About us

The reconceptualization of literature in national terms and the establishment of a literary market mutually informed one another. Accordingly, our basic questions are: How was patriotic activism reconciled with profit-mindedness? How was the national character of literary products seen in view of the capitalism of cultural production and consumption? How could national literature and its historical heritage be taken as the symbolic guardian of national identity, while literature was increasingly commercialized?

Our research proceeds in three interrelated directions.

1) Self-definitions of literature in view of the history of economic ideas

With the rise of the modern notion of literature as imaginative writing, how was the autonomy of the literary field defined in relation to its economic environment? How was the felt autonomy of literary creation maintained while at the same time recognizing it as a form of labor? How did authors become legal and economic agents in symbolic and material marketplaces? In what rhetorical, semiotic, disciplinary, and institutional fields were the conflictual interactions of literature and economy played out?

2) Economic representations in literary texts

In what forms and ways did literary texts come to represent and refigure economic issues? How did economy-related phenomena enter the thematic, narrative, structural and figurative repertoire of fiction and poetry? What genres mediated the social experience of financialization and commercialization? How did these influence individual and collective identities, especially regarding the ethical and social anxieties created by economic progress (or the lack thereof)?

3) Material Cultures and Markets: Literary Production and its Producers

How were literary production, distribution and reception financed in the 19th century? How was a national literary market established? What levels and sites of literary commerce emerged? What kind of pre-market forms managed to survive and what kind of anti-market forms surfaced? In what sort of material culture did authors set out to contribute to a national literary culture, and how did it relate to their social prestige?

Given the multidisciplinary character of the research program, the group draws in researchers from the fields of literary criticism and history, the history of ideas, economic history and social history. 

Our primary focus is on Hungarian literature in comparative contexts. Our middle-term goal is to expand our investigations onto a wider East-Central European context, in cooperation with other research groups in the region and beyond.