19th-century Section


The history of the 19th-century Section

As early as the foundation of the Institute, a separate section was established to research nineteenth-century Hungarian literature, headed by József Szauder. Heads of section have been: Sándor Lukácsy (1965–1988), Péter Dávidházi (1989–2015), János Korompay H. (2015–2017), and Sándor Hites (2018–).

In the beginning, the section focused on researching the oeuvre of Mihály Vörösmarty and Sándor Petőfi, as well as analysing the literature of the period in terms of the history of style (Classicism, Romanticism, Realism). 17 volumes were published in the Vörösmarty critical edition series supervised by Károly Horváth. Members of the section involved in the Petőfi research were József Kiss, Sándor Lukácsy, and András Martinkó. The seventh, final volume of the critical edition launched in 1951 was completed here (1964), and this is where work was started on the new, six-volume critical edition of Petőfi’s poems edited by József Kiss. After József Kiss’s death (1992), Ferenc Kerényi continued the work until his death (2008). Important results have also emerged in the research areas of biography, intellectual history, and stylistics, enriching Petőfi and Vörösmarty research with monographs, dissertations, and source editions. 

At the beginning of the 1970s a working group on the history of literary criticism was formed in the Institute, cooperating with several sections. The working group launched the independent book series Irodalomtudomány és kritika (Literary studies and criticism), still essential in the research literature today. The two most-cited volumes of the Institute were published in this series: A “jellemzetes” irodalom jegyében: Az 1840-es évek irodalomkritikai gondolkodása (In the spirit of “national” literature: thinking in literary criticism during the 1840s) by János Korompay H. (1998), and Egy nemzeti tudomány születése: Toldy Ferenc és a magyar irodalomtörténet (The Birth of a National Discipline: Ferenc Toldy and Hungarian Literary History) by Péter Dávidházi (2004).

In 1989 a working group on the history of cult was established within the Institute by Péter Dávidházi and György Tverdota. Cult research has become one of the most influential Hungarian trends in literary history in the last few decades, with a defining role played by Dávidházi’s initial works Isten másodszülöttje. A magyar Shakespeare-kultusz természetrajza (”God's Second Born”: The Anatomy of the Hungarian Cult of Shakespeare) (1989), and The Romantic Cult of Shakespeare. Literary Reception in Anthropological Perspective (1998). The group’s work has influenced Hungarian history, folklore studies, sociology, and cultural anthropology.

In 1991 the section started work on the critical edition Kölcsey Ferenc minden munkái (Complete works of Ferenc Kölcsey), supervised by Zoltán Szabó G. Twelve volumes have been published so far in this project, including five on Kölcsey’s correspondence, as well as volumes on his works of fiction, poems and poem translations, his Országgyűlési napló (Diet diary), his daily diary on the parliament’s sessions, his literary reviews and pieces on aesthetics, his moral sermons and writings, and his documents related to the parliament sessions. The preparations of the volume Nyelvtudományi Munkák (Linguistic works), edited by Csaba Onder, are ongoing.

The critical edition Arany János Összes Művei (Complete works of János Arany) was launched again in the section in 1994. The series was completed in 2015 with the publication of volume 19, as a result of the work of the research team led by János Korompay H. However, the changes in textological approaches during the 50 years since the first volumes were published have made it necessary to launch a new series of critical edition, called Arany János Munkái (Works of János Arany). The new series was launched in 2016 and is also prepared under the supervision of János Korompay H. Based on the intensive research conducted in connection with the edition, the section played a key role in organizing and executing the events of the 2017 János Arany Memorial Year, as well as the preparation of the related scientific publications and materials promoting science.

The critical edition of Dániel Berzsenyi’s Összes munkái (Complete works) is also being prepared in the section, edited by Gergely Fórizs and Gábor Vaderna. Two volumes have been published so far (Prózai munkák/Prose, 2011; Levelezés/Correspondence, 2014). The electronic version of the critical edition of the correspondence is also accessible in the online database: http://deba.unideb.hu/deba/berzsenyi/

The section’s role in the management of science, and its network of contacts

The section opened the János Horváth room at the beginning of 2008, housing the library of János Horváth, a prominent figure of Hungarian literary history writing. The collection contains numerous signed copies and items with autograph notes, with main sections of fiction, literary history, prosody, musicology, ethnography, history, classical-philology, as well as periodicals and special prints.

Since 1997, members of the section award the András Martinkó award for the best study of the previous year on nineteenth-century Hungarian literature, named after the late section member András Martinkó. The president of the board of trustees is László Szörényi, the secretary is János Korompay H.

The research teams within the section operate as part of a broad Hungarian and international scientific network. Professors of universities both abroad and in Hungary are also members of the research teams housed here, and they are invited to participate in talks and debates. External members of the above-mentioned research teams include: Piroska Balogh (ELTE), Gábor Bolonyai (ELTE), Márton Szilágyi (ELTE); Gergely Kardeván Lapis (PPKE); Zsuzsanna Rózsafalvi (OSZK); Katalin Hász-Fehér (University of Szeged); Kinga Dezső (University of Debrecen), Monika Gönczy (University of Debrecen), Pál S. Varga (University of Debrecen), Márta Rudasné Bajcsay (MTA ZTI); István Csörsz Rumen (MTA BTK ITI).

Sándor Hites is a participant in the international research team dedicated to examining nineteenth-century European cultural nationalism, supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. Presenters at the international conferences organized by the section, discussing international aesthetics and the assessment of women writers include Sandra Richter (Universität Stuttgart), Carsten Zelle (Ruhr-Universität Bochum), Tomáš Hlobil (Charles University, Prague), Zsuzsanna Varga (University of Glasgow), and Katalin Ágnes Bartha (Szabédi Memorial House, Cluj). 


Research projects

Research direction: the social history of nineteenth-century literature

One of the main areas of the research conducted in the section is getting to know the literary institutions of the nineteenth century and their context of social history as well as possible. The aim of the research direction is to examine the nineteenth-century processes of the history of literature, the media, and society as they relate to each other, to explore their contemporary social, cultural, and private functions and versions; to integrate into similar international research projects the contemporary transformation of the structure of knowledge, the structural changes of the literary public sphere from a fragmented network into a gradually centralizing one, as well as the comparative analysis of these processes.

Colleagues working in this research direction are Zsuzsa Török and Eszter Szabó.

Subdivisions of this research direction include

  1. women’s writing in the nineteenth century: exploring writers marginalized in the literary history canon beside the national classics, especially the text corpora and tradition created by women. In October 2017 Zsuzsa Török organized the first scientific conference in Hungary that examined the issues of women’s writing specifically in the nineteenth century. The results of this conference were published in the proceedings Nőszerzők a 19. században: lehetőségek és korlátok (Women writers in the nineteenth century: opportunities and obstacles). Zsuzsa Török is currently preparing a monograph presenting nineteenth-century professional women writers’ career versions, and the individual strategies they used in the interest of success.
  2. Eszter Szabó analyses the multi-centeredness of the Hungarian and Transylvanian cultural space in the nineteenth century, the development and presence of alternative literary canons and cultural centres, as well as the regional identities and narrative constructs related to them. (Specifically: the history of the Kolozsvár theatre at the end of the nineteenth century, focusing on the administrative and economic models of the institution and its role in the Transylvanian and Hungarian theatre network, as well as the microhistory analysis of the 1892 centennial of professional theatre in Transylvania.)

Research direction: the intellectual history of nineteenth-century literature

The other main research area of the section is the review of phenomena and trends in the history of thinking and conceptual history espoused and manifested by the literary and non-literary material of the period, through individual works, groups of works, and critical views, or even views of philosophy, or the theory of arts, culture, or economy espoused by institutions directly or indirectly towards partner disciplines such as anthropology, theories of nationalism, research on memory, and political theory.

Colleagues working in this research direction are Gergely Fórizs and Sándor Hites.

Subdivisions of the research direction include:

History of aesthetics in Central Europe (1750–1850): the research starts by examining the so-called anthropological aesthetics of the era in Hungary and aims to map contemporary Central European aesthetics as a product of the international scientific community and is homogeneous in many ways, using a contextual approach. Special emphasis is made on the terminology, methodology, and the scientific network ensuring the flow of aesthetic knowledge of this branch of science, which was widespread in the German provinces and the countries of the Habsburg empire. Beyond the theoretical texts, the research gradually extends to presenting their literary influence as well. Under the supervision of Gergely Fórizs, and with Piroska Balogh’s participation, the OTKA/NKFIH research project A magyar esztétikai gondolkodás első száz éve: Forrásszövegek kritikai kiadása 1750–1850 K 108539 (The first century of Hungarian aesthetics: A critical edition of source texts 1750–1850) was completed in 2018. As a follow-up, the publication of an anthology of the Hungarian history of aesthetics is under way. The German and English-language collection of articles publishing the edited material of the research group’s 2016 international conference is expected to be published in the summer of 2018. (Anthropologische Ästhetik in Mitteleuropa 1750–1850 / Anthropological Aesthetics in Central Europe 1750–1850, Hg. Piroska Balogh, Gergely Fórizs, Bochumer Quellen und Forschungen zum 18. Jahrhundert 9 (Hannover: Wehrhahn Verlag, 2018)). On 23 November, 2018, an international workshop on the history of aesthetics was organized in Budapest as part of the research, with the participation of Hungarian, German, and Czech researchers. Gergely Fórizs is currently working on a German-language monothematic collection of articles, in which he examines the German and Hungarian anthropological aesthetics around 1800, as well as the Central European scientific networks around them.

The economics of nineteenth-century literature: The establishment of Hungarian national literature took place at the same time as the capitalist transformation of the society and the economy. During this process, writers became respected representatives of the national culture and economic agents in the cultural market at the same time. Just like the economic ideas of the era influenced thinking on the social significance and usefulness of a national literature, literary works influenced what image developed about the economy in Hungarian society and culture. Writers’ economic situation and their financial environment influenced their methods of creation, while forms of financing (market, patronage, state support, public donations) defined the entire image of national culture. Sándor Hites is currently working on two English-language book proposals: one focuses on the nineteenth-century literary intellectual history of “national wealth”, the other on the economic bases and components of the concept of “world literature”.

Research projects in genre history

The aim of this research direction is to examine the genre system of nineteenth-century Hungarian prose and narrative poetry in its individual defining elements, especially the practice of intercultural adoptions, application, and adaptation, in a comparative approach, both in terms of the classical tradition and contemporary foreign literatures.

Colleagues working in this research direction are Árpád Csonki and Sándor Hites.

Subdivisions of the research direction include:

the history of the nineteenth-century Hungarian and European novel.

the Hungarian-language epic poetry of the end of the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century: the complex and diverse generic context and back story of Mihály Vörösmarty’s works; presenting the embeddedness of Hungarian-language epic in world literature (Virgil, Voltaire, the Ossianic songs, etc.) in terms of the diversity of generic models, and the different definitions of epic in particular epic traditions.

Research on János Arany

Critical edition of János Arany. The work of the research group is conducted in the 19th-century Section of the Institute, supported by OTKA (and NKFI), and supervised by János Korompay H. Volumes published so far: Arany János összes művei XVII. (Complete works of János Arany XVII) (the correspondence between 1857 and 1861, ed. János Korompay H., 2004) and XVIII. (the correspondence between 1862 and 1865, ed. Imre Attila Új, 2014). The final, 19th volume (the correspondence between 1866 and 1882, ed. János Korompay H.) of the series that had started in 1951 was published in 2015 by Universitas Kiadó.

The new critical edition of the works of János Arany was launched in 2014, with the title Works of János Arany.


Special projects

Literary history manual

Research for the nineteenth-century volume of the Institute’s literary history manual is the shared task of the whole section. In line with the three main research directions of the section, the manual is also structured according to the triad of the history of genre, intellectual history, and social history. Sándor Hites is the editor of the volume. So far the synopsis of the book has been prepared and published in 2015 (http://real.mtak.hu/30607/1/hites.itk.koncepc.pdf). Several, previously unpublished sample chapters were also published in the same year. Currently the table of contents is being finalized.

Research on cultural nationalism

The Hagyományfrissítés (Updating Tradition) conference and book series examines nineteenth-century Hungarian literary texts which have directly or indirectly become basic texts of our modern self-interpretation, or which have contributed to the forming of the system of tradition from outside the canon. During previous conferences Ferenc Kölcsey’s Nemzeti hagyományok (National Traditions), István Széchenyi’s Hitel (Credit), Mihály Vörösmarty’s Szózat (Appeal), Pál Gyulai’s Írónőink (Our Women Writers), and János Arany’s Naiv eposzunk (Our naive epic) were discussed, as well as János Arany’s Hamlet translation and Lajos Kossuth’s speech The Future of Nations.

Sándor Hites has participated in the international research group established to research nineteenth-century European cultural nationalism, which has created the online platform Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms (SPIN) operating at the University of Amsterdam, supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. The material on this was published in a two-volume manual (Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe) by Amsterdam University Press in 2018.

János Arany Memorial Year

The section started preparations for the Arany anniversary in 2014, preparing the proposal discussed by Section I of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in February 2015 and approved by the president of the Academy, László Lovász, in September 2015. The János Arany Memorial Committee was formed, headed by János Korompay H., series editor of the János Arany critical edition, with Member of the Academy Péter Dávidházi as co-president, head of the section at the time. The government designated 2017 the János Arany Memorial Year, with Hungarian President János Áder serving as patron of the series of events.

Scientific programs. Five scientific sessions were organized using the financial support approved for the scientific programs of the Memorial Year, partly organized by the section, partly with its professional support for the organizers.

The Memorial Year started in Nagyszalonta on 2 March, 2017, with a session organized by the Institute for Literary Studies of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, with Hungarian President János Áder and Secretary-General of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Ádám Török participating.

On 15 May, during the 2017 annual general assembly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Section of Linguistics and Literary Scholarship held a session titled “...és palota épül a puszta beszédből” – A 200 éves Arany János (“... and a palace is built from mere talk” – the János Arany bicentennial).

On 20 October, the János Arany Memorial Committee and the János Arany Society of Nagykőrös organized a conference in Nagykőrös, focusing on the poet’s activities in the town.

On 5 December, the section organized the conference Naiv eposzunk (Our naive epic) in the Library and Information Center of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, as part of the Hagyományfrissítés (Updating Tradition) conference series.

With the financial support approved for the scientific programs of the Memorial Year, the collection of articles published related to the section are:

József Gábori Kovács and Ágnes Major, eds. “…és palota épül a puszta beszédből”: Akadémiai tudományos ülésszakok a 200 éves Arany Jánosról (“... and a palace is built from mere talk”: Academic sessions on the János Arany bicentennial). Budapest: Reciti, 2017.

László Ferenc Novák and Ágnes Major, eds. Arany János bicentenáriumi konferencia: Nagykőrös, 2017. október 20. (János Arany Bicentennial Conference, Nagykőrös, 20 October, 2017), eds. Ágnes Major and Dr. László Ferenc Novák. Nagykőrös: MTA Bölcsészettudományi Kutatóközpont–OniPrint Kft., 2018.

Árpád Csonki, ed. Rejtőzködő Kalliopé: Tanulmányok Arany János Naiv eposzunk című írásáról (Reclusive Calliope: Studies on János Arany’s Our naive epic). Hagyományfrissítés 6. Budapest: reciti, 2018.

Judit Gulyás and Mariann Domokos, eds. Az Arany-család mesegyűjteménye (The Folktale Collection of the Arany family). Budapest: MTA Bölcsészettudományi Kutatóközpont – Universitas Kiadó – MTA Könyvtár és Információs Központ, 2018.

János Arany, Lapszéli jegyzetek, Folyóiratok I (Marginal notes, Periodicals I), ed. Katalin Hász-Fehér, Universitas Kiadó – MTA Bölcsészettudományi Kutatóközpont Irodalomtudományi Intézet, Budapest, 2016.

János Korompay H., “Bénúlt idegre zsongító hatás”: Arany-elemzések (“Tonic for a paralyzed mind”: Arany analyses), Budapest: Universitas, 2019.


In cooperation with the Petőfi Literary Museum, the markup processing of the nineteen volumes of the critical edition Arany János Összes Művei (Complete works of János Arany) (1951–2015) has been completed. (The material thus digitized will be available through the Digiphil philological web portal. The coding is done by section member Árpád Csonki, as well as Diána Horváth-Márjánovics, Emese Hunyadi-Zoltán, Zsófia Sárközi-Lindner, Tünde Móré, and Szilvia Varga, funded by the grant.)

In addition, with cooperation from the Research Centre for the Humanities of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Library and Information Centre of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and the National Széchényi Library: creating a digital manuscript website containing the digital facsimiles of János Arany’s works of poetry, review, and science, and his correspondence and official documents. The web portal will serve scientific, cultural, general education and public education purposes, and it will contain the digital facsimiles of János Arany’s works of poetry, review, and science, and his complete correspondence and official documents. The photographs needed for this will be jointly created by the above-mentioned institutions, including members of the section (Alexandra Antal and Anna Bátori, and later Júlia Fazekas). (They also did the scanning of the Arany manuscripts held in the Nagykőrös János Arany Memorial Museum.) The resulting photographs will be continuously uploaded by the above-mentioned members of the section into the ALEPH database of the Library and Information Centre of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the KOHA database of the National Széchényi Library.

Scholarships for Young Researchers

Eszter Szabó researches the social history of nineteenth-century theater in Kolozsvár in the context of cultural multicentredness and Transylvanian regional identity. Duration of the scholarship: 1 September, 2017 – 31 August, 2019.

Critical editions

The section is currently working on the critical editions of Arany János Munkái (Works of János Arany) (supervisor: János Korompay H.; cycles and topic numbers: 1994–1997: T13429, 1998–2001: T 25901, 2002–2005: T37920, 2006–2009: K60635, 2010–2013: K81197, 2014–2019: K 108503.), Berzsenyi Dániel Összes Munkái (Complete works of Dániel Berzsenyi) (supervisor: Gergely Fórizs, topic number: OTKA K 75485), and Kölcsey Ferenc Minden munkái (Complete works of Ferenc Kölcsey) (OTKA Topic numbers: OTKA T 29386, OTKA K 47274, OTKA P 050111, OTKA K 77470, OTKA T 47274, PUB-F 114527).