"Review of The Beauty of Words or the Truth of the Bibliographer. Tribute to Lehel Vadon edited by Z. Abádi Nagy, J. Á. Kádár, A. Tarnóc" by András Csillag
András Csillag is professor of American Studies at the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, College of Education, University of Szeged, Hungary. E-mail: email@example.com
A szavak szépsége, avagy a bibliográfus igazsága. Tisztelgés Vadon Lehel 70. születésnapján.
[The Beauty of Words or the Truth of the Bibliographer. Tribute to Lehel Vadon on his 70th Birthday]
Abádi Nagy Zoltán, Kádár Judit Ágnes, Tarnóc András, eds.
Eger: EKF Líceum Kiadó, 2012
Vols. 1–2. 858 pages
Professor Lehel Vadon of Eszterházy Károly College of Eger, Hungary, has turned seventy. Everybody concerned with American Studies in this country knows his name and the department he chaired for sixteen years. His personality has been held in high esteem by Americanists on account of his scholarly work as a bibliographer and as an editor while his department is also famous for a large number of publications, the best known being the periodical Eger Journal of American Studies. Three of his colleagues, Zoltán Abádi Nagy, Judit Kádár and András Tarnóc, all of them noted educators and scholars in the field of American Studies, have decided to come out with a two-volume festschrift on the anniversary. This bilingual publication of Eszterházy College is a bulky collection of documents, tributes, studies and articles dedicated to Professor Vadon’s life and oeuvre. The three Editors have assembled a really wide selection of writings by numerous contributors, mainly scholars from Hungary and including some from the United States.
Born in 1942, Lehel Vadon attended grammar school in the small town of Karcag, then became a student at Debrecen’s famous Kossuth University majoring in English and Hungarian. In the 1960s, this university was perhaps the best place to pursue English and American Studies in a country which was under communist dictatorship and had limited academic freedom. Inspired by such eminent professors as Péter Egri, Sarolta Kretzoi and especially László Országh, who was “the grand old man” of British and American Studies in Hungary, Vadon embarked on a scholarly career that soon made him a devoted educator as well as a prominent member of the “club” of Americanists in this country. After university, the historic city of Eger became his home town where he has been living with his family. First he briefly taught in a high school there before taking his post with the College of Education where he worked tirelessly for decades until retirement.
Lehel Vadon’s life story has been intertwined with two activities, education and research in the widest sense. His involvement in education was a lot more than mere teaching; it comprised administrative and organizational functions at the college level, perhaps the most important being the establishment of an American Studies department in Eger in 1990. It was the first of its kind at a college of education in this country. Within the period between 1988 and 2006, while he was department head, later director of the Institute of English and American Studies, Vadon held a number of other positions at his college including that of vice-dean for research and international relations for several years. Meanwhile, he taught various courses on American literature and civilization.
Professor Vadon’s fields of research are mainly related to the reception of American literature in Hungary as well as bibliographical research. In recognition for his editorial activity and academic achievements he has been elected president of the Hungarian Association for American Studies (HAAS) and is on the board of some prestigious international organizations, for example, the European Association for American Studies (EAAS) or the American Biographical Institute. Besides having received a number of Hungarian professional awards for meritorious college service, Vadon is also the recipient of the American Biographical Institute’s Medal of Honor for American Studies as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award for American Studies and Bibliographical Research given by the International Biographical Centre of Cambridge, England.
The festschrift under review consists of two volumes and includes chapters miscellaneous in content and genre while rich in illustrations. The Editors’ aim was to showcase Vadon’s life and academic achievements in the greatest possible detail by disclosing his curriculum vitae, listing his own publications as well as those written by reviewers, a biographical interview with personal reminiscences and photographs. (Bibliographies and photos compiled by Judit Szathmári, interview by Zsolt Virágos.) Because of their overwhelming number, it would be a daunting task to single out Vadon’s most significant bibliographies or works he ever wrote or edited. However, his bulky Bibliography of American Literature and Literary Scholarship in Hungary to 2000 (Az amerikai irodalom és irodalomtudomány bibliográfiája Magyarországon 2000-ig), published in three volumes by Eszterházy College (2007), is most likely to have an outstanding place among Lehel Vadon’s many books and textbooks just as it will be an indispensable reference aid for students and researchers of American literary history for generations to come. As Professor Abádi Nagy points out in a review, compiling the Bibliography was originally inspired by Vadon’s mentor, László Országh; it is “one of Országh’s dreams come true,” a “Herculean effort” eventually carried out by one of his indefatigable disciples. (pp. 399-404)
A collection of review articles on Lehel Vadon’s works make up the next section of the book. Also published elsewhere before, eighteen essays discuss subjects Vadon had written about, such as the reception of Upton Sinclair, Walt Whitman and Edgar Allan Poe in Hungary, tribute to the memory of renowned Americanists László Országh and Sarolta Kretzoi, another mentor of the author. The aforementioned Bibliography (2007) as well as its earlier version, A Bibliography of American Literature and Literary Scholarship in Hungarian Periodicals to 1990 (Az amerikai irodalom és irodalomtudomány bibliográfiája a magyar időszaki kiadványokban 1990-ig), published in 1997, are also extensively reviewed here.
The second volume contains a more significant part of the festschrift: chapters with original essays on various aspects of American literature, history, cultural studies as well as Hungarian–American relations and linguistics. The contributors are Vadon’s colleagues from his own institution and other university departments from all over the country representing a wide spectrum of English and American Studies and reflecting the characteristics of the HAAS community. These writings, all dedicated to Professor Lehel Vadon on his 70th birthday, include Zoltán Abádi Nagy’s Narrato-Rhetorhemes of Space in Toni Morrison’s Jazz, Enikő Bollobás’s Race as Cathacresis in Novels of Passing, Péter Gaál-Szabó’s The Production of the Human Subject in Space and by Place, Judit Ágnes Kádár’s The Politics of Going Native: “In-dianing” and “Out-Indianing” in Recent North American Fiction, Donald E. Morse’s “Remembering the Future” Some American Variations on Time Travel, András Tarnóc’s Following the Wilderness Text: The Indian Captivity Narrative as a Travelogue and a Site of Cognitive Map Construction, Gabriella Vöő’s Metaphysical Menu: The Literary Dandy as Chef in Poe’s “Bon-Bon”. Lenke Németh discusses two of Adrienne Kennedy’s dramas.
In the chapter on American history, the reader can find essays on Puritans and slavery in the colonial period by Csaba Lévai, The Role of the U.S. in Shaping the Post-1945 World Order by Tamás Magyarics, The United States and Financial Reconstruction Programs in Europe in the 1940s by Zoltán Peterecz, Sentimental Federalism: The Mimetic Version of Sympathy in the Federalist Papers by Zoltán Vajda, “The Golden Door” Slamming Shut: Immigration Legislation in the United States (1819-1924) by István Kornél Vida. Concerning Hungarian–American connections, András Csillag writes about Joseph Pulitzer’s role in erecting the Statue of Liberty and his relationship with Mihály Munkácsy in America; Tibor Glant about Hungarian travelogues in the second half of the 19th century; Tibor Frank about an unknown letter by Upton Sinclair to Jenő Szél; Miklós Kontra about A Marginal Note on Hungarian Americans.
The cultural studies chapter includes Irén Annus’s The Vicissitudes of Columbia: Representations in Nineteenth-century Visual Culture, Péter Szaffkó’s English and American Plays on the Repertory of the Theatre of Oradea between 1900 and 1945, Gabriella Varró’s
essay on Sam Shepard’s influence in Hungary, Linda Sue Warner & G. S. Briscoe’s Beloved Women: Female Influences on American Indian/Alaska Native Education Policy, Katalin Bíróné-Nagy’s Challenged Colonial Stereotypes: Michael Dorris’s Morning Girl, Judit Molnár’s essay on Nino Ricci’s Lives of the Saints, Balázs Venkovits’s Recurring Nineteenth-century Stereotypes in US Movies about Mexico. And finally, the chapter on linguistics has the following contents: Discourse Perspectives on Mood and Modality in English with Regard to the Semantics–Pragmatics Interface by Ágnes Herczeg Deli, The Meaning of the Zero Copula in Jamaican Creole by Grete Dalmi, Some Remarks on Collocations in English by Éva Kovács, How to Classify Anglicisms in French by Tibor Őrsi.
Browsing these two volumes, looking at the wide assortment of illustrations and going through the reviews and essays, one can get a good picture of the appreciation of both the domestic and international academic community concerning Lehel Vadon’s impressive oeuvre. The book is a real witness to a rich and substantial life. Its title is a symbolic reflection of Vadon’s personality: educator and scholar. The “beauty of words” is a reference to the literary and linguistic inspiration he inherited from László Országh, his professor and role model, while the second half of the title, “the truth of the bibliographer” indicates the difficulties he met at the beginning of his bibliographical research work. As Editor András Tarnóc points out in his introductory remarks, now the truth of the bibliographer is not only the academic and moral recognition duly deserved by Lehel Vadon for his pioneering achievements but the phrase refers to his career in its entirety. (p. 14)