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Ages and Faces of the Romanian Language

“Ages and Faces of the Romanian Language in the United States”

Conference by Mona Momescu, Ph.D. (Columbia University)
August 31, 2017 @ 7PM

Exhibition of rare books on the Romanian Language
August 31 - September 15, 2017

200 E 38th Street, New York, NY 10016
“Ages and Faces of the Romanian Language in the United States”.
Conference by Mona Momescu, Ph.D. (Columbia University), and exhibition of rare books on the Romanian Language

The Romanian Cultural Institute in New York (RCINY) celebrates the Romanian Language Day on August 31, 2017, at its headquarters, at 7 p.m. An exceptional event, consisting in a conference and an exhibition of rare books on Romanian language and culture, printed in the U.S. will honor the Romanian language and those who, through their effort and skills, disseminated it on American soil in the past. The conference will be presented by Dr. Mona Momescu, lecturer of Romanian Language and Culture at the Romanian Language Institute and the "Nicolae Iorga" Chair at Columbia University. She aims to explore the ways in which the Romanian language and culture gained a “face”, an image along time. Her presentation examines textbooks and related materials from 1919 to 1962.

The most common question asked by Romanian imagology, “what do others say about us?” can find an answer in the way in which Romanian textbooks written by others, or by us for others created a face, an image of Romanians.

“Who were those who showed an image of the Romanians and of their language and culture to their learners? They were Romanians who immigrated to the US, or Americans genuinely interested in or just fascinated by Romania, specialists who strongly believed that the Romanian language deserved the same robust academic approach as any other language, or engaged in such a serious academic approach as they found the exoticism of Romanian irresistible. In other cases, as we will see in Elie Cristo-Loveanu’s textbook, “painting” the portrait of the author’s native language and culture quenches his nostalgia. His textbook is a blurred, yet beloved family photo, in which all the “characters” are happily frozen in the Romanian Golden Age of the “Interbellum”, although history has changed in time.” (M. Momescu)

The conference will explore the following textbooks: Irving Crowley – Elements of Romanian, Pangloss Publ, Hollywood, CA, 1944; Grigore Nandriș – Colloquial Rumanian: grammar, exercises, reader, vocabulary, K. Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd., 1945; George Otto Seiver – Introduction to Romanian, Hafner Publishing Company, 1953; Elie Cristo-Loveanu – The Romanian Language, with a foreword by Mario Pei, New York, 1962.

Apart from the analysis of the aforementioned textbooks, the presentation will engage the audience in a reflection on the interest raised in the US by the activity of the Society of Friends of Romania, that issued the Bulletin Dedicated to Her Majesty Queen Marie of Romania, on the occasion of the royal visit to the US and Canada, in 1926.

The conference will be presented in Romanian and English (with printed versions available in both languages, and a richly illustrated slideshow), and it will be followed by a Q&A session.

The opening of an exhibition of rare books (the textbooks analyzed in the presentation), part of Mona Momescu’s personal collection, will complement the conference:
Philip Axelrad - The Elements of Roumanian: A Complete Roumanian Grammar with Exercises, Biblioteca Română, New York, 1919 (an anastatic edition, printed in 2014);
George Otto Seiver - Introduction to Romanian, Hafner Publ. Company, New York, 1953 (the original edition);
Bulletin Dedicated to Her Majesty Queen Marie of Romania, Oct. 18, 1926, The Society of Friends of Romania, The Fischer Press, New York, 1926 (original edition);
Elie Cristo-Loveanu - The Romanian Language, New York, 1962, preface by Mario Pei. The copy no. 25 (out of the 525 published) will be on display. It is autographed by the author to Mrs. Dorothy Norris Harkness and it is accompanied by a letter to her. The book is richly illustrated by the author and it is available only in reading rooms in the few libraries that own it.

The book exhibition will be open to the public until September 15, 2017.

The celebration of the Romanian Language Day on August 31 was decreed by Law 53/2013. It is an annual worldwide event, marked by cultural and scientific events in Romania and within Romanian speaking communities around the world. The event is meant to keep linguistic and cultural identity alive, as well as to make the role of Romanian language and culture to world civilization known among those who are not familiar with it.

Mona Momescu, Ph.D., is a Lecturer of Romanian Language and Culture at the Romanian Language Institute and the "Nicolae Iorga" Chair at Columbia University. Her research interests focus on culture and identity, modern Romanian cultural identity and teaching language through culture. Among the most relevant publications: "Canon, identitate, tranziție" ("Literary Canon, Identity, Complexes"). She also edited, with Sorin Adam Matei, "Idolii forului" ("The Idols of the Forum"), a collection of studies on the role of public intellectuals in contemporary Romania. She has also authored studies on Romanian cultural identity, Romanian and US cultural exchanges, and on language and culture teaching.

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