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Sofija Nemet




The refusal of Western ideas expressed by a woman (Isidora Sekuli?; early 20th century)

Abstract

At the beginning of the 20th century, together with new literary styles, the innovative and provocative prose of Isidora Sekuli? opened up cultural and literary horizons, initiating a new discourse for both national and international identity. Unfortunately, her truly innovative, multi-layered short stories, collected and printed in 1913, under the title Saputnici (Fellow Travellers), and especially the literary account of her travels to Norway, Pisma iz NorveŇ°ke, published in 1914, were not only misinterpreted, but evaluated as merely sensational, overtly sentimental, untrue, scandalous, and, above all, unpatriotic.

The overall negative criticism came from one of the most influential literary critics and historians of the time, Jovan Skerli?, whose position of power influenced greatly the negative reception of her works. This wrongful judgment originated both in Skerli?'s personal ideological and political convictions, and the glorification of the so called nationalism (or patriotism), which predominated in the spirit of that particular historical moment, in Serbia.

A rebel against patriarchal narrow-mindedness, this extraordinary writer, an avid reader of European literature, a dedicated translator, an interested essayist, a critic of foreign literatures, a passionate world traveler, in a word, a truly cosmopolitan woman, Isidora Sekuli? did not fight against the national spirit, but, quite the contrary, for the establishment of cultural, literary, and, in the broadest sense, intellectual dialogue between Serbia and other countries of Western Europe. Raising national and international awareness, and developing a literary discourse overstepping cultural, political and historical boundaries and borders, was Isidora Sekuli?'s motif from the very start of her writing career, already notable in her two books published until 1914.





AsK, September 2012




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