Intellectuals and Fascism

17th September 2019

News, Alumni news

“A fascinating narrative. Superbly researched” is how one reviewer describes a new book on Romanian history by Wadham alumna Cristina Bejan, (MSt and DPhil Modern History, 2004).

  • Cristina Bejan

    Cristina Bejan

Intellectuals and Fascism in Interwar Romania: The Criterion Association is the story of how fascism captivated the young minds of Romania's promising intellectual elite in 1930s Bucharest. Their modernist progressive society, the Criterion Association, collapsed due to the rise of extremism, and a scandal surrounding Criterion's founder Petru Comarnescu's rumoured homosexuality. 

Cristina Bejan asks how the far-right Iron Guard came to eclipse the appeal of liberalism for so many of Romania’s intellectual elite, drawing on diaries, memoirs and other writings to examine the collision of culture and extremism in the interwar years. The first English-language study of Criterion and the most thorough to date in any language, this book grapples with the complexities of Romanian intellectual life in the moments before collapse.

In the foreword to the book, Vladimir Tismaneanu writes: “A fascinating narrative. Superbly researched, it offers a new perspective on Romania’s (and Eastern Europe’s) interwar major political and cultural tensions. Nothing was simple with the Criterion Association, which was engaged in an excruciating search for existential authenticity. This book wonderfully reveals these agonizing complexities.”

Cristina, who based the book on her DPhil studies at Wadham, is a Romanian-American historian, theatre artist and spoken word poet in Denver, Colorado. She grew up in Durham, North Carolina, and received her BA in Philosophy from Northwestern University, where she also studied theatre. At Oxford she was a Rhodes and Fulbright scholar. 

She has held fellowships at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Georgetown University, and the Woodrow Wilson Center, and taught history at Georgetown and Duke Universities, among others. A playwright, Bejan has written seventeen plays, many of which have been produced in the United States, Romania, the United Kingdom and Vanuatu. She is founding executive director of the arts and culture collective Bucharest Inside the Beltway. Under the stage name “Lady Godiva,” she has performed her poetry across the United States and Romania.