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Xenopoliana, X, 2001

Discursul istoric între realitate și ficțiune.
Complementarități și antinomii

 

NARRATING NATIONAL UTOPIA.
THE CASE  MOSCHOPOLIS IN THE AROMANIAN NATIONAL DISCOURSE

Steliu Lambru

 

1. THE ORIGINS OF THE MOSCHOPOLITAN UTOPIA.  AN ENLIGHTENMENT-ROMANTIC PROJECT
2. A PERFECT CITY FOR NATIONAL INTERESTS
3. IMAGINING MOSCHOPOLIS

 

Utopias have unfolded primarily as chosen places by the human mind to fulfil the desire of daydreaming to the perfect world and to keep hoping for a new and best human society. Academically, this type of imagining a new world trespassed its initial purpose and became an object of analysis as a distinct field in humanities, especially as a clear literary genre. From a larger range of the utopian varieties (like distopias/ black utopias/ anti-utopias, regressive utopias, or religious utopias/ chiliasms),1 I shall analyse that particular type of one's utopian way of living, namely, the national utopia which, as the most common utopian discourse has never been separated from psychological human aspirations, cannot be circumscribed outside authors' period in which he lived in. The highest aim of any utopia was to reach harmony or order; around these ideals, it also emerged the type of the national regressive utopia. As its original archetype, the national regressive utopia seeks to arrange human society as an isolated place in which individuals live perfectly with other individuals and environment.2 Most usual explanations for the indefatigable endeavour of utopian discourse to compose a parallel milieu for human beings claimed that this feeling has its roots in a deeply strong desire to overcome all unfulfilled bad things from one's ordinary life and has a deep relationship with one's feelings and attitudes toward the material surrounding world.
The national metaphysics and the nation-building ontology have not neglected the huge potential for mobilizing masses and voluntarily involved attitudes, which is represented by general utopian belief. Judith Shklar noted that "the political utopia, with its rational city-planning, eugenics, education, and institutions, is by no means the only vision of a perfect life."3 The intention of this approach is to treat utopia as a national construction, in which the nation is actor and spectator as well as author of such a drama through the usage of language, history, and political propaganda. This endeavour focuses on the utopian mind, as an oasis designed not for the general happiness of human beings, but for the general happiness of nation. The case to which this approach will be applied is Moschopolis, the imaginary lost paradise of its inhabitants, and to the cultural matrix, which has been producing the Moschopolitan national saga, namely, the Aromanian national discourse within the larger framework of the Romanian self-introspection.
The most two favorites places of utopian discourse are the island and the city.4 It is the field of intellectual history, as the other branches of the historical discourse that ordains the periodical career of any concept in its various stages of change in meaning. Starting with Romanticism and its the nation-building project, that is largely speaking the nineteenth century, a new category of generalization developed inside of human mind of thinking on community as a distinct group on linguistic criteria, namely the homogeneity of speakers. Such a growth of the national ideology developed myths and stories on national past that conferred to the city a greater role in the "awakening" of national feeling; thus, the national ontology often reaches the utopian discourse proportions, but to a much higher emotional degree. The connection between concepts like "utopia" and "nation" resulted in considering perfect place as a collective dream for the perfect living of nation; in analytical terms, it was meant to be an unconscious exercise on how to imagine and to construct a narrative on a hypothetical reality. Such an intellectual construction on a real basis is represented by Moschopolis5 during the second half on the nineteenth century.6
Due to its dramatic and symbolic death, Moschopolis remained the most powerful myth of the Aromanian epic national chronicle and became the utopian self-definition of Aromanians. The stimulation of national imagination concerning the bygone eminence of Moschopolis and rendering its glorious memory to descendants have become mainly the task of literature7 as its material and prosperity existence was the task of historical research. Unlike the typical utopian texts, as presented in classical models, which are hypothetical narratives "out of this world", the Moschopolitan utopia has a real core. Two words encompass the entire set of attitudes that flow through the heart of narratives and narrators on Moschopolis: depression and nostalgia. Mourned and admired, Moschopolis is a unique form of literary and historical product of the Romanian culture, which sometimes incorporates Aromanian cultural writings. This uniqueness of the Moschopolitan epopee has permanently stirred its fabulously interchangeable being from a real urban unit towards a reclusive space of unlimited wealth. This vagrant notion that continuously vacillates is best known as the so-called "regressive utopia". It is the language that studies the construction of the Moschopolitan utopia and has been perpetrated in thinking on the city. Here, Hayden White's theory of "emplotment" ("the important point is that every history, even the most "synchronie" or "structural" of them, will be emplotted in some way") classifies the kind of narration by which the historian finds the meaning of a particular "plot". For White "the historical work is a verbal structure in the form of a narrative prose discourse", so Moschopolis primarily is, and thus the usage of the tropes ("modes of historical consciousness" or "literary strategies") like Metaphor, Synecdoche, Metonymy, and Irony set the stage for the story:

"each of these modes of consciousness provides the basis for a distinctive linguistic protocol by which to prefigure the historical field and on the basis of which specific strategies of historical interpretation can be employed for 'explaining' it ... These questions have to do with the structure of the entire set of events considered as a completed story and call for a synoptic judgment of the relationship between a given story and other stories that might be 'found,' 'identified,' or 'uncovered in the chronicle. They can be answered in a number of ways. I call these ways (1) explanation by emplotment, (2) explanation by argument, and (3) explanation by ideological implication."8

The theory of tropes conceived by White stated four basic categories of tropes used for the analysis of poetic or figurative language and they are usually designated to assemble any sort of historical narration:

"They are especially useful for understanding the operations by which the contents of experience which resist description in unambiguous prose representations can be prefiguratively grasped and prepared for conscious apprehension. In Metaphor (literally, "transfer"), for example, phenomena can be characterized in terms of their similarity to, and difference from, one another, in the manner of analogy or simile, as in the phrase "my love, a rose." Through Metonymy (literally, "name change"), the name of a part of a thing may be substituted for the name of the whole, as in the phrase "fifty sail" when what is indicated is "fifty ships." With Synecdoche, which is regarded by some theorists as a form of Metonymy, a phenomenon can be characterized by using the part to symbolize some quality presumed to inhere in the totality, as in the expression "He is all heart." Through Irony, finally, entities can be characterized by way of negating on the figurative level what is positively affirmed on the literal level. The figures of the manifestly absurd expression (catachresis), such as "blind mouths," and of explicit paradox (oxymoron), such as "cold passion," can be taken as emblems of this trope."9

As the tropes were the vehicle of conveying the Moschopolitan utopia from reality into nation's mind, there will follow its historical and intellectual origins and projects, which resulted in its actual configuration.

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1 Karl Mannheim classifies utopias into four types: the orgiastic chiliasm of Anabaptists, that is, the idea of restoration of the purity of Christianity, movement appeared in the age of Reform and led by Thomas Münzer, the liberal-humanitarian idea ("the idea . as a formal goal projected into the infinite future whose function it is to act as a mere regulative device in mundane affairs" (p. 197), the conservative utopia ("conservative mentality as such has no predisposition toward theorizing . they tend . to regard the environment as part of a natural world-order" (p. 206), and the socialist-communist utopia, which is the radical form of "the liberal utopia" as a reaction against the conservative utopia (p. 215). See Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia. An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge (London - New York: Routledge, 1991). For my purpose, see especially the chapters devoted to "Ideology and Utopia", pp. 49-96, and "The Utopian Mentality", pp. 173-236.
2 "The idea of perfect order was born in the same atmosphere of ferment that gave birth to the idea of moral order . Moral order . is essentially subjective, dependent on a sustained conflict within man . Perfect order . is by definition static, the creation of divine authority, and must have a spatial location. The city has therefore never been identified with moral order, and the birth of the latter as an idea to some extend jeopardises the moral worth of city's identification with social order . In the Greek as in Judaic tradition moral tinkers took a highly derogatory attitude toward the city both as a actual community and as claiming high status over other places through standing in a superior degree of social order, because in both capacities it necessarily embodied what they perceived to be evil as well as good. As a community the city concentrated in itself the best professional skill of the day regardless of the moral level of the profession - star prostitutes and confidence men as well as high priests and the best lawyers." See Sylvia L. Thrupp, "The City as the Idea of Social Order", Oscar Handlin, John Burchard, eds., The Historian and the City (Cambridge - Massachusetts & London: The MIT Press, 1963), pp. 123-124.
3 Judith Shklar, "The Political Theory of Utopia", Frank E. Manuel, ed., Utopias and Utopian Thought (London: Beacon Press, 1971), p. 106.
4 By its location, the island is available for conferring a paradisiacal cultural content due to its mysteries and difficulties in penetrating it by the human civilization. Even from its first mentioning, amid the word and the theme of island was established an intimate relationship. The first appearance of the word "utopia" is directly related to the island as the best place to live in, also considered as "nowhere" or "noland" just because of the physical impossibility to materialize it. The British Lord Chancellor and Catholic martyr Sir Thomas More invented the word "utopia" in the second decade of the sixteenth century combining two Greek words: ou (not) and topos (place) and the word and the title of his book, Concerning the highest State of the Republic and the new Island Utopia, displays that the most perfect place for human beings to dwell and the most perfect form of government is such a place like an island. The second favorite theme of utopian discourse is the city, which is even older than the island is, and its first appearance as of the best city can be found in one of Plato's dialogues, namely Republic. Considered as the first utopian text in history of ideas, Republic is also the first rational arrangement over the entire human aspects of life: leaders, institutions, social status and behavior, economic activities and political customs.
5 Mainly inhabited by Greeks and Aromanians and having a certain economic degree of importance of the region, Moschopolis was the case on which the Aromanian nationalism concentrated and transformed it from an urban entity into a utopian dream. Devastated and destroyed by two waves of violent confrontations in 1768 and 1788, Moschopolis became the Golden Age of Aromanians' past.
6 Since the Ottoman Empire gradually lost its political authority over the Balkan Peninsula, the newly established national states began to fight for territorial expansion and for taking-up on their behalf on as much broader geopolitical space as possible. The former Ottoman administration left behind it a combined population, Christians and Muslims, Slavs and non-Slavs, and the national conflicts were typically the fruit of confrontations among different nations, precisely by fighting mythological discourses.
7 One of the key-names in this purpose shall be that of Nida Boga, author of a poem on Moschopolis during the 1950s, signals the most complex form of literary construction of the Moschopolitan utopia.
8 Hayden White, Metahistory (Baltimore - London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973), pp. IX-XII.
9 Ibidem, p. 31.

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