Anthems and laments

The European Legacy
October 16, 1998

This multi-disciplinary journal serves as a platform for the International Society for the Study of European Ideas, founded in 1984. It focuses upon the study of European intellectual and cultural history and on what have been described as "the new paradigms of thought evolved in the making of the New Europe". The journal's remit includes the ambitious project of promoting the study of "Europe's cultural past, present and future".

The European Legacy takes its multi-disciplinarity seriously. The articles, surveys and book reviews cover philosophy, literature, politics, history of religion, science, education and law, European studies, war studies, women's studies, sociology, art, music, economics and language. The range of topics dealt with is certainly impressive.

The first four issues contain half of the proceedings from a conference held in Graz in August 1994. Many of the articles are thought-provoking and stimulating. Two languages, English and French, are used, although, unsurprisingly, the vast majority of texts are published in English, with 13 texts in French for 1996. Clearly, the journal is conference driven and the decision regularly to publish papers from the ISSEI's bi-annual conferences will guarantee the journal a constant flow of articles.

Later issues focus on specific themes, such as science and religion in modern western thought. These are likely to appeal to a smaller audience. The first four issues certainly create a greater impact than their rather slender successors.

Understandably, there are a considerable number of articles on "former" Yugoslavia and the Yugoslav successor states. Of particular interest is Jim Seroka's article on democratisation in the region, which highlights Serbia and the tension between "good" Serbs and the "bad" Serbs - as perceived by extremist nationalists - who have been anti-war campaigners, or who have supported the boycott of the recent series of presidential elections.

Sanja Mayer-Bobetko writes on the role of nationalism in music. She concentrates on the expression of national identity through opera in Croatia. This is an excellent expose of the creation of national myths by national awakeners in the 19th and 20th centuries and how patriotic elements have been expressed in the librettos of composers such as Franjo Kuhac and Jakov Govotac. Today one can consider the extent to which the popular musical idiom of opera has been replaced by demotic musical culture on radio and television in reinforcing national identity, reflecting the Serb poselo and the role of Radio "Belgrade 202" during the wars in former Yugoslavia.

The theme of music and politics is also taken up in "Political songwriters in post-wall Germany", which argues that in Germany, "... music and literature have tended to cross-pollinate or to even be virtually inextricably intertwined", although one can argue again that this process applies to other European societies such as post-Franco Spain.

In "Milestones on the long road to European unification", the reader is presented with the case of Belgium. This article argues that the exclusion of "minority languages" is dangerous for democracy and that in the European Union, larger countries have little respect for the languages of the smaller countries. Nevertheless, without any further clarification it seems a little strange to be informed that "Belgium is ideally situated to show the European Community how to unite language diversity" - given that language issues have haunted Belgian civil society and the sense of Belgian unity throughout the 20th century. Indeed this apparently optimistic wave of opinion on the future unity of the Belgian state is intriguing, given that only five years ago, influential Belgian political figures were voicing their concerns that the "former" Yugoslavia might well be the test bench for Belgium's future.

By contrast, Susan Emannuel provides a highly interesting analysis of the origins and development of the Franco-German television project (ARTE). But I was not totally convinced that French intellectuals of the 1990s continue to "...deny that the medium (television) can be a forum for ideas or a purveyor of what is best in the national culture". One thinks of the enormous success of programmes such as Bouillon de Culture and its predecessor Apostrophe on France 2, to say nothing of Marc Ferro's excellent Histoire Parallele on ARTE (previously La Sept), which has been running since 1989.

There are many historical and historiographical articles. I shall single out three. Writing five years after the bicentenary of the French revolution, Edna Lemay provides us with an overview of the reflections of 32 deputies who had participated in the French revolution and who had either been arrested, imprisoned, had gone into exile or were awaiting execution. Despite their experiences, she comments that "Tous sont d'accord la Revolution etait inevitable et necessaire", and that the revolution was seen as being a logical continuation of the Enlightenment critique.

On a different note, Glenda Sluga focuses upon the historicisation of identity formation in her survey entitled "Inventing Trieste". Once again, the issue of inventing a national myth and the role of exclusion are discussed, whereby identity through an "urban nation" is contrasted with that of a "rustic" one, by reference to Schriffrer's writings in the 1940s on a unified and homogenous Italian (urban and male) space, "neatly situated alongside a culturally inferior, Slavic space...". Sluga develops the theme of the continuity of exclusion and so-called Balkan "inferiority", a problem that not only affected Europe before and after the second world war, but has implications for contemporary Europe, since the widening of the European Union will serve further to exclude southeast European states from the European mainstream. The old East-West cleavage is rapidly becoming a North-South one.

Finally, Martyn Lyons reflects on the apparent passing away of the Annales school of history, in which he explains that nowadays "interdisciplinary" means that "the historian must become an anthropologist or ethnographer, or an analyst of linguistics". He argues that, "historians have not lost the faith of the original Annales in the synthesising power of history" so that the Annales approach has not so much died but developed and moved on.

I would not hesitate to recommend The European Legacy to colleagues in European studies, especially if the International Society for the Study of European Ideas continues to hold conferences and publish its papers in this format.

Robert Hudson is senior lecturer in European studies, University of Derby.

The European Legacy: Towards New Paradigms (6 times a year)

Editor - Ezra Talmor and Sascha Talmor
ISBN - ISSN 1084 8770
Publisher - MIT Press
Price - $65.00 (individuals) $0.00 (institutions)
Pages - -

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