Czech Literature Essay

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Czech Literature

1. Characterize the main defining points of Czech pre 19th century history. Czech literature encompasses the provinces of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia. The Czech literature is divided into many periods, the Middle Ages, the Hussite Period, the Baroque period and the enlightenment that ushered in the 19th century Czech literature. Czech literature is unusually tri-lingual, utilizing Czech, Latin then German. Most of the writers before wrote in other languages (i. e. German) that’s why some of these writers and their works were classified as Austrian Literature.

Early evidences of Czech poetic work around 12th centuries are the two songs, Hospodine, pomiluj ny (Lord Have Mercy Upon Us) and Svaty Vaclave (Saint Wenceslas). In the 13th century, various political, social and cultural changes happened. Epics such as Alexandreis, the Chronicles of Dalimil, the lyrical pieces Island Song and Cunigund’s Prayer, signaled the birth of a unique Czech literature. Enters the Hussite Era wherein the sole purpose of the literature was to expand and spread the arguments and doctrines of Jan Hus.

Jan Hus was a theological writer at the beginning of the 15th century wherein he wrote mostly in Latin, and then Czech later on. Nonetheless, he published a compilation of his sermons in Czech and created rules of orthography and grammar that would later on be the foundation of modern Czech. Jan Hus’ works catered to the masses and mostly consist of social situations. This period truly developed Czech religious songs as alternates for Latin hymns and liturgy. However, Hussite Literature was oftentimes invalidated by works defending Catholicism just like Jan Rokycana’s works. Humanism, a new trend in Bohemia replaced the Hussite era.

This form of literature mainly dealt about rival writings of Catholics in Latin and Protestants in Czech. However, the Catholics finally emerged victorious after the Protestants were defeated in the Battle of the White Mountain. Therefore, there was persuasive re-Catholicization that leads to confiscations and eviction of all Protestants. There was a splitting of literature, the domestic Catholic and the exiled Protestants. This was known as the Baroque period. However, the Bohemian nobility was unlike any European nobility during that time, they held special courts for the nobles separate from the public.

This division resulted to the inability of the Baroque period of literature to expand and develop. The best known figure in Baroque Czech writing was John Commenius, a teacher, theologian, and philosopher. He grew up in Bohemia but was later on exiled due to Protestantism; and with his death, Protestant literature died away with him. After the demise of Protestantism and the power of Catholicism, a new development occurred with the declaration of Emperor Josef II to end feudalism and to tolerate freedom of religion and ideas.

This ushered enlightened classicism, or the application of rational reasoning to all aspects of life. Having a national language and a literature in one’s own language was seen as necessary to build an identity for the nation. A renewed interest in Czech folk literature and prose novels that relates the history and evolution of the nation of Czech, and a certain Czech poetic style was developed. 2. Describe the first phase of national revival. Major Figures The national revival was a spin-off from the enlightenment of Czech literature.

These ideas were all about renewal of everything Czech; from science to the arts and theater. However, there would still be a long way to go from being independent from the German style and develop a unique Czech style. This task was especially hard since German influence had span for so many years and the Czech language was already losing out. Hence, the solidarity among Czech citizens was greatly established and its connection with Russia, as well as restoration of the historicism and instilling nationalism amongst its people.

Step by step, promotion of Czech’s unique culture and traditions finally escalated to the point of politics. This means that Czech’s status as a government is equal to Germany, with Czech having its own constitutions and local autonomy. However, in 1848, there was an outbreak of revolution all over Europe and Germany had demanded unification of other European countries with them. This involved the lesser Germany or a greater Germany wherein Czech would be a part of, supposedly.

However, Chancellor Matternich of Austria resigned a month before the first Austrian Constitution was proclaimed. Nevertheless, uprisings were still adamant and a convention met in Vienna aiming to end the Viennese revolution and Slavic nations who resists Germany’s offer of incorporating Austria into Germany as part of its greater Germany concept. Upon so many debacles an Austro-Hungarian Settlement was reached, but this agreement totally ignored Czech’s demands, which led to an assembly of people at significant sites in Czech history.

So, an agreement between Austria and Czech was develop in 1871 and it included increased authority of Czechs assemblies. However this agreement was flawed such that it increased discontent of Germans and Hungarians living in Czech and further negotiations for the treaty was stopped. The relationship among Czechs and Germans worsen eventually, that this led to the formation of Germans in Bohemia their own enclosed German territory wherein German is the official language. 3. Early 19th century poets

After the enlightenment period and the national revival struggle, Romanticism entered the Czech literature scene. Frantisek Palacky was the leading Slavic scholar with Vaclav Hanka (1791–1861) who produced Slavic texts that became part of Czech’s literary tradition and culture. Moreover, the entrance of three literary figures such as Svatopluk Cech, Jan Neruda, and Joseph V. Sladek introduced poetry that was leaning towards the rich and the aristocrats. Svatopluk Cech (1846-1908) was a Czech poet and novelist.

He became famous for his love for freedom and democracy and his inclination to Pan-Slavism. This enthusiasm with politics was observed through out his many writings; just like The Adamites (1873), Zizka (1879), and Vaclav of Michalovice (1880). His satirical novel Excursion of Mr. Broucek to the Moon (1886) was also well-regarded as well as his idyllic prose In the Shade of the Linden Tree (1879). Jan Neruda (1834-1891) was a Czech essayist and poet. A native of Prague, his famous Stories from Mala Strana (1878) were derived from his childhood in Prague.

It also showed ridiculous interpretation of the Czech middle class that illustrates Czech realism. Joseph V. Sladek (1845-1912) was a Czech poet and translator. His works were influenced by Shakespearean plays since he lived in the United States for two years and the taught English in Prague and translated much American and English writings into Czech. Sladek’s poetry were free-verses and short at some point, demonstrating his personal sorrows and nationalistic ideology. His collections were entitled Basne [poems] (1875) and Sluncem a stinem [in sun and shade] (1887).

4. Development of Czech Theater Early theater in Czech was mainly composed of secular and liturgical dramas that present religious themes. These dramas were usually performed by professional actors and magicians. The Baroque Jesuit Drama was usually school plays that were run by the Jesuit Order of Priests in the 16th and 17th century. The theme was usually about country folk as presented to the urbanized public. Professional theater was made available by foreign performers who traveled from one country to another.

They are usually Germans and English, some others Italians, as well as French. Theater, did not escape the National Revival Project of the Czechs. Performances are to be executed using primarily the Czech language. Vlastenecke divadlo or the Patriotic Theater, the Bouda or the Shack, and the Nostitz Building of the National Theater, were the beginning of Czech Porfessional Theater. Czech professional theater reached the countrysides through J. A. Prokop’s company theater where they made their performances using puppets in 1849.

Finally, the opening of the Prozatimni Divadlo or Provisional Theater in 1862, Czech Theater created its own identity apart from German Theater. Consequently, the first generation of Czech Porfessional actors emerged like Josef Jiri Kolar and Anna Kolarova-Manetinska. Czech Opera also grew unexpectedly with seven premieres by Bedrich Smetana and five Antonin Dvorak (Czech Republic Website). The opening of the National Theater in Prague in 1883 introduced Czech Theater to the whole of Europe. Performances in Czech language started to increase and styles such as realism and naturalism developed.

Then in the beginning of the 20th century the avant-garde of Czech theater materialized and the works of Jiri Mahen, Frana Sramek and Viktor Dyk, ushered the symbolist and impressionist dramas. A new style of acting was also developing through focusing on the mind and pysche of the character, and this was presented by Hana Kvapilova and Eduard Vojan, among many others. The Municipal Theater at Kralovske Vinohradyopened in Prague in 1907, and Karel Hugo Hilar performed the art of expressionism in theater.

The development of Czech Theater was accompanied by the growth of Czech Theater Critics as well as magazines such as Scena were published. In 1918, wherein the development of an Independent Czechoslovakia was starting to brew, litearary works became rampant representing nationalistic ideas and usage of Czech language. Styles such as Avant-garde in Fantasy and Comedy also emerged. However, when the Nazi Occupation reached Czechoslovakia, all theaters were closed in 1944. Then in 1948, Czech theater emerged again with a new purpose, Socialist Realism.

This was mainly a propaganda of the communist regime to spread out their doctrines. But, in 1950s, small theaters took forms apart from the “official” theater, that fascinated a larger group of non-conformist audiences. This is where the famous Czech writer Milan Kundera began writing for theater. 5. Compare city and village prose Czech literature was not clearly divided accordingly as city and village prose. Through out the thorough research, no mention as to the theme about city or village was encountered, however, an inkling that the oral literature of Czech could perhaps be defined as village prose.

Since Czech literature in its oral form existed before the coming of any influence, from the urban cities or from the west, folk poetry was used. Another is the emergence of Catholic themes that could probably date back as far as 863 A. D. when Moravia and Bohemia were converted into Christianity through the labors of St. Cyril and St. Methodius. All Czech literature began in this era and with the exception of Bulgarian literature, Czech literature is the oldest and the richest. Themes range from secular and religious prose and liturgies of the Catholic Church.

As with the city prose, conceivably emerged through the influx of other styles as Czech literature moved on. With the addition of the romanticism that relates knight’s tales and crusaders and the feasts that were held in honor of them. Humanism that copied Roman and Greek literature, and Avant-garde styles such as impressionism and expressionism and political themes could also be referred to as city prose. 6. Compare the literary groups Ruch and Lumir In the 1840s, with the rise of Czech literature, publications and journalism were also growing on its own.

These publications contributed a lot for the political liberation of Czech from Austria. Literary periodicals that are closely connected with this political theme are the Lumir and Ruch. Lumir begun c. 1875, focused on the need to develop a Czech literature that would reach the level of international standards through the writings of Jaroslav Vrchlicky and Julius Zeyer. Ruch, who started in 1868, however, focused on strengthening national traditions and themes through the writings of Josef Vaclav Sladek and Svatopluk Cech.

Both periodicals were directed towards patriotism and nationalism through publishing writers that have some say about the political situation of the country. These writers, expressed their love for Czechoslovakia by creating historical novels such of Alois Jirasek or was commonly known as ‘the Czech Walter Scott’, (1851–1930). Works Cited Czech and Slovak literature. ” Crystal Reference Encyclopedia. Crystal Reference Systems Limited. 06 Dec. 2007. Reference. com http://www. reference. com/browse/crystal/08865

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