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This department deals with the sociology of literary communication in the Czech lands from the Enlightenment to the present. The professional interest of its members include the social and economic contexts of literary communication and history of literary institutions, as well as historical changes in the authorship, writing, distribution, and readership of texts.

On the basis of a series of conferences organised upon its establishment in 2003, the Department for Literary Culture Research (LitCult) oversaw the publication of The Short Story, Novel, and Periodicals (2005) and ‘We Provide a Decent Wage’: The Economic Context of the Writing Profession (2009). In 2009–2015, the department focused on the issue of censorship in literature and the press. The main result was the anthology Dangerous Literature? An Anthology of Thought on Literary Censorship (2012), followed by a two-volume synthesis with the title In the Public Interest (2015), which was well received both in the foreign and domestic contexts and won various awards (including the Josef Hlávka Award). In the following years, members of the VLK focused on the history of the book market during the Enlightenment reforms and birth of national movements. Output of this research includes the monograph On the Way to a ‘Well-Organised Bookstore’ (2019) and The Book Industry in Bohemia 1749–1848 (Buchwesen in Böhmen 1749–1848, 2019). An initial period of quantitative and qualitative research on contemporary reading and readers in the Czech Republic (starting in 2007), has been followed by the department’s current interest in historical readers, as well as the involvement of LitCult members in various European projects. Within the auspices of the European project READ-IT, department members will help develop a digital platform for collecting information about reading activities, as well as analyzing and sharing it, and making it public.

A second line of research within the LitCult involves the study of genres and media of popular culture, and the theory and history of comics. The department oversees activities at the Centre for Comics Studies, a joint workplace of the ICL and Faculty of Arts of Palacký University; work at the Centre has culminated in The History of Czechoslovak Comics of the 20th Century (2014), and theoretical compendium In Panels and Speech Balloons (2015).

VLK also offers a programme for doctoral students, and its members give lectures at universities in Brno, Prague, and Olomouc.

  

Current projects

READ-IT (2018–2021)

(Reading Europe Advanced Data Investigation Tool) is a transnational, interdisciplinary R D project funded by the Joint Programming Initiative for Cultural Heritage that will build a unique large-scale, user-friendly, open access, semantically-enriched investigation tool to identify and share groundbreaking evidence about 18th-21st century Cultural Heritage of reading in Europe.

The life of One Novel: Ludvík Vaculík's Český snář (Czech Dream Book) within Literary Communication (Petr Šámal; Michal Kosák, Daniela Iwashita a Hana Kosáková, Czech Science Foundation 2020–2022)

In this project, the way in which unofficial literary communication functioned in the 1970s and 1980s will be studied through the example of Ludvík Vaculík’s novel Český snář. Through an indepth study analyzing the genesis and social “life” of a single work, this project will contribute to knowledge of the forms of existence of a specific circle of writers and will cover the questions that lie at the center of attention within current research into the literary samizdat (the shapes of literary exchange, transnationality, and materiality, among other research). The main outputs will be: (1) a critical annotated edition of the novel Český snář accompanied digital application; (2) a monograph that situates this novel within a variety of historical, cultural, and literary contexts and interprets it with a view to the circumstances of its production; (3) a series of studies expounding on broader issues within the literary samizdat against the backdrop of a particular work.

Czech Popular Literature 1918-1939 in Outline: Works and Contexts (Pavel Kořínek; Pavel Janáček, Michal Jareš, Stefan Segi, Markéta Ř. Holanová, Czech Science Foundation 2020–2022)

Despite the existence of other excursions into individual texts, book series, areas, or (sub) genres, domestic literary studies lack, to date, even a perfunctory treatise on Czech popular literature from the 1918–1939 period. The goal of the collective monograph that will be the main output from the project, is to offer the first steps towards a future synthesis. Inspired by the reader-friendly yet meticulously researched and relevant “handbooks” and “companions” available in the English-speaking world, it will provide general, summarizing, and topic-oriented introduction to the field and interpretive case studies built up from the perspective of single work. Czech popular literature – and its texts – will be viewed here in a variety of contexts and relationships: within the coordinates of genre, of translation and cultural transfer, of mediality, and of materiality. The monograph will be supplemented by articles in academic journals, a colloquium, and teaching materials.

Literary Censorship in Outline – administrative control and regulation of literary communication in 19th and 20th century Czech culture

This work aims to map out the role of censorship in Czech literary culture from the end of the 18th century to the end of the 20th century. The methodological starting point for the team of authors is the literary communicative conception of censorship, plus the phenomena of decentralization, diffusion and negotiation, as revealed by poststructuralist approaches to censorship. The primary output of the project will be the manuscript for a book presenting censorship of Czech literature in two separate sections timeframed around changes in the censorship code. The general section will involve a brief description of censorship as a bureaucratic institution: the censorship code, i.e. the legal, cultural and aesthetic standards governing censorship, the organizations involved in censorship and censorship practice. The second, more extensive section will comprise case studies analysing model cases of censorship interventions, documenting their effects in the fields of creation and reception and describing the typical situations and strategies used by participants in the censorship process. These studies will enhance and dynamize the image of individual periods of literary censorship and open up censorship as a theoretical and literary historical issue. Within the framework of the book as a whole their subjects will be selected to show various aspects of the definition of censorship under review and its place in the process of the circulation of forms, values and meanings. The project is headed by Michael Wögerbauer, while members of the Department for Research into Literary Culture are also joined by Magdalena Pokorná, Michal Charypar and Petr Píša in external collaboration. More detailed information can be downloaded here (in English) and here (in Czech).

The making of a nation of readers. Networks, firms and protagonists in the Bohemian book market (1749–1848) 

Claire Madl, Petr Piša, Michael Wögerbauer (project GAČR 15-22253S)
The project investigates the book trade in Bohemia (1749–1848) as a field where intellectual trends, the economic preconditions for their diffusion by printed media, and the permeability of political boundaries to new ideas were all determinant factors and the book market was gradually becoming autonomous in both a territorial and linguistic sense. The project will analyze hitherto unstudied archival sources and set up a prosopographical and topographical method for collecting and analyzing information about book professionals. By studying printers, publishers, booksellers and the networks of their domestic or international contacts, we will develop a means for studying the structure of intellectual exchange and communication through the printed media in a key period for the birth of a modern public sphere. The final two monographs will examine the strategies employed by the protagonists in the book business, the differentiation and structuration of intellectual exchange and question the traditional narrative of the role of book professionals in the building of a modern nation. 
The aim of the project is to publish a German and a Czech monograph. The German book will contain a strong analytical part and a dictionary of book professionals (1749–1848). In the Czech book, case studies highlighting the structural changes in the book market will accompany the analytical part.

Research into Readers and Reading in the Czech Republic (regularly since 2007)

Project Manager: Jiří Trávníček (financial support and collaborating institution: Czech Ministry of Culture and Czech National Library)
In collaboration with a public opinion polling agency, this project regularly organizes research into Czech readers and reading (with a representative selection – a sample of 1500 respondents). The results from the first poll (performed in summer 2007) will be processed in both shorter and longer versions: the shorter one – a separate supplement of the Host journal (prepared by the end of 2007), and the longer one – a book publication working inter alia with comparisons of research in other countries (prepared by mid-2008). The research will be performed every three years in such a way that some 80% of the questionnaires will always be the same (for the sake of comparison), while 20% will focus on one specific area: 2007 – libraries, 2010 – literature, 2013 – the book market.  

 

Previous projects

Aesthetician A. G. Meißner's Prague Years - an edition of previously unknown notes and correspondence with an introductory study of his role in Czech literary life

Project Manager: Michael Wögerbauer (Czech Science Foundation standard project)
In contrast to the "National Revivalists" in the narrow sense of the word, their university professors have hitherto been paid relatively little attention. Only in the last fifteen years have any key studies been written on August Gottlieb Meißner (1751-1807), the prominent Prague professor of aesthetics (1785-1805). Although Meißner was originally more of a poet, his work in the Prague literary environment outside the university was almost completely unexplored during the last century. This project aims to bridge this gap on the basis of newly discovered sources: Meißner's hitherto completely unknown Prague notebooks from 1791 to 1804, which were recently discovered by Professor Tomáš Hlobil, and Meißner's correspondence throughout the time he was active in Prague (1785-1804) from archives in the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria and Holland. On the basis of this new material a substantial paper will be written on Meißner's influence - as a writer and publisher of the journal Apollo, as well as a bookseller – on Prague literary and intellectual culture at the end of the 18th century, as well as on how this Saxon writer perceived the local cultural scene.  This paper will serve as an introduction to the first edition of the notebook and correspondence. It will also include a set of footnotes to make the text more accessible to researchers and present-day readers. The study will be published in Czech and German, with access provided to the edited German-language material through Czech abstracts and a broad-ranging index of names and places.

Negotiation under Supervision – practices and strategies for controlling literature under Stalinism

Project Manager: Petr Šámal (Postdoctoral Czech Science Foundation grant)  
The aim of this project is to describe, analyse and document the mechanisms and practices that had a bearing on the processes behind the production and reception of literary works under Stalinism, which are characteristic of literary functions under a totalitarian regime. The project will consist in a book presenting lists of proscribed books, on the basis of which libraries were censored from 1948 to 1953, and in the manuscript of a composite set of studies, analysing the situations, practices and strategies that were typical of negotiations between participants in literary communication in the initial stage of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia (writers, publisher's editors and Czechoslovak Writers Union officials). 

The Central European Novel

Project Manager: Jiří Trávníček (standard Czech Science Foundation Project)
The aim of this project is to prepare an anthology of texts on the subject of Central Europe, including key texts both from the standpoint of their thematic scope and that of the development that the discussion on Central Europe has undergone (divided into two sections: politological and historical texts and culturological and literary studies texts). A commentary is also to be added and some three analytical studies are to be prepared in parallel on the Central European novel, as the preparatory phase of a more wide-ranging work on this subject, which is to be/may be completed by a book monograph three to four years after the end of the grant project.

The Czech-language Periodical Press 1830-1850 from the Standpoint of Literary Communication and Output

Project Manager: Lenka Kusáková
Research into the periodical press that published literature and literary journalism is a traditional part of literary history.  For the first half of the 19th century we now have available listings of Czech and Moravian journals, as well as a number of analyses of individual titles (in addition to studies by positivistically-oriented researchers in particular, the Lexicon of Czech Literature has also focused lately on journals and their position in the context of period literature). The project completed here (the book monograph was sent to the printers in 2008) attempts to gain a different view of literary journals. It aims to depict the literary periodical press at a certain time and place as a "network" of variously conceived journal titles existing in parallel, which together with contributors and readers forms a complex literary communication situation that facilitates the publication and reception of poetry, prose and thought on literature, but which as a specific space also places restrictions on them (spatial, thematic, genre-related, functional and ideological). The work is based to a large extent on perceptions of the journal network and issues at the time, making use of statistical methods (with tables, synopses and graphs). It is divided into two chapters. Chapter One: Literary Journals as a Communication Situation presents the changes in the literary journal network from 1830 to 1850 in terms of vertical and horizontal differentiation, dealing with the legal, economic and ideological conditions behind the publication of Czech-language journals, following the editorial (or publishing) strategies behind the publication and reception of literature and thought on literature (a journal encourages authors' production and stands in for such previously lacking literary institutions as public literary competitions, literary associations and so forth) and taking into account the formation of the contributors' and readership base of the literary periodical press. Chapter Two: Literature in the Space of the Journal presents the literary output itself, indicating the restrictions imposed by the given specific publication space (extent, location, typeface, competition between prose and poetry and so forth), dealing with the functions of journal literature (aesthetic, recreational, pedagogical and educational), the subject matter, genres, issues surrounding originality, translatability and anonymous authorship. A supplement to the monograph presents a complete listing of the periodical press from 1830 to 1850 with key data (title, subtitle, time and place of publication, periodicity, supplements, publisher, editors and a brief description of its thematic and ideological orientation).

The World of Serialized Fiction 1 – illustrated weeklies, humorous, entertainment and young adults' magazines 1920-1950

Project Managers: P. Janáček, M. Jareš, B. Hemelíková and team (Czech Science Foundation standard grant)
The basis for this historical-bibliographical reference work, whose conception follows on from that of the World of Pulp Fiction annotated listing of 1930s and 1940s serialized novels, is an annotated bibliographical description of about 1,600 serialized prose works from thirty modern-style illustrated weeklies, the first example of which in the Czech environment was the 1920 Pražský ilustrovaný zpravodaj (Prague Illustrated Reporter – published by Melantrich), and similar journals. The upper limit for the period of time involved was chosen on the basis of the date the last "pre-1948" illustrated weeklies were transformed and included in the socialist "construction era" culture. The long-lived mass-readership illustrated weeklies which acted during the period under review as a central platform for serialized fiction are all included in this reference work (PIZ, women's weeklies: List paní a dívek, Pražanka, Hvězda, Eva, Pestrý týden, Ahoj, and the post-war Květen and Beseda inter alia). Less prominent titles and those from outside Prague have been included in a selection presenting the cultural, ideological and readership spectrum within this area of cultural communications (e.g. the magazine for Communist women Rozsevačka vs Katolická žena). This selection also includes some humorous magazines and youth magazines whose appearance and orientation came close to those of the modern illustrated weekly  (e.g. Mladý hlasatel and Vpřed). On the model of the previous publication by the authors of the World of Pulp Fiction (Karolinum 2003), the listings of series are included in the chapters on individual journal and magazine titles. The introductory text to this reference work defines a modern illustrated weekly as a special historical genre within the medium of printed magazines, outlining its appearance in Czech culture, the various prose serialization procedures employed at the time and the basic formal and communicative characteristics of published serials (e.g. the practice at the time of alternating long [six-monthly to year-long], standard [three-monthly] and supplementary [month-long] serials); it also provides explanations of the conception behind the listings and of the bibliographical records. This work will be ready for book publication in 2008. 

Online Dictionary of Czech Publishers (1849-1949)

Project Manager: Aleš Zach
The timeframe for this dictionary (sample in Česká literatura 55, 2007, No. 4 to be published on an ongoing basis at www.slovnik-nakladatelstvi.cz) has now been narrowed down  to 1849-1949. The complete dictionary index (with some 1,000 entries) includes professional publishers, booksellers and printers involved in publication output, as well as bodies that acted as publishers outside the small business framework normally summarized at the time under the heading of "private publishers". Hence the dictionary also includes publishing organizations primarily producing Czech-language books, which were active in the Czech lands or abroad and which started operating no earlier than 1849, finishing no later than 1949.  In view of the considerable representation of publishers in dictionary-style Czech specialist reference works, the Online Dictionary of Czech Publishers focuses primarily on compiling entries for those publishing activities on which only a minimum of publicly accessible information exists. All those publishers whose entries have been included in the Lexicon of Czech Literature will be left out for the time being.

Petr Šámal: Chapters from 1950s Literary Culture (ASCR Grant Agency junior grant)
The output of this project, which the author also defended as his doctoral dissertation at Charles University Faculty of Arts, is a set of four literary studies papers on the characteristic features of the newly created system of literary communication. These papers have also been published in journals and collections of papers. The aim of the introductory, theoretically based paper (On the History of the Term Literary Culture – printed in Česká literatura 53, No. 4, pp. 541-555) was to detail the methodological foundations on which the analytical research that makes up the main output of this grant project is based. A common feature of these literary studies papers was their focus on the "content" side of the new cultural model. First the author directed attention towards a subject which has a privileged position within the framework of Czech culture, i.e. on the period version of debates on "the Czech question". The paper entitled The "Czech Question" in the Light of Stalinism (printed in Soudobé dějiny  12, 2005, No. 1, pp. 45-61) analyses journalistic and specialist texts written by Karel Kosík in the late 1940s and early 1950s on Czech radical democracy. The paper entitled Ardent and Loyal Guards (published as a summary in Dějiny a současnost 29, 2007, No. 6, pp. 24-29) follows the changing face of post-1948 librarianship, describing in detail the censorship process on book collections and portraying efforts at libraries to manage people's reading. Literature, the Women's Communist Press and Problems of Continuity (printed in the collection of papers from the first Department for Research into Literary Culture symposium entitled The Short Story, the Novel and the Periodical Press in the 19th and 20th Century, eds. Michal Jareš, Pavel Janáček and Petr Šámal, Prague, ASCR Institute for Czech Literature, 2005, pp. 145-169) presents research into the history of the women's Communist press, centring around a comparison between three stages in the existence of Rozsevačka magazine (1926-1929; 1930-1933; 1952-1954) which were remarkable for their distinctive editorial policy. In conclusion we refer to the connection between post-1948 literary culture (using the term "construction era literary culture") and the "second-wave" of proletarian literature from the early 1930s. As our main argument we cite the fact that the late 1940s and early 1950s saw the promotion of an extreme version of the instrumental approach towards literature, which had much in common with RAPP policies at that time.

Lenka Kusáková: Early National Revival Literature (in Czech Journals, Almanacs and Literary Supplements to Newspapers 1786-1830). Part 1: Studies, Part 2: Anthology (Prague: Karolinum 2003)
The publication of Early National Revival Literature presents the origins of modern-era Czech literature through the prism of journal output at the time. This is the first time that these periodicals (some thirty titles) have been systematically excerpted and examined for purposes of literary research. This work centres around a genological characterization of the material. In chapters on the short story (sentimental, pseudohistorical, humorous, adventure-based, educational and about ghosts and resurrection of the dead) and a broad range of minor literary genres (fairy tales, legends, idylls, dreams, satires, riddles and anecdotes) both didactic (parables, fables, maxims, paramythia, talks, reflections and so forth) and journalistic (sketches and travelogues), a characterization of their basic developmental structural features is given. The specific nature of this journal source allowed for the review of prose literature from the standpoint of its social stratification (prose works for rural and urban readers, the citizenry and the patriotic intelligentsia) and the determination of the historical form of its literary functions: aesthetic (the meeting of classicist and preromantic aesthetic and poetic principles), entertainment (the significant influence of the conventionalized European sentimental novel: Florian, Marmontel, Lafontaine,Velde and others) and educational (the Enlightenment, Austrian Josephinism and the clampdown during the French revolution and the Napoleonic wars). The anthology presents individual genre forms with entire texts (60 titles).

Pavel Janáček, Michal Jareš: The World of Pulp Fiction - an annotated listing of serialized novel periodicals in the 1930s and 1940s (Prague: Karolinum 2003)
Addenda and corrigenda to the book can be downloaded here.
For modern-day consideration of the history of Czech literary culture, the bibliographical and historical reference work The World of Pulp Fiction presents 2028 volumes that came out from 1935 to 1951 in all thirteen serialized novel periodicals in existence at the time (Rodokaps, Rozruch, Weekend, Krásný román, Moderní romány, Čtení pro ženy, Dobré čtení, Divoký západ, Večery pod lampou, Besedy Hvězdy, Románové novinky, Oddech po práci and Večery). Complete listings of the title novels from these periodicals are supplemented in this reference work by a select bibliography of literary and cultural journalism, minor prose works and other journalistic and literary features that appeared in serialized novel periodicals. In some 500 brief entries the index presents key facts on the life and work of Czech and foreign (particularly American, German, British and French) writers published in serialized novel periodicals. The publication is introduced by a study characterizing the publication types of serialized novels, classifying them within the context of literary communications and general cultural development and describing the social and cultural background of serialized novel authors.  The serialized novel periodical was an important media innovation in the 1930s Czech cultural environment. It tied in with similar American and Western European undertakings ("pulp magazines") and closely coexisted with similar operations run by Prague German publishers. Serialized novel periodicals formed an intersection within Czech popular culture between literature, film, theatre and visual culture, reflecting social and political changes. Serialized novel periodicals have never been analytically recorded for bibliographies. Due to several censorship campaigns that culminated in the recall and destruction of pulp fiction works in the years immediately following February 1948, serialized novel periodicals were not preserved in their entirety at any Czech libraries. However, an image of them has now been reconstructed with the help of private collectors of light reading matter. This reference work endeavours to open up serialized novel periodicals as a source of material for the specialist in the history of popular Czech culture, comparative cultural studies, the history of the everyday and mentalities, literary historiography, film history and the history of visual culture.

Pavel Janáček: Trash Literature. Operation of Exclusion, Operation of Replacement, 1938-1951 (Brno, Host 2004) 
This monograph deals with the representation, rejection and censorship of popular literature in modern Czech culture (during the 19th and 20th centuries), as well as the parallel processes of replacement of rejected forms of literary communication by other forms which were more desirable from the standpoint of the cultural elites. It focuses most attention on the period from 1938 to 1951. In contrast to the immediately preceding trends of the First Republic, this period saw the promotion of a conservative conception of national literature, reserving all the space of literature for fiction which always kept the horizon of artistic values in view.  The apocalyptical-sounding public discussion under the Second Republic (1938-1939) and the first stage of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (1939-1942) voiced the predominant opinion that popular literature was harmful both to the individual reader and the national culture as a whole, and the idea was formulated of keeping it under the control of systematic censorship. This idea started to be generally promoted after 1945 and popular literature of the period was suppressed by means of censorship. The subject of this monograph is thus the problematic reception of popular literature as one of the key elements in literary culture, the historical arc of its reception and the "narrative" of the bearing of Czech literary culture towards popular literature, culminating in the early 1950s in the construction of "Socialist literature", which in this monograph is understood to cover literature in the period from 1948 to 1989 with all its programmatic and institutional peculiarities. It came into being through a reduction of the literary culture which had formed over the centuries with a combination and synthesis of both of its key elements, which had previously been disparate despite all overlaps. This reduction is conceived within this monograph to be an operation of exclusion and a synthesis or combination like an operation of replacement. The historical chapters of the monograph focus on the course of this two-in-one operation of exclusion and replacement in the crucial period before the middle of the 20th century. The substantive section is preceded in the monograph by the introductory historical-theoretical section. This sets out the actual concept of censorship as an institution which imposes official limits on the space of literature as promoted by ruling cultural elites; it espouses the concept of the space of literature as a horizontally and vertically differentiated structure, as promoted by the pioneering work of the Prague School authors. It also indicates where the operation of exclusion/replacement project came from and when, how and from what it was composed before it was seized upon by the cultural policy of the Second Republic, the Protectorate, the post-1945 and the post-1948 regimes. The introductory chapter seeks far deeper for the roots of this massive operation on the entire space of literature. It sees this operation as the culmination of long-term trends, which are by no means only present in Czech culture. It also states that the attempt to perform this operation amounted just as much to a denial of one defining trend in modern literary culture as the culmination of another defining trend.

Departmental members

 

 

Departmental members