Slavisches Seminar

Structure of the Handbook

The handbook on entangled history of literary theory is comprised of four sections:

I. Introduction: Entangled Literary Theory
II. Formation of Literary Theory: Schools, Institutions, Concepts, Models
III. Transformations and Absorptions of Literary Theory
IV. Movements of Literary Theory: Persons and Concepts

In part I, “Introduction: Entangled Literary Theory,” a general outline traces the entangled history of Eastern European literary history: at the centre of attention is the position of literary theory in relation to other disciplines and arts, the role of these other intellectual and aesthetic phenomena in the formation of modern literary theory, the interaction between literary theory and historical events, the locations and institutions as well as opportunities and the need for movement, the transformation of concepts in a foreign context and their re-importation to Central and Eastern Europe.

Part II “Formation of Literary Theory” analyses where schools, institutions, concepts and models were formed and what kind of theoretical positions developed before they migrated (more often than not with the intellectuals). Here it becomes important to point to the integration of different theoretical directions into larger intellectual contexts between which the exchanges did not follow direct paths – e.g., Polish formalism reviewed its Russian counterpart via a detour of Dilthey’s hermeneutics, Stanisław Brzozowski’s philosophy of culture and German scholars like Oskar Walzel. Before we move on to formalism (chapter II.2), however, we would like to illustrate that the rise of formalism in Russia and, more generally, in this part of the world was enabled by intensive international and interdisciplinary research for developing a scientifically rigorous art theory. The institutions that preceded the rise of literary theory were, inter alia, Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und allgemeine Kunsttheorie [Journal for Aesthetics and Art Theory], which was published in Stuttgart starting in 1906 and the Gosudarstvennyi Institut Istorii Iskusstv [National Institute of Art History], which was founded in St. Petersburg in 1912. Other interdisciplinary institutions emerged at roughly the same time as formalism (such as in the Gosudarstvennaja Akademija Chudožestvennych Nauk [National Institute of Fine Arts], short GAChN, founded in Moscow in 1921, Instutut Sravnitelnoj Istorii Literatur i Jazykov Zapada i Vostoka [Institute of Comparative History of Literatures and Languages of the East and the West]), and Koło Naukoznawcze [The Circle of Research on Science] (Warsaw)). The formalists (with the Moscow linguistic circle starting in 1915 in Moscow and OPOJAZ starting 1916 in St. Petersburg) which were active in the 1920s in national institutions such as GIII or GAChN claimed to have established a scientifically sound literary theory; in the context of science, invention means above all a rearrangement of pre-existing ideas and methods. By incorporating the context of the Zeitschrift für Ästhetik, the Institute for Art History, Koło Naukoznawcze, and GAChN, it is possible to sort the theoretical field of the 1910s and 20s anew.

Starting in II.3, literary theory schools will be presented which took on different impulses of these beginnings and transformed them by adding different ideas, approaches, and revaluations.

Part III “Transformations and Absorptions of Literary Theory” will be devoted to the decomposition of the literary theory’s edifice, whose crucial elements became indispensable building blocks of other (new) approaches in the humanities, for example in postcolonial studies, translation theory, and cultural studies. The interdisciplinary transformations were often accompanied by the movements of scholars between (scientific) cultures.

Part IV on Literary Theory Movements“ concentrates on the migration of scholars and ideas and is made up of two glossaries – a biographical one of mediators and ambassadors of Central and Eastern European literary theory and a glossary of concepts and terms of literary theory which have both influenced the development of theory in the region and were reviewed on a global level so that they remain relevant for current discussions. The glossary orients itself on Ramond Williams’ Keywords and Martin Jay’s Cultural Semantics: Keywords of Our Time and on Otto Brunner, Werner Conze and Reinhard Koselleck’s Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe [Historical Basic Concepts] as well as on two dictionaries on formalism and on the Moscow-Tartu School.

The articles will be written by scholars that work on the particular subjects in different countries. The language of publication is English. Funding for linguistic editing and potential translations will be requested from the DFG (German Research Foundation).

Draft outline:


I.1. From National Philologies to Literary Theory.

I.2. Beginnings, Endings, Transitions: The Dynamics of Literary Theory
(Traces left by the history of events and the day-to-day politics in the construction of concepts of literary theory; historical and political context of international and transdisciplinary movements. Changing interrelation between literary theory and (the theories of) other arts)

I.3. Spaces of Theory
(Centres and peripheries, university towns, modes of contact: circles, institutes, schools, salons, cabarets, types of scientific discourse and other forms of expression)

I.4. Circulations of Theories
(From Moscow to Boston, Vilnius to New York, Prague to Yale and Toronto, from Marburg to Istanbul and Princeton; transfer site Paris; compatibility of theories in the Western context; re-importation of Ideas to Central and Eastern Europe)

II. Formations of Literary Theory: Schools, Institutions, Concepts, Models 1930s [460 pages]

II.1. Workshops of Interdisciplinary Research from the 1910s until the 1930s
(The Stuttgart association and Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und Allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft [Journal of Aesthetics and Fine Arts], Gosudarstvennyj Institut Istorii Iskusstv [National Institute for the History of Art] (Petrograd /Leningrad), Gosudarstvennaja Akademija Chudožestviennych Nauk [National Academy of Fine Arts] (Moscow)), Instutut Sravnitelnoj Istorii Literatur i Jazykov Zapada i Vostoka [Institute of Comparative History of Literatures and Languages of the East and the West]), Koło Naukoznawcze [The Circle of Research on Science] (Warsaw)

II.2. Formalism in Russia, Poland, Bohemia and Germany
(Formalisms in and outside of Russia)

II.3. Phenomenology in German-speaking Areas, in Russia, in Czechoslovakia, and Poland

II.4. Hermeneutics
(Hermeneutic models in- and outside of Germany. The reception of Heidegger’s and Gadamer’s work. Bachtin, a hermeneut? Maria Janion and Ryszard Przybylski. F.X. Šalda, Arne Novák and Dmitrij Tschižewskij in the Czech kontext)

II.5. Psychoanalysis and Literature, Psychology of Art
(Wilhelm Wundt, Würzburg Schools, Gestalt psychology, Otokar Fischer, Freud’s readings and Rank’s literary theory, Jung’s archaic images and the Russian Jungians, Lou Andreas Salomé, Eugenia Sokolnicka and Ludwik/Ludwig Jekels, Lev Trotskij and the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, Lev Vygotskij and Aleksandr Luria, psychology at the GAChN, Vygotskij’s and Vološinov’s critique of psychoanalysis)

II.6. Sociological and Marxist Literary Theory
(Positivistic and Anti-positivistic sociology (The Second International and its discontents), pre-revolutionary heritage of Marxism, the birth of “Western Marxism” in the East (Lunacharskij, Bogdanov, Brzozowski), debates in the 20s and 30s, establishment of the canon: Marx and Engels On Art and Literature, Polish Marxists, Brecht and Adorno’s querelle with Lukács)

II.7. Walter Benjamin and the Frankfurt School
(Benjamin’s readings of Central- and East European literature [Leskov, Dostoevskij, Kafka], the readings of Benjamin texts in East and Central Europe, the Frankfurt School in the countries of Socialist Realism, reactions of the Frankfurt School to Socialist Realism, Karel Kosík’s Dialectics of the Concrete)

II.8. Semantic Palaeontology and its Continuation
(Sources: British Social Anthropology, Levy-Bruhl, Nikolas Marr and the Marrists, Olga Freudenberg and Israel Frank-Kamenetskij; their heritage)

II. 9. Bachtin, Bachtin Circles and the (Re)Discovery of Bachtin in the West

II.10. Structuralism and Semiotics

(Roman Jakobson and Nikolaj Trubetzkoj as Russians in the former Habsburg Empire, Prague School, Warsaw and Vilna structuralism, Soviet structuralism and information theory, the Moscow-Tartu School after the first summer school and its focus on cultural semiotics, Gasparov and versology, Anthropological models in Prague structuralism and the Second Generation of Prague structuralism, Czech models of cultural semiotics, Polish Theory of Literary Communication, the Relation of literary theory to linguistics, ethnography, cybernetics, Max Bense and the circle of artists and philosophers, Systemtheorie as German Structuralism?)

II.11. Poetics and Hermeneutics: Incorporated Interdisciplinarity
(The politically fueled rise of interdisciplinary history of ideas after WW2; Slavic theories in “Poetics and Hermeneutics“: Intertextuality and Dialogicity; from Ingarden, Mukařovský and Vodička’s reception theories through Poetics and Hermeneutics to Reader Response Criticism)

III. Transformations and Absorptions of Literary Theory [70 pages]

III.1. Postcolonial Studies
(Russian impulses for postcolonial theories, the reception of postcolonial theories in Russia, Poland, and other countries of the region; the reception of Russian theory in the so called third world, Russian – African Relationships)

III.2. Translation Studies

(From theories of literary translation to a paradigm of modernity)

III.3. From Literary Theory to Cultural Studies

(From Vološinov to Williams, Polish Marxism Revisionism and Cultural Theory, Marxism and Semiotics, Transformation of media-theoretical concepts)

IV. Movements of Literary Theory: Migrating Concepts [90 pages]
(Ideas that originated in East and Central Europe and then emigrated)

Alienation/Defamiliarization/Estrangement (Ostranenie), Carnival / Laughter, Chronotope, Concretisation, Equivalence, Form, Function, Hybridity, Intention / Einstellung / Ustanovka, Intertextuality, Literary Communication, Literary Evolution, Montage, Novoe zrenie, Neues Sehen [New Vision], Parody, Performance, Structure, System, Style, Theatricality

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