The concept of network in literature:
The network of the generation of the thirties and their contacts abroad during the interwar period

Ourania Polycandrioti

The notion of network presupposes the steady communication and organized collaboration among individuals or organizations, aiming at a common goal, whether ideological, ecomomic or other. Yet at the same time literature cannot but rely on independence, liberty, polysemy of meaning, the ambivalence of expressions—in other words, on a non-systemic base. Consequently, the notion of the network in literary scholarship could be regarded as incompatible with the literary act and its agents, especially the authors, unless it refers to extra-literary realities and sociological approaches of literary phenomena, leaving aside the study of the literary work per se. It refers to the framework and potentially the prerequisites for the literary work. Thus, in literary scholarship, the network may pertain to regular relations and contacts, common goals and activities, friendships, acquaintances, collaborations, readings and curiosities of every kind. Based on this kind of rationale in the field of cultural communication, one often finds a rather broad approach to the notion of network1, that regards the network as an open, polyphonic interconnection which leads to various osmosis and cultural transfers, rather than as predefined fixed communication within a closed system. As a result, it is necessary to redefine both the functional role of the agents of the network in the public sphere and the functional role of the author, reader, and text.

For this reason, it has been suggested that in the field of literature, the study of networks is legitimized to the extent that the network is a means to an end, a methodological tool rather than an end in itself. Thus, the network can be used to demonstrate the more general context in which literary works and literary phenomena are created and formed2. For instance the interconnection of literary periodicals or the correspondence between authors may constitute very significant networks of relations and contacts with a function conducive to ideas and literary-artistic currents. Nevertheless, without the comparative analysis of the texts that constitute networks (among the periodicals or within the correspondence) the study of networks remains mostly extra-literary. Furthermore, the constitution of a network of intellectuals aiming at ideological militancy is less philologically and more politically or socially valuable—unless of course one studies the texts themselves written by the agents of the network as well as their affiliations in form and content. According to this rationale, the literary circle of the authors in northeastern Aegean could be regarded as a network, mainly due to the movement known as “Spring of Lesbos” and the interconnection of its members; the same applies to the circle of leftwing intellectuals during the postwar period. Inversely, the literary, ideological, or theoretical texts may be interpreted and commented differently, if approached within the broader context of their creation, as constituted by the network—social, artistic, ideological, etc.—of the contacts and communication maintained by their author. Finally, this is nothing more than a cartography of the routes formed for cultural transfers and for the formation of the cultural physiognomy and identity of every linguistic-national group.

The potential of using the concept of the network in literary history and the history of ideas could therefore be explored in a fruitful and experimental manner, from a broadened perspective. Within this framework, the gravitational centre could be shifted from the network to the agents that constitute it, the individuals (authors and readers), the texts, and the various organizations/ institutions that are connected to it. Such an approach may offer various perspectives of study as, for instance, the study of forming networks of stereotypes4, of translations, ideas, etc. Additionally, the circulation of a piece of information or a text within a group of individuals may be regarded as constituting the network of this text (and of the ideology it carries) in its diffusion on a national and international level.

Within this framework, we have considered that an indicative example of the study of networks as a methodological and interpretive tool, might be the literary network of the interwar period, both that of the northeastern Aegean and the later one of the Athens literary circle. The authors of the northeastern Aegean, after the destruction of Asia Minor, coordinated a joined effort to promote a reborn Greek civilization, highlighting the concept of locality, and somewhat veiling their wariness of the novelties coming from the West. Coming more or less from the same places, they sustained contacts even after most of them had left the northeastern Aegean and moved to Athens, Paris, or elsewhere. Their joining and merging with the generation of the thirties and their activity around periodicals ideologically ties in with similar groups in Europe, especially in France, groups that promoted the idea of a Mediterranean identity in contradistinction to nationalism. The mapping of their networking and contacts with the interior of the country and abroad could demonstrate their regular or less regular socializing and their interconnection to other groups or journals. Much the same is true for the Athens literary circle. Being cosmopolitan, fluent in foreign languages and urbane, more recipient to the avant-garde winds blowing from the West these authors developed a different view on locality and national character, and subsequently fostered a plethora of relations with authors, groups, and periodicals in Europe.

Thus, the mapping of the various contacts and networking of the interwar years literary figures was the original idea for the exploration of the concept of the network as a methodological tool in the history of literature and the history of ideas. To put it otherwise, this specific research project, based on literary creation, diaries or journals, and other personal texts, as well as the articles published by literary figures in the interwar years, has attempted to indicatively and experimentally map the networking, contacts and interconnections, thinking that all these were conducive to the circulation of ideas, cultural transfers, and the shaping of a cultural identity. The indexing of works and names, as presented by the information registered in the DataBase, assisted by the already known published bibliography and the pertinent Indexes, may broadly and synthetically illustrate the networking of Greek literary figures with their contacts abroad, the prerequisites for literary work and the formation of a more general view of the modern Greek cultural and national identity.

The sources of the information registered in the DataBase and the digital map were the published correspondence and the diaries or journals of several inter-war literary figures; these had been published either as monographs or occasionally in literary journals. The DataBase accompanying the digital map does not yet feature all the fields explored. A major part of the research completed needs further processing, corrections, and improvements, so that it becomes useful and functional.

Last but not least, I would like to note that the indexing of the sources was completed within the very brief period of six months, exclusively by the project collaborators that follow:

Eleni Christodoulou, graduate of the Department of French Language and Literature, University of Athens (volunteer work).

Konstantina Lianou, graduate of the Faculty of Philology, University of Athens (volunteer work).

Nearchos Koursaros, post-graduate student, Cyprus Open University (Erasmus+)

Foteini Tsoni, graduate student of the Faculty of History and Archaeology, University of Athens (Program of Students Training).

The collaborators who contributed to the project appear in the DataBase with their initials in every entry. I would like to wholeheartedly thank them all for an excellent collaboration and their great eagerness to contribute to the project.

Theotokas G., Τετράδια ημερολογίου 1939-1953 (Journal Notebooks 1939-1953), ed. D. Tziovas, Athens 2005.

Theotokas G., Kalas N., Μία Αλληλογραφία (Correspondence), ed. I. Constandulaki-Chantzou, Athens 1989.

Theotokas G. – Katsimpalis G.K., Αλληλογραφία (1930-1966) (Correspondence [1930-1966]), eds. Ch. L. Karaoglou – A. Xynogala, Athens 2008.

Theotokas G. – Seferis G., Αλληλογραφία (1930-1966) (Correspondence [1930-1966]), ed. G. P. Savvidis, Athens 1981.

Karagiannis B. A., Ανέκδοτα σημειώματα και γράμματα του Στρατή Μυριβήλη [Κριτική-Μελετήματα 41] (Unpublished Notes and Letters of Stratis Myrivilis [Critique-Studies 41], Athens 1993.

Seferis G. – Apostolidis G., Αλληλογραφία 1931-1945 (Correspondence 1931-1945), ed. B. Kontogianni, Athens 2002.

Seferis G. – Lorentzatos Z., Γράμματα Σεφέρη-Λορεντζάτου (1948-1968) (Seferis- Lorentzatos Letters [1948-1968], ed. N. D. Triantafylopoulos, Athens 1990.

Seferis G. – Malanos T., Αλληλογραφία (1935-1963) (Correspondence [1935-1963]), ed. D. Daskalopoulos, Athens 1990.

Seferis G. – Karantonis A., Αλληλογραφία 1931-1960 (Correspondence 1931-1960), ed. F. Dimitrakopoulos, Athens 1988.

Seferis G. – Seferi M., Αλληλογραφία Α΄ (1936-1940) (Correspondence I [1936- 1940]), ed. M.Z. Kopidakis, Athens 2005.

Seferis G. – Seferi M., Αλληλογραφία Β΄ (1944-1959) (Correspondence II [1944-1959]), ed. M. Stasinopoulou, Athens 2005.

Seferis G., Μέρες Α΄ (16 Φεβρουαρίου 1925 - 17 Αυγούστου 1931) (Days I [16 of February 1925-17 of August 1931]), Athens 2003.

Seferis G., Μέρες Β΄ (24 Αυγούστου 1931 - 12 Φεβρουαρίου 1934) (Days II [24 of August 1931-12 of February 1934]), Athens 1984.

Seferis G., Μέρες Γ΄ (16 Απριλίου 1934 - 14 Δεκεμβρίου 1940) (Days III [16 of April 1934-14 of December 1940]), Athens 1984.

Seferis G., Μέρες Δ΄ (1 Ιανουαρίου 1941 - 31 Δεκεμβρίου 1944) (Days IV [1 of January 1941- 31 of December]), Athens 1993.

Seferis G., Μέρες Ζ΄ (1 Οκτώβρη 1956 - 27 Δεκέμβρη 1960) (Days V [1 of October 1956-27 of December 1960]), ed. Th. N. Michailidou, Athens 1990.

Seferis G., Μέρες Στ΄ (20 Απρίλη 1951 - 4 Αυγούστου 1956) (Days VI [20 of April 1951-4 of August 1956]), ed. P. Mermigkas, Athens 1986.

Stavrou T.D., Τετράδια μνήμης: Μυριβήλης, Βενέζης, Καστανάκης (Notebooks of Memory: Myrivilis, Venezis, Kastanakis), Athens 1982.

Camus A., Carnets III (mars 1951 - décembre 1959), ed. R. Gay-Crosier, Paris 2013.

Keeley E., Συζήτηση με τον Γιώργο Σεφέρη (A Conversation with George Seferis), transl. L. Kasdagli, Athens 1986.

1 M. Brunet, Sources, objets et objectifs de l’histoire des réseaux littéraires au xixe siècle, Les idées en mouvement. Perspectives en histoire intellectuelle et culturelle du Canada, ed. D.C. Belanger – S. Coupal – M. Ducharme, Saint-Nicolas (Québec) 2004, 204. «Tant que le concept de réseau est associé à celui d’échanges multiformes et polyphoniques, les observations sont susceptibles d’enrichir l’interprétation de toute histoire littéraire désireuse de dépasser la taxinomie facile et l’abus de paradigmes qui figent les processus créateurs», brunet, Sources, objets et objectifs, 209.

2 «L’observation des réseaux peut jouer un rôle utile et considérable dans la mise en contexte des faits et des œuvres littéraires», A. Viala, Conclusion, in: ed. D. De Marneffe – B. Denis, Les réseaux littéraires, Bruxelles 2006, 266-267.

3 These issues are explored by the research program of Stanford University, Mapping the Republic of Letters In fact, this program applies the notion of the network and explores the interconnections of literary figures, philosophers, scholars, and intellectuals, starting with the Enlightenment period, namely the 18th century onwards.

4 Le cliché en traduction [Palimpsestes 13], ed. P. Bensimon, Paris 2001. See mainly the study: M. Sanconie, Au-delà du vertige. Mises en abyme ou la traduction des réseaux de clichés dans les romans Harlequin, 155-166.

5 This bibliography does not include the indexing of periodicals (mostly of Nea Estia and Kondyloforos), which was indicative and fragmentary.

Research directed by: Ourania Polycandrioti. Collaborator: Konstantina Lianou, Photini Tsoni, Eleni Christopoulou. GIS Chartography: Dimitris Triantakonstantis.