Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

A Model of Cultural Dialogue and Intellectual History: The Case of Leon Volovici

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

A Model of Cultural Dialogue and Intellectual History: The Case of Leon Volovici

Article excerpt

Abstract: The present study is an ideography applied to the work and intellectual activity of the Romanian-born Jewish scholar Leon Volovici. A careful analysis of his writings reveals a series of essential directions - landmarks and recurrent themes of his work - that Volovici himself followed without hesitation throughout his intellectual becoming. Succinctly, the case of Leon Volovici represents a remarkable model of practicing cultural dialogue and achieving intellectual histories from several perspectives. In addition to brief introductory considerations and concluding remarks, this study focuses upon the following dimensions of his writings: i) the role of intellectual dialogue and the meaning of dialogic culture in Volovici's view; ii) the systematic presentation of the dimensions of Romanian antisemitism in the period between 1850 and 1940; iii) the presentation of the historical and sociological dimensions of the idea of writer in Romanian culture and iv) the remembrance of Volovici's identity in the context of his wanderings through distinct geographic spaces. Our conclusion is that all these dimensions are coherent with one another, making up the general image of Leon Volovici's work.

Key Words: dialogic culture, intellectuals, nationalist mythology, nationalist ideology, antisemitism, literary history, poet as intellectual, writer as intellectual, Iasi, Warsaw, Jerusalem


The success of any monographic sketch on Leon Volovici's work depends, strictly speaking, on the understanding of the way in which the Romanian-born Jewish writer himself lived through his writing. The fact that Volovici's destiny as a writer is closely connected to his personal life is undoubted; beyond this rather banal observation, any approach to his work is not a risk-free endeavour. One plausible explanation for this would be that, given his preferred topics, one has the possibility of analysing his work through a partisan lens. The immediate outcome of this fact would be something that Volovici himself would have unequivocally rejected, namely, the loss of objectivity in writing; for Leon Volovici, a writer's objectivity and intellectual honesty should be placed beyond any biased considerations. Consequently, a passionate approach dedicated not only to his basic topics, but also to Volovici's work as such should be excluded in principle if one wishes to keep alive both the memory and the respect for what Leon Volovici thought and wrote.

With these observations in mind, what any commentator of his work should adopt is an "objectivist" approach in the "spirit" of Leon Volovici: one should not understand "objectivism" as a mimetic relationship to his work, but rather as a perspective that should comprise both the man and his work. Since the understanding of this indestructible unity between man and work is the key to the objectivity of the analysis, one should investigate the endeavours of writer Leon Volovici. First, one should detect the prevalence of dialogic culture throughout Volovici's entire work: his preference for dialogue, i.e., for openness and objectivity, may explain the non-militant character of his work and thought; in order to comprehend the entire complexity of issues, Leon Volovici always believed that the emotional commitment to any cause and the monologue are obstacles preventing an unbiased assessment of facts and events. Moreover, the merit of dialogue - even imaginary - is that of eliminating subjective uncertainties, of enriching one's own understanding and experience, of finding new meanings and opening up new horizons. The fact that a large number of books published with Volovici's initiative and support are dialogues with various personalities on complicated issues that affected Jewish history in the 20th century is not accidental.1

Second, one can identify a two-fold perspective of the way he approached intellectual history, starting from a succinct observation concerning his double position as an historian and man of letters. …

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