Bartók's funeral: representations of Europe in Hungarian political rhetoric



This article analyzes the rhetorical structure of a single set of events—the reburial of Béla Bartók's body in Budapest—and shows how these events were a constitutive part of political processes in Hungarian state socialism during the 1980s. Arguing for a processual approach to the relationship between discursive structure and event, the analysis shows that the funeral was a response to political opposition, a response made by intellectuals speaking for the state. Ironically, although the funeral was orchestrated by the state, its rhetoric reproduced the durable discourse about Europe and national identity that critical intellectuals had (re)introduced into public debate and that state socialism in Hungary had tried to suppress. The semiotic structure of this discourse shaped not only the rhetoric of the funeral but, more broadly, the way educated Hungarians understood political-economic change. [political language, rhetoric, national identity, Europe and Hungary]