A Metacritical Approach to Eminescu’s Myth. With a Look to Florina Ilis’s Novel Parallel Lives [Viețile paralele]



The centrality of Mihai Eminescu (1850-1889) in the Romanian collective imaginary has been repeatedly acknowledged in the last one hundred years. His figure – and to less extent his poetic and journalistic work – enabled the proliferation of a wide gallery of cultural, political, and literary myths, which collided with one another and inspired vivid debates in the public arena. My article seeks to examine one recent contribution in this area, namely the novel Viețile paralele [Parallel Lives] published by Florina Ilis in 2012. Drawing on concepts such as national poet(s) and cultural saints, I suggest a more cautious approach to Eminescu’s myth, which is often seen as a form of Romanian cultural pathology. Comparative research stresses that in East-Central Europe the figures of national poets are subject to collective mythization and ideological annexation. The first part of my article comments on the mechanisms of national myths production and reiteration, while the second part focuses on the role played by literary works in these processes. In this respect, my analysis of Ilis’s novel shows that literary fiction both enables and disables collective myths. However, as a postmodern and postcommunist female author, Ilis approaches the myth of the Romanian national (male) bard from a deconstructionist perspective, which asks for a rethinking of the collective representations on Eminescu.


collective imaginary, cultural myth, national poet, Mihai Eminescu, Florina Ilis

Full Text:

Full Text: PDF


BARTHES, Roland. 1991 [1957]. Mythologies. Selected and translated from the French by Annette Lavers. New York: The Noonday Press.

BĂDESCU, 1999. Cezar Paul-Bădescu (coord.). Cazul Eminescu. Polemici, atitudini, reacţii din presa anului 1998 [The Eminescu Case. Polemics, Positions, Reactions from the Press of 1998]. Piteşti: Paralela 45.

BOIA, Lucian. 2001 [1997]. History and Myth in Romanian Consciousness. Translated by James Christian Brown. Budapest: CEU Press.

BOIA, Lucian. 2015. Mihai Eminescu, românul absolut. Facerea și desfacerea unui mit [Mihai Eminescu, the Complete Romanian. The Making and Remaking of a Myth]. București: Humanitas.

BOT, Ioana (coord.). 2001. „Mihai Eminescu, poet național român” – istoria și anatomia unui mit cultural [“Mihai Eminescu, the Romanian National Poet – The Anatomy of a Cultural Myth]. Cluj Napoca: Dacia.

BOT, Ioana. 2012. Eminescu explicat fratelui meu [Eminescu Explained to my Brother]. București: Art.

CHIVU, Marius. 2012. “Conjurația Eminescu” [The Eminescu Conspiracy]. Dilema veche, nr. 460, online edition: .

CORNIS-POPE, Marcel, and John NEUBAUER (eds.). 2010. History of the Literary Cultures in East-Central Europe. Junctures and Disjunctures in the 19th and 20th Centuries, vol. IV. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

COSTACHE, Iulian. 2008. Eminescu. Negocierea unei imagini [Eminescu. The Negotiation of an Image]. Bucureşti: Cartea Românească.

CREŢIA, Petru. 1998. Testamentul unui eminescolog [The Testament of an Eminescologist]. Bucureşti: Humanitas.

CREȚU, Bogdan. 2013. “Viețile postume ale lui Eminescu [The Posthumous Lives of Mihai Eminescu] (I)”. In Observator cultural, nr. 664, online edition: .

DOVIĆ, Marijan and HELGASON, Jón Karl. 2017. National Poets, Cultural Saints: Canonization and Commemorative Cults of Writers in Europe. Leiden: Brill.

ECO, Umberto. 1991 [1979]. Lector in fabula. Translated in Romanian by Marina Spalas. Bucureşti: Univers.

ERLL, Astrid. 2011. “Traumatic pasts, literary afterlives, and transcultural memory: new directions of literary and media memory studies”. In Journal of Aesthetics & Culture, 3:1, 7186, DOI: 10.3402/jac.v3i0.7186.

GOLDIȘ, Alex. 2011. Critica în tranșee. De la realismul socialist la autonomia esteticului [Criticism in the Trenches. From Socialist Realism to the Autonomy of Esthetics]. București: Cartea Românească.

HELGASON, Jón Karl. 2011. “Relics and Rituals. The Canonization of Cultural ‘Saints’ from a Social Perspective”. Primerjalna književnost (Ljubljana), 34.1: 165-188.

ILIS, Florina. 2012. Viețile paralele [Parallel Lives]. București: Cartea Românească.

JUVAN, Marko. 2017. “The Aesthetics and Politics of Belonging: National Poets between ‘Vernacularism’ and ‘Cosmopolitanism’”. Arcadia, 52(1): 10-28.

LOVINESCU, E. 1995. Mite. Bălăuca. Ed. îngrijită de Teodor Vârgolici. Bucureşti: Editura 100+1 Gramar.

MIRONESCU, Doris. 2013. “Cum (nu) se poate scrie biografia unui mit”. In Bucureștiul cultural, nr. 122, online edition: .

NEUBAUER, John. 2010. “Figures of National Poets”. In History of the Literary Cultures in East-Central Europe. Junctures and Disjunctures in the 19th and 20th Centuries, edited by Marcel Cornis-Pope and John Neubauer, vol. IV, 11-18. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

PETRESCU, Cezar. 1984. Romanul lui Eminescu [The Novel of Eminescu]. Ed. îngrijită de Virgil Cuţitaru. Iaşi: Junimea.

RIGNEY, Ann, and LEERSSEN, Joep. 2014. “Introduction: Fanning out from Shakespeare”. In Commemorating Writers in Nineteenth-Century Europe, edited by Joep Leerssen and Ann Rigney, 1-23. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

TERIAN, Andrei. 2017. “Mihai Eminescu. From National Mythology to the World Pantheon”. In Romanian Literature as World Literature, edited by Mircea Martin, Christian Moraru, and Andrei Terian, 35-54. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

TERIAN, Andrei. 2018. “Prophet, Martyr, Saint: Mihai Eminescu’s Lateral Canonization”. In Canonization of “Cultural Saints”. Commemorative Cults of Artists and Nation-Building in Europe, edited by Marijan Dović and Jón Karl Helgason. Leiden: Brill.

TUDURACHI, Adrian. 2016. Fabrica de geniu. Nașterea unei mitologii a productivității literare în cultura română (1825-1875) [The Genius Factory. The Birth of a Productivity Myth in the Romanian Culture (1825-1875)]. Iași: Institutul European.

WACHTEL, Andrew. 2006. Remaining Relevant after Communism: The Role of the Writer in Eastern Europe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


  • There are currently no refbacks.