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This department is currently engaged in research on three subjects. The first is the poetics of Czech poetry and prose, which is carried out primarily through research on verse (using a quantitative corpus-based approach; for more details, see Versological Team, below, which forms part of the department) and narrative (focusing on changes in narrative form in 19th century Czech prose). The second subject is the theory of literature, with a particular focus on the mediality of literature and intermedia relations (as in the monograph Visible Descriptions and Beyond the Horizons of the Medium: Literature and Mediality). The third subject involves mapping the development of Czech literary structuralism (Dictionary of Literary Structuralism, for instance).

The Theory Department was created in its current form at the beginning of 2009 by merging the Department of Text Poetics, which oversaw the extensive book project The Poetics of Literary Work of the 20th Century (2001–2005), with the Department of Prose Theory, which dealt with the development of narratology and its interpretive use. Members of the department hold conferences (Narrative and Narratology: Metamorphosing the Structures, and Quantitative Approaches to Versification), colloquia (Style and Poetics, and the Diachronic Narratology Workshop), participate in the making scholarship available to the general public (Czech Library Seminar, Science and Technology Week, School of Czech Language and Literature for Educators, and Science at Home).

Projects under way

Semantics and Intonation of Early 20th Century Czech Verse (R. Kolár, P. Plecháč, J. Volín, T. Bořil, Kseniia Tverianovich, Artjoms Šela, Czech Science Foundation 2020–2022)

This project focuses on early 20th century Czech poetry, and deals specifically with poets classified as post-symbolists (K. Toman, V. Dyk, F. Šrámek a F. Gellner). The project will analyze the verse semantics of these authors’ texts together with the intonation of read-aloud performances. Verse semantics will be studied using the method of topic-modelling, accompanied throughout by close consideration of individual texts, namely their history and specific context. Verse intonation will be analyzed experimentally on a corpus of speech recordings compiled for this project. Modern statistical methods will be used. The project is supported by the collaboration with prominent local and international colleagues (the Institute of Phonetics at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University; university departments in St. Petersburg and Tartu).

Transformations of Narrative Modes in Czech Fiction I (Alice Jedličková; Jiří Koten, Pavel Šidák, Stanislava Fedrová, Zdeněk Hrbata, Kateřina Piorecká, Michal Charypar, Daniel Kubec, Zuzana Fonioková, Czech Science Foundation 2018–2020)

The project represents the first phase of a plan to create a methodologic basis for systematic diachronic research of poetics of fiction. The devised method draws on current knowledge of international narratology and combines it with the Czech model of historical poetics. Its innovative traits consist in analyzing a set of parameters of narrative in a diachronic perspective and evaluating their developmental validity. The aim is to outline a trajectory of Czech narrative fiction from the 1830s to the 1880s. The delimitation of the period results from the presumption that due to the competition of representational functions of narrative, there is a salient dynamics between explicit  epresentation and suppression of narrative mediation. Diachronic application of narrative systematics means filling in a persistent gap in international narratology while providing an image of artistic development complementary to the current Czech literary research. The output will be a collective monograph presenting a synthesis of the trends, structured according to the individual narrative modes.

Stylometric Analysis of Poetic Texts (Petr Plecháč; Robert Kolár, David Birnbaum, Klemens Bobenhausen, Benjamin Hammerich, Artjoms Šela, Michal Kosák, Czech Science Foundation 2017–2019)

The project is focused on possibilities of authorship attribution of poetic texts based on extensive set of rhythmical characteristics. It aims (1) to develop a reliable model for authorship attribution of Czech poetic texts, (2) to analyze selected Czech poetic texts whose authorship is unknown or has been doubted, (3) to examine the possibilities of how stylometric analysis of verse may be used in research on literary history (e.g. periodization, other authors' influence), (4) to examine (in cooperation with foreign experts) the possibilities of analogous models in Russian, English, and German poetry.

Literary Communication in the Light of "Medium" (Richard Müller; Tomáš Chudý, Josef Šebek, Pavel Šidák, Alice Jedličková, Stanislava Fedrová, Josef Vojvodík, Miroslav Petříček, Martin Ritter, Czech Science Foundation 2016–2018)

The project aims to to clarify the position and stratification of the medium concept in literary theory. The first step is a mapping of the absence of the medium concept in the older philosophical conceptions of communication and representation since the early modern to the end of the 19th century. Next, the significance of the implicit presence of the medium concept in the semiotics of literature and culture or deconstructionist philosophy will be assessed, where notions of communication, representation and meaning play a key role (Mukařovský, Derrida, Lotman). With this reconstruction in mind, those 20th century theories will be interrelated that connect literature with media explicitly, integrating various media in larger social and cultural frameworks (Benjamin, Williams, Luhmann, Mersch). The project will also explain the transformation of fundamental categories of literary analysis (time, space, fictionality) in the intermedial perspective. Our goal is to develop a comprehensive, historically qualified medial theory of literature. The main result: a collective monograph.

Completed projects

Individual

  • Jan Mukařovský: Life, Work and Responses (Czech Science Foundation; 2010−2013; Project Manager: Ondřej Sládek)
    This project aims to make a comprehensive historical and critical evaluation of the scholarly work of Czech literary scholar and aesthetician Jan Mukařovský (1891−1975), whose conception of structuralism is still very relevant and inspirational in contemporary literary theory and aesthetics. The aim of the project is to create the first ever systematic monograph on Jan Mukařovský, presenting his life and work and the responses to his work. In the broad context of domestic and foreign literary studies, aesthetics and philosophy (as well as politics and culture), this work will detail his structural poetics and aesthetics, and outline the most important discussions associated with Czech structuralism and specifically with his work. The second output from the project will be an anthology of texts presenting a representative selection from the broad debate on Czech structuralism held by foreign researchers (P. Garvin, J. Striedter, T. Winner and others) particularly from the 1960s to the 1980s.
  • Image, Gesture, Memory: "Pathosformeln" in Czech Art, Literature and Artistic/Aesthetic Thought in the 20th Century (Czech Science Foundation; 2009-2011; Project Managers: Marie Langerová and Josef Vojvodík). This project follows research and reconstruction in the Czech cultural environment of the practically unknown theoretical model of emotional formulas (Pathosformeln) devised by Aby Warburg. This model of the history of culture as the history of human affects and emotions is applied to Czech art, literature and aesthetic/artistic thought during the complex period from around the late 1930s to the late 1960s. This involves an interdisciplinary reconstruction of this period, not from a diachronic historical perspective, but in terms of "dynamograms" of mental powers, manifestations of emotions and gestures, repressed and manifest traumas and figurative "symptoms" and the imprints of times in extremis. Hence the question at the fore is what facilitates the Pathosformeln energy transfer (in art and artistic/aesthetic thought in the period under review) as the very creative power of an artistic work and its "resolution" by the perceiver. This question will be examined not only in terms of the complementary relationship between pictorial art and words, but also in an interdisciplinary manner as the association between several theoretical and methodological approaches.
  • Critical Concepts in Current Literary Theory (ASCR Grant Agency; 2009-2011; Project Manager: Jan Matonoha). This grant-assisted assignment involves work on the manuscript of a medium-sized publication presenting key concepts in contemporary literary thought in a well-arranged manner using a set of twelve compact entry articles, as established in the paradigms of poststructuralism, deconstruction, (Lacanian) psychoanalysis, critical theory and cultural and gender studies. The proposed grant-assisted project anticipates that the resultant publication manuscript will differ from existing available dictionaries in the extent and the scope of its index: it will be a medium-sized reference work (comprising approx. 250 printed pages), conceived as selective in terms of its index range, and which at the same time provides a more profound insight into the key terms of present-day literary theory and a more informed orientation in this still rather opaque field. The proposed grant-assisted assignment conceives the individual entry articles in such a way that these primary entries will subsume a looser set of terms forming the framework, i.e. the key essential points of the explanation of the larger entry.
  • Forms of New Czech Stage Plays since 1989 (ASCR Grant Agency, 2009-2011; Project Manager: Lenka Jungmannová) This project involves work for a monograph on post-1989 Czech drama. In a series of individually focused theoretical articles it deals with the prominent representatives of individual genres of this drama, including introductory chapters on the "new wave drama" phenomenon. Because Czech stage plays follow European trends, each article looks at the author's work first through the prism of new, mostly foreign theatrological methodologies, followed by an interpretative analysis focusing on key features of the author's manuscript. The studies will focus on Lenka Lagronová, David Drábek, Roman Sikora, Iva Volánková-Klestilová, Jiří Pokorný, Petr Zelenka and Luboš Balák. The work focuses exclusively on stage plays, but in view of the fact that in modern-day theatrology drama is ceasing to be defined by its publication or performance, it also includes all available stage plays including manuscripts. The monograph is supplemented by a list of secondary literature and a list of Czech productions of the dramas in question.
  • Two Genres and their Worlds in the Context of Czech Literature (Czech Science Foundation; 2008-2010; Project Manager: Bohumil Fořt). This project aims to achieve two tasks: the first is to map out, analyse and compare the strategies and terms used in the theory of fictional worlds for the requirements of detailed analyses and comparisons of works of fiction, or to elaborate them in more detail for these purposes; the second task is to apply the tools and typology acquired during the first task on specific works of Czech literature, in a way that adequately verifies the validity of this theory in dealing with the issues and tasks of literary studies both at a general level and at the level of (local) specific features. They are applied to selected socialist realist and science fiction novels in Czech literature.
  • Myths, Language and Taboos of the Czech Post-Avant-Garde (1940s-1960s); (Czech Science Foundation; 2006-2008; Project Managers: Marie Langerová, Josef Vojvodík)
  • Between East and West: Development Trends and the Tradition of Czech Structuralism in the United States (Czech Science Foundation; 2006-2008; Project Manager: Ondřej Sládek)
  • The Czech Tale: Narrative and Time-Space. Studies in Genre Narrative Structure (Czech Science Foundation; 2005-2007; Project Manager: Alice Jedličková)
  • The Prison Correspondence of Jan Zahradníček (Czech Science Foundation; 2005-2007; Project Manager: Martina Sendlerová)
  • The Contribution of Czech Structuralism to Narrative Theory (ASCR Grant Agency; 2004-2006; Project Manager: Bohumil Fořt)
  • Critical Edition of Correspondence between Arne Novák and Josef Pekař (Czech Ministry of Culture; 2004-2005; published 2007; Project Manager: Martina Sendlerová)
  • Three Forms of Czech Literary Studies in Exile: L. Doležel, K. Chvatík, M. Grygar (ASCR Grant Agency; 2003-2005; Project Manager: Ondřej Sládek)
  • Unofficial Czech Drama 1948-1989 (Czech Ministry of Culture; 2000-2004; Project Manager: Lenka Jungmannová)

Collective:

  • A Compendium of Terms Used in Literary Theory and Culture (Theory Department assignment; 2009. ; by a team of authors). This is one of the most important tasks for the Theory Department in the next few years; its co-authors will probably also include researchers from various other Czech studies departments and institutes, as well as from other disciplines. The aim is to create a complete "nested" encyclopedia of basic terms from literary theory – extending into the field of cultural studies, intermediality and other spheres within the broad context of fields associated with literary studies.
  • Introduction to Narrative Theory (ASCR Institute for Czech Literature assignment; 2008-2010; by a team of authors). The aim of this project is to compile a coherent introduction in book form to narrative theory, providing not only a systematic description of the foundations, functions, basic structures and attributes of narrative, but also outlining the main trends in narrative research. The project is based on the most influential theoretical concepts that have developed in narrative theory since the 1960s, but the planned publication should primarily reflect the domestic environment and tie in with the structuralist tradition of Czech literary studies. In 2008 the project was a key assignment for the Prose Theory Department; since 2009 the assignment has been worked on by an independent team within the Theory Department. The book will be ready for publication by the end of 2010.
  • Czech Structuralism and Russian Formalism (ASCR Institute for Czech Literature assignment – international project; 2007-2009; Project Manager: Ondřej Sládek). The aim of this project is to analyse relations between Czech structuralism and Russian Formalism, the inspiration they derived from each other and the changes that took place over the 20th century, particularly in connection with modernism and postmodernism. Both trends underwent a number of changes in the twentieth century, which to some extent reflect the trends and orientation of world literary studies and theory. The output of this project will be a collection of theoretical and literary historical studies that takes into account: (1) the forms and formation of Czech structuralism and Russian formalism, (2) the main trends and research by the most prominent representatives of both theoretical mainstreams and (3) their mutual relations and the influence they had on each other. The project has international participation, with contributions from researchers at the Russian Academy of Sciences,  the University of Pennsylvania and Arizona State University.
  • Guide to World Literary Theory. Adaptation and Updating (ASCR Institute for Czech Literature assignment; Project Managers: Alice Jedličková and Jiří Trávníček) The aim of this project is based on the need to provide an overview of the dynamically developing theory of literature and the broad field of cultural studies, whose comprehension requires a knowledge of key theoretical concepts which have developed throughout the 20th century. The project is an update and expansion of the unique work of the same name compiled during the 1980s by Vladimír Macura and it includes the collaboration of a number of previous and present contributors from various university departments. 
  • Problems of Narrative Theory (Czech Science Foundation; 2004-2006; Project Manager: Tomáš Kubíček)
  • Text in Motion (2003-2005, Czech Science Foundation; Project Manager: Marie Kubínová) - see Literature as Text between Texts
  • Metzler Lexikon Literatur - und Kulturtheorie. Translation and Update for Czech Environment (Czech Science Foundation; 2004-2005; Project Manager: Jiří Trávníček)
  • Poetics of the 20th Century Literary Work – Part Two (Czech Science Foundation; 2001-2002; Project Manager: Daniela Hodrová)
  • Poetics of the 20th Century Literary Work (Czech Science Foundation; 1997-1999; Project Manager: Daniela Hodrová)

Departmental members: