|Abstract:||My dissertation questions the traditional assumption of the absence of an indigenous socialist tradition in Romania prior to the Soviet takeover in 1944 by exploring the cultural and intellectual history of early socialism between 1880 and 1914. Moving away from the unimpressive political and institutional history of Romanian socialism, I argue that in conditions of limited political space, socialism was refashioned in a powerful and attractive cultural orientation, particularly visible in the fields of literary criticism and the popularization of science. Using quantitative methods and examining periodicals, memoirs, correspondence, literary and scientific works, as well as archival sources, my study ascertains and documents the previously contested presence of a sizeable and cohesive socialist intellectual community. Prominent within this community was Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea, a Russian-born socialist theoretician and literary critic, who founded a deeply influential school of cultural criticism. Equally important for this community’s intellectual profile was a fascination with science which I explored along two axes: programs for the popularization of science and campaigns for public health and social hygiene. Both are indicative of socialist intellectuals’ deep sense of social mission and their practical appreciation for science as a vehicle for improving everyday life. Together, these cultural endeavors enhanced the visibility of the socialist movement and established its identity.
Socialism of Sentiment brings together four previously unconnected historical fields and bodies of scholarship: the history of political ideologies, literary history, history of science and the history of everyday life. By placing these literatures in conversation with each other, I create a complex portrait of my subjects as socialists, intellectuals, and private individuals. Looking at these fields together allows me to bring new insights to each. Examining the lives of prominent scientists and writers not usually remembered for their socialist activism I fill the gaps of the Romanian socialist pantheon and recover the ideological commitments of the politically unaffiliated. Placing the specialized analyses of literary history in the broader social, cultural and national environments in which Gherea and other socialist literary critics operated I trace their visibility to their involvement in the making of a national literary canon. This contribution is both unusual for Marxist critics, who generally examine already consecrated Western classics, and very relevant in the context of a nation-building young state. Going beyond the apparently antagonistic relation between socialism and nationalism, I show that socialism was vulnerable to, and compatible with, nationalist agendas. Looking at influential socialist researchers whose laboratories became important nodes in transnational scientific networks, I question the distinction between alleged scientific centers and peripheries and integrate Eastern Europe in wider European and global cultural and intellectual histories.