Anationalism and the Search for a Universal Language: Esperantism and the European Avant-Garde

in Decentring the Avant-Garde
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Abstract

This paper analyses the relations between esperantism and the activities of the historical avant-garde on two different levels. Firstly, it discusses how both Esperanto and the avant-garde represented a radical response to the growing impulse of nationalist ideology in Europe and aimed, in different terms, at the creation of a new universal or ‘anational’ language. Secondly, the paper aims at a historical reconstruction of the connections between the transnational networks of Esperanto and the historical avantgarde, by focusing on publications of avant-garde texts in journals and anthologies in Esperanto and publications of texts in Esperanto in avantgarde journals in the early 20th century, as well as on original experimental literature written in Esperanto in the period. The literary system of Esperanto served as a decentralised forum in which works and aesthetic concepts were picked up from the centres and then circulated along the periphery.

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