Materiality and Making Meaning
The Publication History of Mihály Babits’s Poem “Fortissimo”
Keywords:historical bibliography, materiality, material context, making meaning, Mihály Babits, censorship
In recent decades, scholars working in the realm of the metaphilology have focused increasingly on the materiality of texts; that is, the material aspect of texts in the making of meaning (cf. Jerome McGann’s “bibliographic code”). This article sets out by clarifying what we mean by the materiality of a text; it does so by outlining and discussing the ideas advanced by George Bornstein. Applying the methodology of historical bibliography, it then examines how the changing material context of the poem “Fortissimo,” by one of Hungary’s towering early twentieth-century literary figures, Mihály Babits, influenced that poem’s interpretability from the first stage of its existence to its multiple republications. This poem’s publication history is exceptional from several perspectives. The March 1, 1917, issue of the journal Nyugat was confiscated because of the poem, and its author was prosecuted for blasphemy. But the poem was published in French the same year, and in two anthologies in German the following year. “Fortissimo” became available in Hungarian again only after the Aster Revolution of 1918, in the volume A diadalmas forradalom könyve (The Book of the Triumphant Revolution), alongside works by many other authors, and, within days, once again in Nyugat. Szenasi.Zoltan@abtk.hu
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