and later Miklós Vásárhelyi. The published volumes gave such a comprehensive presentation of Hungarian press in the 18th and 19th century that the manual is of essential significance for press historians, historians, literary historians and cultural historians as well. The research on press history was interrupted at the end of the 80s due to the lack of financial resources and appropriate staff.
Research on the Science of Value
The Research Group on the Science of Value was formed in 1974. The Group aimed at surveying the changes in the approaches to values as they are reflected in our prose by doing a value-oriented text analysis of the Hungarian short story literature of the 19th century. The programme was led by Zoltán Kenyeres until 1981, then by András Veres.
This analysis was initiated by the concept that the values appearing in the text of literary works can be clearly pointed out, and so they can offer reliable information. As there are basically no international examples of such an analysis, the elaboration of the method took almost half a year. Social psychologist Ferenc Mérei had the lion’s share in elaborating the method of the research: he started out from the idea that values have a role in orienting human behaviour. The value catalogue was compiled on the basis of various test analyses. Following elaboration, first of all the value-sociological analysis of the short stories written between 1945 and 1968 was completed, then the approach of values in Hungarian prose was examined until 1980, then until 1992 (the research later covered novels, too). The research group presented its work at several Hungarian and international scientific conferences and published numerous studies.
Research on the History of Cult
Led by Péter Dávidházi and György Tverdota, the working group was established in 1989 to do cultural anthropological research on the cultic phenomena of literary life. Its primary aim was to study the origin of the social habit that devotes both linguistic and ritual respect to great writers and their works, what ancient religious patterns are hidden behind it, how it influences the ways of interpreting and evaluating literary works, and what political expropriation it can suffer. The group participated at an international and numerous Hungarian conferences, which in recent years it usually organizes jointly with Petőfi Literary Museum (Petőfi Irodalmi Múzeum). The colleagues of the group have published independent volumes both in Hungary and abroad.
The Research on Hungarian-Italian Relations
To research the great Western literatures and international literary relations would be out of the scope of a research workshop, so these kinds of works could only be done on an occasional basis in the Institute. The exploration and interpretation of Italian relations is an exception, with which the Institute was commissioned by the HAS. In 1969, the I. and II. Section of the HAS signed an agreement with the Fondazione Giorgio Cini from Venezia to organize conferences on Hungarian-Italian relations alternately in Venezia and Budapest. Proceeding in a timely order, these conferences are to survey the complete one-thousand-year-long history of Hungarian and Italian relations and to add new results to our knowledge in the topic. The reason why this interdisciplinary work has completely become a task of the Institute is that other academic institutions did not want to undertake it and, besides, the research of Hungarian-Italian relations was not without precedent in our Institute. The sequence of conferences started in 1970. The presentations of all the conferences have been published in separate volumes in Italian, alternately in Hungary and Italy.
Participating in the Work of European Comparative Literary History
Following an invitation from the AILC, the Institute took the initiative to launch the works of a comparative European literary history. Its draft was passed by the association’s congress in 1967 in Belgrade, and the Coordinating Committee was formed to lead on the work and György Mihály Vajda was elected as its secretary. Since that time until 1982, the secretariat of the Coordinating Committee of the Histoire comparée des litteratures de langues européennes was operating in the Institute. Besides international organization works, the colleagues undertook to compile volumes on the period of the Enlightenment and Renaissance. So was born Le tournant du siècle des Lumières 1760–1820. Les genres en vers des Lumières au Romantisme (1982) edited by György Mihály Vajda, and the Époque de la Renaissance, I. L’avénement de l’esprit nouveau 1400–1480 (1988) with the joint guidance of Tibor Klaniczay, Eva Kushner (Toronto) and André Stegmann (Tours). The latter is one of those four volumes that are to systemize the literature of the Renaissance within European comparative literary history. The first volume was the work of the editors and more than forty authors (among them there were Hungarians, too), while the management of the compilation of the other three was shared between the editors – keeping joint responsibility. The Institute took the lead in writing the fourth volume which deals with the period of Late Renaissance and Manierism (1560–1600). Nearly fifty scientists from eight countries participated in the work, among them numerous Hungarian Renaissance researchers.