Skip to main content

Utopia Between East and West in Hungarian Literature

Jeno Szucs 11/21
Tuesday, November 21, 2023, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

The CEU Democracy Institute’s Democracy in History Workgroup launched a public lecture series to bring together international as well as local scholars of history and related fields in Budapest as well as online to exchange their results on the interplay between democracy and histor(iograph)y in a broad sense. The series’ title honors the legacy of historian Jenő Szűcs, an advocate of recognizing Central Europe as a historical region and a major critic of the misuses of national past in his native Hungary.


This book focuses on the most important utopian and dystopian literary texts in nineteenth and twentieth-century Hungarian literature, and therefore widens the scope of the traditionally Anglophone canon. Utopian studies is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, and this research integrates literary hermeneutics with ideas and methods from political science and the history of ideas. In doing so, it argues that Hungarian utopianism was influenced by the region’s (and Hungarian culture’s) position of permanent liminality between Western and Eastern European patterns of power structures, social and political order. After a thorough methodological introduction, some early modern texts written in Hungary are discussed, while the detailed analyses focus on nineteenth-century texts, written by Bessenyei, Madách, and Jókai, whereas the twentieth century is represented by Karinthy, Babits and Szathmári. In the interpretations the results of contemporary scholarship is applied, particularly the works of Lyman Tower Sargent, Gregory Claeys and Fátima Vieira.

If you would like to follow the event online, the Zoom meeting will be available here.

Registration required by November 20 here.


Zoltán Gábor Szűcs (associate professor, ELTE Budapest, Faculty of Social Sciences) is a political theorist. His recently published works include:Political ethics in illiberal regimes (Manchester UP, 2023); A realist membership account of political obligation (Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 2023); On the edge of anarchism (CRISPP, 2022); Tacitus on political failure (The European Legacy, 2021); Political obligations in illiberal regimes (Res Publica, 2020); Aristotle's realist regime theory (European Journal of Political Theory, 2018). In addition, he serves as vice dean for international affairs and as deputy director of the Institute of Political and International Studies and as program director of the International Relations master's program. 

Zsolt Czigányik is is a literary scholar, the leader of the Democracy in East Central European Utopianism’ research group funded by the Gerda Henkel Fundation. He is a professor at ELTE and also worked as a Humanities Initiative Fellow at CEU and participated in Erasmus exchange programmes in the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and Royal Holloway, University of London. He is the secretary of the Utopian Studies Society which will hold its yearly conference at the CEU-Democracy Institute in July 2024. His research focus is utopian and dystopian literature and the social and cultural phenomena related to utopianism.