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The Will to Chance

Necessity and Arbitrariness in the Czech Avant-Garde


Publication Year: 2008

Published by: Slavica Publishers

Front Matter

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pp. 1-4

Shortly after the publication of his Chantefables pour les enfants sages, in which "The Seahorse" appears, the French surrealist poet Robert Desnos was arrested, deported to Buchenwald, and then marched, with many anonymous others, to the "model camp" Terezín. or Theresienstadt, in the Nazi "protectorate" of...

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pp. 5-22

The historical avant-garde has long been thought of, and thought of itself as, the special advocate of the aleatory in all realms—a chance encounter of sewing machine and ocean, words in a hat that fall upon a page, separate drawings communing through the spell of folded paper, montage, "coincident" erotic encounters...

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1. Against Arbitrariness

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pp. 23-50

Countless texts have been written on the nature of probability and chance since David Hume's canonic Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Much has been made of the accidental as device in the translation of early avant-garde experiments into more recent artistic efforts. But the social and cultural effects of the exaltation...

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2. The Plastic Word

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pp. 51-79

The text is constructed along the formula of text and interpretation, similar to theoretical and "scientific" tracts of the Enlightenment: text on the left side, "interpretation," or gloss, on the right. Nezval's parody of this formula is productive for the tension that it exploits in the dual nature of language, poetic and...

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3. The Simultaneous Vision

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pp. 80-110

Directly following his treatise on arbitrariness, Saussure tackles the construct of verbal time. He claims, rather modestly, that perhaps this principle has not been registered in the past because it is "too obvious." The principle in question is that of the linear character of the signal: "The linguistic signal, being auditory...

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4. Each of Us Tracks His Own Toad

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pp. 111-133

Well before the poststructuralist researches of the late 19605 (Deleuze and Guattari in particular) and the studies by figures of the Slovenian Lacanian school (Žizek, Saled et al.) who now enjoy something of a celebrity status in academe, Teige and Nezval were plotting the coordinates of a meeting between Freud...

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5. The Bed in the Background: The Erotics of Chance in the Discourses of Czech Surrealism

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pp. 135-172

The Czech branch of surrealism, and the surrealist movement as a whole for that matter, may be said to be preoccupied with the erotic and the thanatic within the condition of life. In point of fact, there are those who have (over)determined surrealism within the parameters of eroticism only and seen the core of the movement...

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pp. 173-192

Milan Kundera, whose apparition has visited all sections of this book, is one of the most noted proponents of irony in literature. More than a matter of tone, the ironic temperament works to undermine the snares of ideology and complacency. Irony marks and displays the discomfort of never enjoying the consolation...

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pp. 193-199

In the early summer of 1950, Albert Einstein made urgent calls to Czechoslovak President Klement Gottwald.2 He asked that his excellency pardon four prisoners—three men, one woman—accused of "terrorism" and sentenced to death after a months-long trial. Mr. Einstein's calls were in vain. On 27 June 1950, the four...

Works Cited or Consulted

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pp. 201-215


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pp. 217-220

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780893578237
E-ISBN-10: 0893578231
Print-ISBN-13: 9780893573232
Print-ISBN-10: 089357323X

Page Count: 220
Illustrations: 18
Publication Year: 2008