The Trauma and Gender Research Group was formed in 2011 under the leadership of Anna Menyhért. Its field of research can be described by the following key terms: trauma, gender, literature and cultural studies. This diversity makes the group’s approach complex, integrative, and interdisciplinary: it incorporates the most up-to-date scientific achievements of trauma theory (situated at the meeting point of psychology and cultural studies but applying the results of neurobiology as well), gender studies, gender-oriented literary and social studies, cultural history, and a literary theory that mixes elements of hermeneutics, reception theory (Rezeptionsästhetik) and deconstruction with feminist and personal literary criticism.
The research group organizes its meetings once a month. We either discuss a paper written by one of our members, or invite guest lecturers to introduce their research interacting with our profile. Among others we had the following guests in 2012: Louise O. Vasvári, Professor Emerita at Stony Brook University, New York who was at that time teaching at the CEU (her research field is women’s Holocaust memoirs), sociologist Professor Mónika Kovács who deals with questions of teaching the Holocaust in primary and secondary education, and Júlia Vajda, expert of narrative life interviews.
Our first conference for MA and PhD students in May 2012 under the title: “Trauma, Gender, Literature” evoked a great interest. November 2012 saw our second conference in cooperation with the Association of Hungarian Language and Literature Teachers: “Gender and Tradition. Male Writers’ Perception of Women and Women Writers in the Teaching of Literature” at which cca. 80 teachers participated. This event has been a significant step in disseminating our achievements and accessing one of our key target groups. The considerable public interest is partly due to the fact that Anna Menyhért had published a short essay in the weekend edition of Népszabadság, the biggest Hungarian daily political newspaper. The text discussed in a critical manner the possible causes of why the female tradition of Hungarian literature had been forgotten resulting in the omission of women writers from the literature textbooks.
What makes this research group and the momentum that it represents essential is that in Hungary – almost exclusively in the European Union – neither gender studies, nor trauma studies have considerable institutional infrastructure. Even at the most prominent universities (e.g. at Eötvös Loránd University) arts and humanities students meet these disciplines only when pursuing English or American studies. And even at universities, like Central European University and Corvinus University, which have a Gender Studies Department or departmental group, and which otherwise play a distinctively innovative role in these research areas, we find no example of embedding the gender approach in the more general context of trauma research, and at the same time of opening the research to literary history and cultural history, thus connecting this interdisciplinary field with specific projects and efforts of applied social sciences.
Anna Menyhért, the leader of our research group is an expert in the above-mentioned fields of research. Her work has had great impact on trauma-oriented literary criticism: her pioneer volume Speaking the Unspeakable. Trauma and Literature (2008) was the first book on this topic published in Hungarian. (Its English language version is forthcoming at CEU Press.) It has won extraordinarily appreciative reviews; according to its critiques it had founded the Hungarian discourse of trauma theory in literary studies. As for the field of gender studies, she has been studying women’s literary tradition of the 20th century for years, and the work that summarizes her findings is due to be published in 2013 at Napvilág Publishing House.