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2005 | 53 | 3 | 309-323

Article title

Ukotvenost a ukotvitelnost pojmu barok v českých literárních vodách



Title variants

Delimiting the Term 'Baroque' in Czech Literary History

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In Bohemian literary sources the terms 'Baroque' and 'Baroque literature' are not clarified, defined, or generally accepted. Some scholars talk about the birth or establishment of Baroque thought in the Bohemian Lands as having taken place about 1550. A frequent view is that Baroque literature began to assert itself in the Bohemian Lands shortly before the Battle of the White Mountain (1620). One also occasionally hears the opinion that Baroque literature did not begin in the Bohemian Lands till the 1680s. In dictionaries and other works concerned with literary theory and history the term 'Baroque literature' is normally linked with the theme of the fleetingness of life and of all earthly things and with the vivid depiction of the four last things (heaven, hell, death, and judgement), especially death. In Czech literature, one finds these themes most often in the period from the third quarter of the sixteenth century to the third quarter of the seventeenth century. Increased interest in death and fleetingness is, however, linked not only with Baroque thought but also, at least to the same extent, with late humanist thought. It is precisely the predilection for theatricality, frequently mentioned in connection with Baroque literature, which is linked with the humanist predilection for the expressively drawn backdrop of the story or interpretation and with the late humanist conception of the world as a theatre and of human life as a theatrical role. Other features of Baroque literature are said to be, for example, its dynamism, the attempt to intensify impression and expression, high dramatic tension and overstressing, and the use of paradox. If, for example, we look for dynamism and paradox in Czech literature of the period from the 1620s to the 1670s, we find it - as in the pre-White-Mountain literature - to be relatively marginal. The literature of 1600-80 changed very slowly. Writers probably began to search for new sources of inspiration and in some cases enlarged the circles of authors and works they considered authorities. Apart from Classical Antiquity and patristics in the literary work of the second and last third of the seventeenth century, an ever greater role was played by the literary tradition of the High Middle Ages. Folklore also became an increasingly important source of inspiration for writers. In addition, the relationship between the writer, language, and the printed word underwent certain changes. Language, on the one hand, was closely linked with the attitude to one's native region and country and to the tradition of catholicity; on the other hand, the possibilities of language were gradually being made relative: writers became increasingly conscious that much remained inexpressible with words, and even took refuge from time to time in the declaration -often stylized - about their own inability to express certain things in words.









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  • M. Sladek, Redakce Ceské literatury, Na Florenci 3, 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic


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