History of the Section
The Section was established in 1986 with Endre Bojtár’s leadership although the comparative analysis of the Central and Eastern European region has been part of the programme of the Institute since the beginning. The Section, first called Section of World Literature and then Section of Comparative Literary History, examined the relations of literatures in Hungary and in its neighbouring nations. This programme – realized together with the researchers of the relating countries – resulted in study volumes that were published in both languages at the same time. This is how the volumes on the history of Russian (1961), Czechoslovakian (1965), Polish (1969) and South Slavic (1972) relationships were born with rich material and numerous long-missed studies.
The Section had intended to write the history of neighbouring literatures, too, but unfortunately only László Sziklay’s work, The History of Slovakian Literature (A szlovák irodalom története, 1962) could be realized. A big comparative conference organized in Budapest in 1962 was an important milestone in the boom of the regional research in Hungary, together with the volume of the documents of the conference titled La littérature comparée en Europe orientale (1963), which established the international reputation of the Institute in this field, too. As a result, the leading comparatists of our Institute (György Mihály Vajda, Tibor Klaniczay, István Sőtér, Miklós Szabolcsi) had a significant role in the launch and edition of the book series titled Comparée des Littératures de Langues Europénnes (The History of Literatures in European Languages – Az európai nyelvű irodalmak története) that was created under the auspices of the AILC. Following a promising start, the Section withered in the 1970s mainly for personal reasons (retirements, leaves).
The primary aim of the re-established Section, which is rather small in number, is the comparative analysis of the literature – in a wider sense, the complete culture – of the people living between the Russian and the German language areas. The Eastern European comparatistics looks for the special quality, special type of the culture of the region. It wishes to overstep the methodological barrier for which the only way of concieving the literary history of our region is to put the certain national literatures next to one another. The Eastern European comparatistics which we represent differs from the traditional concept of Slavistics as it is built on a historical-typological approach that is independent from linguistic affinity. Using the writing-centred approach of structuralism, too, historical typology systematizes the semantical and poetical elements of the certain pieces of writings and so it gets to the concept of the literary trend, which we consider the basic auxiliary idea of regional comparatistics. The final aim of our research programme is to write the comparative literary history of the region.
In the 1990s, we managed to create the conditions of the complex-synthetic research with the help of HSRF-subsidies. Besides the study volumes and monographs written with the cooperation of external researchers, it is an important result of the Section that it plays a dominant role in the education of young researchers. The study collection titled Cross Directions. A Comparative Central and Eastern European Culture History (Keresztirányok. Közép- és kelet-európai összehasonlító kultúrtörténet, published in 2000) was the summary of this programme. The collection covers almost the complete 19th and 20th-century cultural history of the region – touching upon and interpreting the most important literary trends. In the 2000s, we joined the works of the four-volume-long Eastern European literary history, written within the frameworks of the AILC (History of the literary cultures of East-Central Europe, 2004–2010). We have to highlight that with his studies and books Endre Bojtár has laid down the basics of a field that had not existed in Hungarian science before, that is Baltic Studies, and made the Institute its centre.
The international relations of the Section have quickly developed; the relationships with the Slovakian, Polish, Lithuanian, Czech and Russian partner institutes and university departments are especially fruitful. Since 2011, the Research Group on Turkology has also been part of our Section. Its professional leader is György Hazai, academian.