Slot:       28D–5          Dec. 28, 3:45 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.                                                

Panel:     Czech Literature and Culture

Chair:     David Powelstock, Brandeis University


Title:       The Language of Karel Havlíček Borovský

Author:   Ellen Langer, University of California, Berkeley

Karel Havlíček Borovský helped shape the language and tone of Czech journalism and political polemic, and his writing demonstrates a strong linguistic as well as political sensibility. The present paper addresses the shaping of his language, both through external influences and through his own engagement with the word as a political tool. It addresses his writings on the meanings of individual words, polemics on the semantics of politics and the politics of semantics. It starts from the presumption that, conscious as he was of variant meanings attributed to words, Havlíček also made deliberate use of variations in spelling, style, and grammatical forms. Variation is considered both in the context of general contemporary usage and for possible polemical force.

The primary source material consists of Havlíček's political prose, reproduced in a variety of sources, and of other contemporary and near contemporary writings. In his teens, Havlíček consciously turned from the German language toward cultivating his native Czech. In a letter to a friend written in 1839, he cites supporting the newspaper Kwěty in his plan to become more Czech “i řečj i skutký(quoted in Jiří Morava’s C. k. disident Karel Havlíček, Toronto: 68 Publishers, 1986, p. 26). Therefore 1839 issues of that newspaper are used for background material, as are the writings and usage of Jungmann, Šafařík, Palacký, and others. General background information on Havlíček's life is drawn primarily from Morava.

That variation exists in Havlíček's usage is immediately evident. This paper discusses to what degree Havlíček was responding to changing norms following the ideas of others and to what extent he was innovating or making certain usages more acceptable.


Title:       “Toyen Between Prague and Paris”

Author:   Malynne Sternstein, University of Chicago

With the highly successful retrospective of Toyen’s art at Prague’s City Gallery (2000), the life and work of Toyen (née Marie Cerminova) has finally become more well-known outside of highly Czech- or Surrealist-specific circles, though much has yet to be done to gain the world recognition Toyen’s art clearly deserves. 

While some forward movement has begun in the dissemination of Toyen’s reputation as a leading artist of her generation, and one who has had a lasting influence on currents in art today, her legacy continues to be constrained by readings of her work that focus on her gender (e.g., she is often called one of the great female artists of the Surrealist movement, next to Dorothea Tanning and Leonora Carrington, as if this category were one that piggy-backed the greater category of “Surrealist artist”).  Gender issues and sexual politics are, of course, components of the Toyen-identity as an object of art history and yet, with her life-long efforts at overcoming the social gender-trap, she seems to be subsumed still to them in the very art-criticism that could restore a fruitful dialogue to her complex art.  I have the modest ambition that, in taking Toyen’s work first and foremost as work, rather than a gender, sexual or geopolitical curiosity, I can add my voice to the progressive dialogue. 

The aim of my paper is to forward an understanding of Toyen’s art, and—more generally, art as it may be affected by emigration—by assessing the development of Toyen’s artwork, from her work in Prague under the auspices of the Czech surrealist movement during the Nazi occupation to her emigré work immediately post-1944 in Paris.

Haunted by the war and, as I wish to argue, by the ricocheting effects of leaving behind her Prague and all it entailed for her (her partner Jindřich Štyrský had died in 1942 of pneumonia, many other colleagues were incarcerated or murdered), the art Toyen produced in the first years of her exile in Paris is a paradox of emotion, from a bitter nostalgia to a resentful surviorship.  But the transition from this still ultimately Czech Toyen to a Franco-Czech one is the focus of the essay.  The questions the paper asks are ‘real’ questions, and not purely academic ones; that is, the answer is not yet supplied in the inquiry being pursued.  As too often happens within academic discourse, the question itself (that is, the search fueled by curiosity without a preconceived object) becomes secondary to the evidentiary pursuit and the answer.  In this inquiry, then, I must confess to a hopeful naiveté.  I do not have a sense of an answer prior to my questions, and the paper is meant to be a laboratory, rather than a solution.  Among the questions being asked are: How does a shift in one’s artistic focus and artistic milieu express itself in one’s material?  What are the factors that may motivate this shift or shifts?  What can be considered an artistic shift at all; are only stylistic, technical, syntactic or thematic concerns adequate for tracing change in an artist’s expression, or is there something more essential and uninterpretable available in manifestations of change?   The questions will be asked with the help of visual examples from 1940-1947, images she made during the most turbulent years of her life. 


Title:       Crossing the River: The Motif of Charles Bridge in Czech Literature

Author:   Clarice Cloutier, Univerzita Karlova, Praha

Within the center of Bohemia lies Prague and within the center of Prague stands a bridge, over which have passed camels and kings, poets and progressive thinkers – each stone a witness to an abundance of history: Charles Bridge.  Even as the bridge joins the country and its people, so this study aims to associate the multitude of Charles Bridge motifs which have surfaced in Czech poetry.  The poems of Jiřina Fuchsová, Vladimír Holan, Jan Neruda, Jaroslav Seifert and others will be analyzed in the context of historical references, metaphoric space, as well as the personal progression of the poem’s speakers, all as facilitated by Charles Bridge.



Borkovec, Věra.  The Taste of a Lost Homeland: A Bilingual Anthology of Czech and Slovak Poetry Written in America. Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences, 2002.

Clavel, André.  “La ville dont le cœur est un pont.” samedi, 23 novembre 2002.

Čtenářovy procházky Prahou.  Praha: Státní nakladatelství krásné literatury, hudby a umění, 1960.

Holan, Vladimír. Bolest. Praha: Československý spisovatel, 1965.

Plicka, Karel.  Praha ve fotografii Karla Plicky.  Praha:  Česká grafická unie A.S. v Praze, 1940.

Sedláková, Radomíra.  Prague: An Architectural Guide.  Venice: Arsenale Editrice, 1997.

Seifert, Jaroslav.  Dílo Jaroslav Seiferta.  Svazek 11. Praha: Akropolis, 2003.

----, ed. Verše o Praze.  Praha: Československý spisovatel, 1962.