Literary Criticism

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Literary Universe in Three Parts

Language – Fiction – Experience

All the three authors teach theory and history of literature and culture at University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice, Czech Republic. Petr. A. Bílek and Vladimír Papoušek co-authored a major project of new history of modern Czech literature Dějiny nové moderny (1905–1947, 3 volumes; 2010, 2014, 2017). Publishing mainly in Czech, their list of books includes also Models of Representations in Czech Literary History (Boulder: East European Monographs, 2010). David Skalický specializes on structuralist and pragmatic theory and aesthetics.

For decades, the Prague School Structuralism assumption of textual autonomy dominated the explorations of Czech literature as well as the context of Czech literary theory. The three authors of this book combined their efforts to move beyond and offer a new conceptual frame. Sharing the structuralist proposition of texts made from words, they focus on the metamorphoses of the modes of representations through the 20th century fiction and its critical reflections. Switching between theoretical considerations and case study interpretations, their essays challenge the notion of autonomous fictional worlds and involve the pragmatic categories of the constructed image of a writer and the aesthetic experience of a reader. The focus on representational status of literary texts combines here with another conceptual frame – the performative aspect. The literary texts do not function as mere documents that preserve the traces of existing reality but as objects that construct what their readers conceive as parts of existing reality. Instead of a a depository of meanings, literature is thus perceived as a permanent process of negotiations that uses the institutional power of canonisation, ritualisation or tabooisation. Drawing on contemporary international theory of literature and aesthetics (Searle, Rorty, Davidson, Iser, Greenblatt, White), the authors try to conflate semiotic analyses of textual meanings with the pragmatic notions of historical and readership contexts. The book does not offer a coherent narrative of modern Czech literature development. It chooses the productive texts of Czech literature, occasionally combined with other items of Czech culture (arts, films, TV production) and brings them into comparison with the international context. Such an approach puts aside the traditional assumption of a national context as a major defining criterion, which allows the authors to articulate more generalized abstractions.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-908-1
Hardback Price: £65.00 / $79.95
Release Date: March 2018
Page Extent / Format: 256 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No




Representation: Metaphor, Technical Term or Abstract Notion?
(Petr A. Bílek)

The Allegorical Representation of ‘Everything’
(Vladimír Papoušek)

What Can Be Done With Words in the History of Literature across Historical Time
(Vladimír Papoušek)

The Image of the Writer Božena Němcová as a Product of Emblematic Reduction
(Petr A. Bílek)

Maxwell’s demon: The Utility of the Term ‘Fictional World’ from the Perspective of Neopragmatic Literary Criticism
(Vladimír Papoušek)

Beyond the Bounds of a Fictional World: From Defamiliarisation to Aesthetic Experience
(David Skalický)

Hrabal’s Haňťa as a Reader of ‘Individuals’
(Petr A. Bílek)

The Visible, Invisible and the Rhetoric of a Traveler
(Vladimír Papoušek)

Between Fiction and Fact: Ludvík Vaculík’s Český snář (A Czech Dreambook)
(David Skalický)

Švejk on the Wall: The Semantics of Švejkian Images and Quotations as Found in Pubs and Restaurants in the Czech Republic
(Petr A. Bílek)

Lunar Czech, Ptydepe and Writing on Plates: Coming to See One´s Own Language and the World in a New Light
(David Skalický)

Name Index


Bilek, Papousek, and Skalicky challenge the notion of isolated fictional worlds—as espoused, for example, by Prague School Structuralism—and focus on more pragmatic categories of the constructed and mediated image of a writer, items represented in the text, and the aesthetic experience of a reader. They assume that literary texts do not function as mere documents that preserve the traces of existing reality, but as objects that construct what their readers conceive as parts of existing reality. Among their topics are the allegorical representation of "everything," Hrabal's Hant'a as a reader of "individuals," and between fiction and fact: Ludvik Vaculik's (A Czech Dreambook).

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