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The Prague School

Class at Faculty of Arts |


The Prague School as a topic of literary-theoretical and literary-historical research appears quite differently depending on whether the view is conducted from the "inside" of Czech scholarship or, on the contrary, from the outside from the perspective of global scholarship, whether in the Anglophone or Francophone tradition. In the latter case, the reception is influenced both by the composition and general availability of translated texts, and by the theoretical frameworks from which theorists writing about the Prague School draw. In the case of the Czech discourse on the Prague School, we are facing simplifications and tendencies marked by a certain inferiority complex, which forces theorists to emphasize unexpected moments, to schematize the doctrine into a well-organized doctrine, and, last but not least, to deviate from the Marxist and sociological dimensions of the Prague School. Our course intends to try to go beyond these limitations and - within its own methodological framework, of course - to re-present the Prague School as a set of texts and performances that had a significant place in the story of the birth of structuralism and that present an interesting perspective on some of its central concepts, in particular: - synchrony and diachrony,- the question of the theoretical basis of the thesis of language as a system, - the problem of the foundation of the humanities and the place of linguistics in it (the model of phonology) - the topic of sentence as a linguistic unit- the topic of style, stylistics and the notion of function-based differentiation of speech in the frame of the theory of functional languages- the topic of poetic speech in relation to Russian formalism- the specific "sociological" dimension that poetic speech takes on in Jan Mukařovský's poetry

The course will be divided into two thematic blocks, in the first we will focus on the postulates and theoretical foundations of the Prague School of linguistic thought, in the second we will focus on the problem of stylistics and poetic speech. On an ongoing basis, we will orient students on the basic methodological approaches to describing the Prague School, as well as on the available (or unavailable) literature.


The course introduces students to the basic ideas of the Prague School by reading and discussing the most important and lesser-known texts, placing them in the context of contemporary thinking about language and literature, and highlighting the original moments as well as the derivative ideas that together form a specific form of structuralism.