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The Theory Department was created as of 1.1.2009 through the merger of two previously independent working teams: the Text Poetics Department and the Prose Theory Department. While the team of researchers gathered together in the Text Poetics Department has primarily focused over the last few years on the extensive research project entitled The Poetics of the 20th Century Literary Work, staff at the Prose Theory Department have been involved in narratology and the interpretative usage of its tools. The creation of a combined Theory Department stems both from discussions over long-term research activities policy at the Institute and from the culmination of certain collaborative trends. Scholarly research at the Theory Department has centred to a large extent on both teams' previous orientation, but it is set to progressively expand to include other areas that come within the framework of literary and cultural thought in general. One of the main tasks at the Theory Department in the next few years is to be the compilation of an extensive several-volume encyclopedia – A Compendium of Terms Used in Literary Theory and Culture and a series of monographs on key literary theory concepts.

Research activity at the Department is carried out both in the form of individual research projects by individual members of the Department, and within the framework of collective tasks, which extend and complement the Institute-wide research projects. In this regard, the Department's participation in international projects and collaboration with several foreign institutes such as the Interdisciplinary Center for Narratology (ICN), European Narratology Network (ENN) - at Hamburg University; Le Centre de recherches sur les arts et le langage (CRAL-EHESS-CNRS, Paris); Stockholms universitet; The School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London; Institut Slovjanovedenija Rossijskoj akademii nauk (Moscow); Slavic Department, University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) are of considerable importance.

Important publication output by Departmental staff includes: a monograph by J. Vojvodík: Surface, Secrecy and Ambivalence. Mannerism, Baroque and (the Czech) Avant-garde (2008), B. Fořt: Narrative Theory in the Context of the Prague School (2008); The Literary Character. Development and Aspects of Narratological Research (2008), D. Hodrová: Sensitive City. Essays in Mythopoetics (2006); collective work: ... On the Brink of Chaos ... (2001), Close-up Views: Sound, Meaning, Image (2002) and Towards Meaning (2005) – involving results from the project mapping out the poetics of the 20th century literary work; publication of a special Czech issue of the Style journal 3/2006; collections of papers: Felix Vodička 2004 (2004), Literature as Text between Texts, Czech Structuralism after Poststructuralism (2006), Narrative in Context (2008) and so forth.

A substantial part of the Theory Department's activities consists in arranging specialist lectures, interdepartmental colloquia and conferences. Some staff members also take part in university tuition at Charles University Faculty of Arts in Prague and at the Masaryk University Faculty of Arts and Pedagogy in Brno.

Projects under way

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.

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.

Completed projects

Individual:

  • 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:

  • 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: