The Great Mediterranean Nation

The journal of the Malta Historical Society, Melita Historica, has just published my paper on “Identity Constructs in Maltese Post-Independence Literature” in a special edition (Vol XVI, No.3, 2014), edited by Dr David Mallia, dedicated to the 50th anniversary of Malta’s Independence.

Special thanks to Dr Theresa Vella for inviting me to take part in the series of lectures that led to this publication.

This is the introduction:

Adrian Grima

THE GREAT MEDITERRANEAN NATION: Identity Constructs in Maltese Post-Independence Literature

Duminku Mintoff u George Borg Olivier
Duminku Mintoff u George Borg Olivier

In terms of discourse on collective identity, the transformations in Maltese literature that coincided with Independence continued to reflect the preoccupations of the Romantics with nationhood and national identity and eventually served as a sort of concluding act to the long, essentially 19th century process, of collective identity construction through literature. The new generation of the 1960s was spurred both by the postwar petering out of the Romantic movement that had effectively dominated mainstream Maltese literature since its birth in the first half of the 19th century, and by the social, cultural and political transformations taking place in Europe, the United States and beyond. These were characterised by the refusal of submissiveness and established models, and the belief in the power of shared revolution that gives the arts their vitality and their radiance. But it was also spurred by the momentous transformation in the people’s psyche being proposed by the boldness of seeking Independence for a micro-island state that focused, more than ever before, on the concept of the nation.

The foreign literary influences on the young Maltese writers of the 1960s were largely, though not exclusively, Anglo-American. In a way, the new writers were eager to distance themselves from their immediate environment in order to create and cultivate a literary language that would revolutionise a moribund literature that had long since lost its creative vibrancy and critical edge. The Romantics had also, in effect, refused to follow the lead offered by the parallel, unconventional work of the reformist writers of the interwar and immediate postwar period. In another way, however, the Modernists were willing to work on the small but precious literary tradition that had been painstakingly built by the Romantics and the social reformists, especially by writers like Rużar Briffa and Ġużè Ellul Mercer.

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