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The Bohemian Body

Gender and Sexuality in Modern Czech Culture

Alfred Thomas

Publication Year: 2007

     The Bohemian Body examines the modernist forces within nineteenth- and twentieth-century Europe that helped shape both Czech nationalism and artistic interaction among ethnic and social groups—Czechs and Germans, men and women, gays and straights. 
     By re-examining the work of key Czech male and female writers and poets from the National Revival to the Velvet Revolution, Alfred Thomas exposes the tendency of Czech literary criticism to separate the political and the personal in modern Czech culture. He points instead to the complex interplay of the political and the personal across ethnic, cultural, and intellectual lines and within the works of such individual writers as Karel Hynek Mácha, Bozena Nemcová, and Rainer Maria Rilke, resulting in the emergence and evolution of a protean modern identity. The product is a seemingly paradoxical yet nuanced understanding of Czech culture (including literature, opera, and film), long overlooked or misunderstood by Western scholars.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xii

Jan §vankmajer’s combined live-action and animated feature film Little Otík (Otesánek) is typical of modern Czech culture in deploying traditional narratives to tell a new and unfamiliar story. The tale of a childless couple that adopts a tree trunk as their baby is based on a folktale by...

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pp. 3-18

With the rise of national self-awareness in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the east-central European kingdom of Bohemia, whose political origins lay in the early medieval context of the Holy Roman Empire and whose loss of independence coincided with...

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1. Maidens, Barbarians, and Vampires: Nationality and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century Czech Literature

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pp. 19-59

The Czech writers of the first two phases of the National Revival (1774–1820) tended to look back to the medieval and early-modern periods for their inspiration and appeared to establish a congenial compromise between their personal and political selves. As the nineteenth...

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2. Gender, Form, and Ethnicity in Nineteenth-Century Czech Women’s Writing

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pp. 60-87

In nineteenth-century Czech literature, national identity was more or less synonymous with village life, since the towns had become wholly or partly germanized by this time. Some of the most prominent chroniclers of Czech village were women. These works have been read...

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3. Czech Mates: Homosexuality in Czech Modernist Short Fiction, 1917–20

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pp. 88-103

In the early years of the twentieth century, Czech history and identity were no longer being defined exclusively in terms of nationalism. In the writings of T. G. Masaryk, and even that of his detractors, the meaning of Czech history was, above all...

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4. Between Paris and Moscow: Sexuality and Politics in Interwar Czech Poetry and Film

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pp. 104-136

According to standard accounts of modern Czech culture, the devastation caused by World War I (1914–18) brought an end to the Decadent depoliticization of literature. Literature now became a vehicle of protest and satire aimed against the conservative forces that had...

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5 Robots, Golems, and Femmes Fatales: The Drama of Karel Capek

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pp. 137-169

The protagonist of Harry Mulisch’s novel The Procedure (1998) is a Dutch biologist named Victor Werker whose research into DNA cloning causes an international uproar when he creates a complex organic crystal that has a metabolism and can reproduce...

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6. Terror and Dream Were My Father and Mother: Postwar Czech Fiction and Film

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pp. 170-199

Following the end of World War II in May 1945, Czech poets and filmmakers who had survived the Nazi occupation began to look back to the subjective strain in the interwar avant-garde as a means of asserting the freedom of the individual at a time of increasing political...

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7. "The Unborn”: Postwar Feminist Fiction and Film

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pp. 200-223

What does a woman want? In recent years this question, first asked famously by Freud, has been appropriated by such Western feminists as Luce Irigaray and Shoshana Felman to address the central issues of feminism: What is a woman? Does she exist? Does she have an...


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pp. 227-234


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pp. 235-247


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pp. 249-271

E-ISBN-13: 9780299222833
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299222802

Publication Year: 2007