Feminist's Semiotic Odyssey Through Czech Literature

Author: Volková, Bronislava
This study presents alternative views on major works and authors of Czech and Central European literature in a feminist and non-elitist perspective. It examines the cultural biases expressed in selected major works and the underlying (unconscious) values of their authors. Using a semiotic approach, it gives detailed attention to the hidden emotive meanings of the texts. Themes include authors' attitudes to relationships between women and men, the images of women in both older and contemporary Czech literature, nationalistic biases, issues of responsibility, active versus passive approach to life, new visions added to European culture by Czech authors like J. A. Comenius, K. H. Mácha, B. Nemcová, J. Hasek, K. Capek, O. Brezina, J. Seifert, B. Hrabal, M. Kundera, L. Vaculík and others.


". . . the work of a mature versatile scholar. . . . The selection of topics and the structuring of this manuscript reflect the variety of her intellectual concerns as well as a personal, often bold, insight into Czech culture. While her semiotic approach to the literary text is in the great tradition of the Prague Linguistic Circle, her feminist angle brings in a much needed new perspective. . . . At a time when Czech culture and literature are receiving a richly deserved, if unprecedented attention in American Universities, Volkova's manuscript fills a large gap. It brings together a wealth of knowledge and insight within a format shaped by an original sensibility. By blending her reflexions on broad cultural themes with detailed, sophisticated readings of the original texts, Volkova has written a book that will prove as valuable to the undergraduate as to the most advanced students of Czech culture." - Maria Nemcova Banerjee

". . . discuss[es] well-known works with the fresh, level-headed approach of a contemporary highly intelligent woman scholar whose argument is incisive, but never restricted or burdened by humourless ideological feminism. . . . using different scholarly analytical tools - those of semiotics, emotive signs and semantics - not only show Dr. Volkova's close familiarity with these aspects of literary criticism, but also deepen the reader's perception of an important aspect of Czech literature and culture: its lyrical quality. . . . Particularly for students of the lyric these chapters are bound to be of major interest, for others they reveal another significant aspect of Czech literature. . . . The carefully prepared bibliography at the end of the study is very useful indeed. . . . render[s] a most valuable service not only to students and scholars of Czech and Central European literatures and culture, but also to comparatists, historians of ideas as well as the general intelligent reader." - Marketa Goetz-Stankiewicz