Tudor Vianu

Tudor Vianu

Tudor Vianu (January 8 1898May 21 1964) was a Romanian literary critic, art critic, poet, philosopher, academic, and translator. Known for his left-wing and anti-fascist convictions, he had a major role on the reception and development of Modernism in Romanian literature and art. He was married to Elena Vianu, herself a literary critic, and was the father of Ion Vianu, a well-known writer.


Born in Giurgiu to a Jewish family [Papuc; Şimonca] (whose members had converted to Romanian Orthodoxy), [Papuc] he completed his primary and secondary education in the city, attending the Gheorghe Lazăr High School. Around 1910, he began writing poetry — which he never published.

In 1915, Vianu became a student at the Department of Philosophy and Law at the University of Bucharest. During the period, Vianu began attending Alexandru Macedonski's Symbolist literary circle, and, in 1916, he published a study on Macedonsky and later his own verses in "Flacăra" magazine.

Upon Romania's entry in World War I, he was into the Romanian Army, trained as an artillery cadet in Botoşani, and took part in the Moldavian campaign. In 1918, he returned to Bucharest, where he was editor of Macedonski's "Literatorul", and resumed his studies, graduating in 1919. Vianu also worked on the editorial staff for Constantin Rădulescu-Motru's "Ideea Europeană" and for "Luceafărul". In 1921, he began his long collaboration with "Viaţa Românească", while he contributed to Eugen Lovinescu's "Sburătorul".

In 1923, he obtained a doctorate in Philosophy at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, with the thesis "Das Wertungsproblem in Schiller Poetik" ("The Judgment of Values in Schiller's Poetics"), his first major study in aesthetics (delivered in November of 1923). The work was praised by Lucian Blaga, who was subsequently Vianu's colleague during their time as staff members for "Gândirea"; [Grigorescu, p.432-433] the two shared an appreciation of Expressionism. [Grigorescu, p.382, 384, 432-433] With Blaga, he stood for "Gândirea"'s early modernist tendencies, and grew opposed to Nichifor Crainic's intense advocacy of traditionalism (at a time when the magazine's editor, Cezar Petrescu, was occupying a middle position). [Livezeanu, p.125-126]

With the publishing of his "Dualismul artei" in 1925 (followed by a long succession of collections of essays and studies), Vianu secured his place in the cultural landscape of modern Romania, and became the titular professor of aesthetics at the University of Bucharest. At around the same period, he distanced himself from "Gândirea" (which was becoming the mouthpiece of Crainic's far right traditionalism), and instead advocated democratic government. [Ornea, p.36, 69-70, 116-117]

Throughout the interwar period, Vianu was an adversary of the fascist Iron Guard, and polemized with its press (becoming the target of attacks serialized in "Cuvântul"). [Ornea, p.163, 453-454] His status as a professor was in peril during the (National Legionary State established by the Guard in 1940), and he felt the imminent danger of physical assaults. [Papuc; Scurtu, p.11] Anti-Semitic authorities began alluding to his Jewish origins, and several violent remarks were aimed at him. [Papuc] Following the Legionary Rebellion and the Guard's defeat, he sent a congratulatory telegram to "Conducător" Ion Antonescu. [Scurtu, p.11] In 1945, after the end of Antonescu's regime and World War II, he was the recipient of a letter from his friend Eugène Ionesco: the document forms a list of intellectuals whom Ionesco harshly criticized for their pro-Iron Guard activism (they include Nae Ionescu, Mircea Eliade, Emil Cioran, Constantin Noica, Dan Botta, Mircea Vulcănescu, Horia Stamatu, Paul Sterian, Mihail Polihroniade, Haig Acterian, Dumitru Cristian Amzăr, Costin Deleanu and Paul Deleanu). [Ornea, p.30-31, 184-185, 197-198, 202]

In charge of Romania's National Theater in 1945, ambassador to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1946, Vianu was an honorary member of the Romanian Academy starting in 1955. He made several concessions to the new Communist authorities, which Ion Vianu has described as "purely formal" [Şimonca] (an assessment shared by Ion Papuc, who argued that Vianu joined the Romanian Communist Party "for lack of a way out"). [Papuc] He gave active support to literary figures who, as former members of the Iron Guard, faced imprisonment — Vianu was a defense witness in the trial of Traian Herseni, and, with Mihai Ralea, the author of an appeal for the release of Petre Ţuţea. [Papuc]

During his late years, he translated several of William Shakespeare's works into Romanian. In the beginning of summer 1964, he completed "Arghezi, poet al omului" ("Arghezi, Poet of Mankind"), carrying the subtitle "Cântare Omului" ("A Chant to Mankind"), a work in the field of comparative literature. It began printing on the very day of its author's death, which was due to a heart attack.


Vianu's investigations into cultural history, coupled with his vivid interest in the sociology of culture, allowed him to develop an influential philosophy, which attributed culture a seminal role in shaping human destiny. [Pop] According to his views, culture, which had liberated humans from natural imperatives, was an asset that intellectuals were required to preserve by intervening in social life. [Pop]

In his analysis of the Age of Enlightenment and 19th-century philosophy, Vianu celebrated Hegel for having unified the competing trends of universalist Rationalism and ethnocentric Historicism. [Pop] A sizable part of his analysis was focused on the modern crisis of values, which he attributed to the inability of values to impose themselves on all individuals, and which he evidenced in the ideas of philosophers as diverse as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, and Søren Kierkegaard. [Pop]

elected works

* "Dualismul artei" ("The Dualism of Art") - 1925;
* "Fragmente moderne" ("Modernist Pieces") - 1925;
* "Poezia lui Eminescu" ("The Poetry of Eminescu") - 1930;
* "Arta şi Frumosul" ("Art and Beauty") -1932;
* "Idealul clasic al omului" ("The Classic Idea of Man") -1934;
* "Estetica" ("Aesthetics"), a work in two volumes - 1934-1936;
* "Filosofie şi poezie" ("Philosophy and Poetry") - 1937;
* "Istorism şi naţionalism" ("Historicism and Nationalism") - 1938;
* "Introducere in teoria valorilor" ("Introduction to the Theory of Values") - 1942;
* "Istoria literaturii române moderne" ("The History of Modern Romanian Literature"), in collaboration with Şerban Cioculescu and Vladimir Streinu - 1944;
* "Dicţionar de maxime (comentat)" ("Dictionary of Maxims (Annotated)") - 1962.



* Dan Grigorescu, "Istoria unei generaţii pierdute: expresioniştii", Bucharest, Editura Eminescu, 1980
* Pompiliu Marcea, "Tabel cronologic" in Tudor Vianu, "Scriitori români", Bucharest, Editura Minerva, 1970
* Z. Ornea, "Anii treizeci. Extrema dreaptă românească", Bucharest, Editura Fundaţiei Culturale Române, 1995
* Ioan Scurtu, "PNL şi PNŢ: Rezerve, nemulţumiri, proteste. Partidele istorice sub guvernarea antonesciano-legionară", in "Dosarele Istoriei", 9/2000
* [http://www.nec.ro/fundatia/nec/publications/nation.pdf Irina Livezeanu, "After the Great Union: Generational Tensions, Intellectuals, Modernism, and Ethnicity in Interwar Romania", in "Nation and National Ideology. Past, Present and Prospects. Proceedings of the International Symposium held at the New Europe College, Bucharest, April 6-7, 2001", Center for the Study of the Imaginary, New Europe College, p.110-127]
* [http://convorbiri-literare.dntis.ro/IONPAPUCian6.htm Ion Papuc, "Ceea ce ştiu", letter to "Convorbiri literare", no. 1, January 2006]
* [http://www.crvp.org/book/Series01/I-19/chapter_xvii.htm Mihaela Pop, "The Promethean Man Eastward or Westward?", at the Council for Research in Values and Philosophy site]
* [http://www.observatorcultural.ro/Am-vrut-sa-fiu-un-martor.-Interviu-cu-Ion-VIANU*articleID_12821-articles_details.html "«Am vrut să fiu un martor». Interview with Ion Vianu" by Ovidiu Şimonca, in "Observator cultural", no. 261, March 24, 2005]

Further reading

* Ion Biberi, "Tudor Vianu", Bucharest, Editura pentru Literatură, 1966
* "Tudor Vianu. Biobliografie", Bucharest, Biblioteca Centrală Universitară, 1967
* Ion Pascadi, "Estetica lui Tudor Vianu", Bucharest, Editura Ştiinţifică, 1968
* Traian Podgoreanu, "Umanismul lui Tudor Vianu", Bucharest, Editura Cartea Românească, 1973
* Ecaterina Ţarălungă, "Tudor Vianu", Bucharest, Editura Cartea Românească, 1984
* Henri Zalis, "Tudor Vianu – apropieri, delimitări, convergenţe", Bucharest, Editura Minerva, 1993
* Henri Zalis, "Tudor Vianu", Bucharest, Editura Recif, 1997
* Henri Zalis, "Viaţa lui Tudor Vianu. O biografie intelectuală ", Bucharest, Editura Atlas, 1997
* Vasile Lungu, "Viaţa lui Tudor Vianu", Bucharest, Editura Minerva, 1997
* Emil Moangă, "Tudor Vianu în conştiinţa criticii", Bucharest, Editura Floarea Darurilor, 1997
* George Gană, "Tudor Vianu şi lumea culturii", Bucharest, Editura Minerva, 1998
* Vasile Lungu, "Opera lui Tudor Vianu", Bucharest, Editura Eminescu, 1999
* Petru Vaida, "Opera filozofică a lui Tudor Vianu", Bucharest, Editura Enciclopedică, 2004

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