Romanian culture was heavily influenced by the Eastern Orthodox Church, which was brought to the country by the Slavs. Therefore the earliest translations of books into Romanian were from Slavonic religious texts of the 15th century. The Psalter of Şchei (Psaltirea Şcheiană) of 1482 and the Voroneţ Codex (Codicele Voroneţean) are religious texts that were written in Maramureş, probably with the help of the Hussite movement.
The first book printed in Romania was a Slavonic religious book in 1508. The first book printed in the Romanian language was a catechism of Deacon Coresi in 1559. Other translations from Greek and Slavonic books were printed later in the 16th century. Dosoftei, a Moldavian published in Poland in 1673, was the first Romanian metrical psalter, producing the earliest known poetry written in Romanian.
Early efforts of publishing the Bible in Romanian started with the 1582 printing in the small town of Orăştie of the so-called Palia de la Orăştie - a translation of the first books of the Old Testament - by Deacon Şerban (a son of the above-mentioned Deacon Coresi) and Marien Diacul (Marien the Scribe). Palia was translated from Latin by H.G.† Bishop Mihail Tordaş et al. and the translation was checked for accuracy using Hungarian translations of the Bible.
The entire Bible was not published in Romanian until the end of the 17th century, when monks at the monastery of Snagov, near Bucharest, translated and printed "Biblia de la Bucureşti - "The Bucharest Bible" in 1688 .
European humanism came to Moldavia in the 17th century via Poland with its great representative, Miron Costin, writing a chronicle on the history of Moldavia. Another humanist was Dimitrie Cantemir, who wrote histories of Romania and Moldavia.
The 18th century in the Romanian lands was dominated by the Ottoman Empire, which decided not to allow Romanian rulers in Wallachia and Moldavia and ruled, instead, through Greek merchants of Istanbul, called phanariotes.
Thus, Greek culture influenced the developments of Romanian literature. For example, one of the greatest poets of this century was Alecu Văcărescu, who wrote love songs in the tradition of ancient Greek poet Anacreon. His father, Ienăchiţă, was a poet as well, but he also wrote the first Romanian grammar and his son, Iancu, was probably one of the greatest poets of his generation. A human comedy was developed in the anecdotes of Anton Pann, who tried to illustrate a bit of the Balkanic spirit and folklore which was brought by the Ottomans in the Romanian lands.
As the revolutionary ideas of nationalism spread in Europe, they were also used by the Romanians, who desired their own national state, but were living under foreign rule. Many Romanian writers of the time were also part of the national movement and participated in the revolutions of 1821 and 1848. The Origin of the Romanians began to be discussed and in Transylvania, a Latinist movement Şcoala Ardeleană emerged, producing philological studies about the Romanic origin of Romanian and opening Romanian language schools.
Romanians studied in France, Italy and Germany, and German philosophy and French culture were integrated into modern Romanian literature, lessening the influence of Ancient Greece and the Orient over time. In Wallachia an important figure of the time was Ion Heliade Rădulescu, who founded the first Romanian-language journal and the Philharmonic Society, which later created the National Theatre of Bucharest.
The most important writers of the second half of the century were Vasile Alecsandri and later Mihai Eminescu. Alecsandri was a prolific writer, contributing to Romanian literature with poetry, prose, several plays, and collections of Romanian folklore. Eminescu is considered by most critics to be the most important and influential Romanian poet. His lyric poetry had many of its roots in Romanian traditions, but was also influenced by German philosophy and Hindu traditions.
Titu Maiorescu's Junimea literary circle, founded in 1863 and frequented by many Romanian writers, played an important role in Romanian literature. Many outstanding Romanian writers, including Ion Luca Caragiale, who wrote some of the best Romanian comedies, Ion Creangă, who wrote traditional Romanian stories and Barbu Ştefănescu Delavrancea, published their works during this time.
An important realist writer was Mihail Sadoveanu, who wrote mainly novels which took place at various times in the history of Moldova. But probably the most important writers were Tudor Arghezi, Lucian Blaga and Mircea Eliade. Tudor Arghezi revolutioned Romanian poetry 50 years after Eminescu, creating new pillars for the modern Romanian poem. Lucian Blaga, one of the country's most important artistic personalities, developed through his writings a complex philosophic system, still not perfectly understood even today. Mircea Eliade is today considered the greatest historian in the field of religions. His novels reveal a mystical, pre-Christian symbolism paving the way for contemporary Romanian art.
Born in Romania, Tristan Tzara, a French poet and essayist, is one of the founders of Dada, a nihilistic revolutionary movement in the arts, and may have been responsible for its name (Romanian for "Yes yes"). Later he abandoned nihilism for Surrealism and Marxism. For the first time in its history, Romanian culture was fully connected to Western culture, while Dadaism is the first Romanian artistic and literary movement to become international. Dadaism and Surrealism are fundamental parts of the avant-garde, the most revolutionary form of modernism. The Romanian avant garde is very well represented by Ion Minulescu, Urmuz, Perpessicius, Tristan Tzara, Grigore Cugler, Geo Bogza, Barbu Fundoianu, Gellu Naum, Ilarie Voronca, and Ion Vinea.
Outside Romania, Eugène Ionesco and Emil Cioran represented the national spirit at the highest level. Eugène Ionesco is one of the foremost playwrights of the Theatre of the Absurd. Beyond ridiculing the most banal situations, Ionesco's plays depict in a tangible way the solitude of humans and the insignificance of one's existence, while Cioran was a brilliant writer and philosopher.