Alla ricerca di un canone europeo tra plurilinguismo e multiculturalità

Michaela Böhmig


In Search of a European Canon between Multilingualism and Multiculturalism

The article's aim is to point out a series of problems related to 1) the “new” Europe, 2) the “European” canon, and 3) multilingualism and multiculturalism. The author moves from the evidence that the political priority of redesigning the enlarged European Union’s new borders involves the risk to let aside the equally or even more important task to redefine the “European” roots and to establish shared cultural values, and she raises the question of what is to be considered “Europe” and “European”.
Reviewing the fundamental works, which in an centripetal effort try to collect the basic
myths and themes of the Western and/or European cultural space, such as Stoffe der Weltliteratur by Elisabeth Frenzel (Stuttgart 19887), Dictionnaire des Mythes Littéraires, edited by Pierre Brunel (Paris 1988), The Western Canon by Harold Bloom (New York 1994), and Europa: tema y variaciones (Madrid 2000) by José Antonio Jáuregui, the author remarks that the contribution of the Eastern European countries to what should be a common inheritance seems to be very small or even non-existent. Since this disproportion cannot be ascribed to an inadequate cultural production, the only explanation remains a prevailing one-way influence from West to East . and not vice versa . and a consequent one-sided perception by European scholars. In order to establish a complete “European” canon, it is therefore necessary to enlarge the borders toward East and to include the Slavic area.
An opposite approach can be observed in language policy, which in a centrifugal effort, due to the objective difficulty to choose or produce a common European language, insists on an equal status for all European languages, from the major national languages to those of ethnic minorities, all to be preserved by means of “positive discrimination”. Besides the difficulty to govern a federation of countries with 11 official languages and over 40 idioms of ethnic minorities, there remains the evident contradiction of considering “European” all the languages included within the borders of the enlarged European Union, whereas a language as Russian, which has a weight both as a cultural and a vehicular language, will be considered a language of an ethnic minority in some peripheral states, such as the Baltic countries. On the way towards a “new” Europe, with cultural relativism on the one side and Realpolitik on the other, one should not leave centuries of historic development and cultural traditions out of consideration.

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