The paper delineates conditions of theoretical transformations in the works of Lubomír Doležal and Thomas G. Pavel, starting from the assumption that their cultural evolution has been similar. Not only did they share the same ideological background, common to the East and Central European countries under the Soviet regime, but their theoretical options were coloured by the same dilemmas. Originally they were promoters of the structuralist linguistic methods, they both embraced linguistic approaches to literature in their first books only to depart from them later in favour of the possible world theory. A comparative focus on the stages of their evolution from the linguistic turn to the referential turn is needed. The study emphasizes both the specificities of this evolution – indebted to the autochthonous tradition of the two authors – and its paradigmatic aspect: the mobility of their theoretical reflection enacts the metamorphosis of the literary studies throughout the last half century.