Academic journal article Style

How Many (Different) Kinds of Fictional Worlds Are There?

Academic journal article Style

How Many (Different) Kinds of Fictional Worlds Are There?

Article excerpt

Since 1989 many literary theoretical books connected with the heritage of the so-called Prague School have been published in the Czech Republic. Also, books we could consider primary sources of Czech structuralism, such as Jan Mukarovsky's selected works (two volumes of his Studie) and Felix Vodicka's books Pocatky krasne prozy novoceske and Struktura vyvoje, have been either republished after decades or newly edited. Furthermore, there are now several books written by their students and followers, who, under the communist regime, could hardly publish or could not publish at all. The scholars of this generation of Czech structuralists, those who stayed in Czechoslovakia in the seventies and eighties, were allowed neither to officially educate a new generation of their followers in universities nor to influence them by their work. Some of the members decided to leave the communist state and live abroad. Thus, we speak about the Czech branch and about the foreign branch of this generation of Czech structuralism. Nevertheless, after 1989 books of Miroslav Cervenka and Milan Jankovic (i.e., of those who stayed) appeared in Czech bookstores next to books by Jiri Veltrusky, Kvetoslav Chvatik, or Lubomir Dolezel (i.e., of those who left the country)--some of them originally written in Czech and others translated from foreign languages. The authors pursued different approaches, methodologies, and strategies in their studies of literary works, but these differences can still be seen as variety inside a relatively consistent framework of structuralist thought. They share some theoretical problems, such as text and its structure, structured meaning, stylistic analysis, and so on. Some of their books were originally written before 1989, but some are much more recent, usually reflecting their authors' long continuing development of theoretical thought. An example of such a work is the 2003 Czech translation of Lubomir Dolezel's Heterocosmica, which first appeared in English in 1998 and which introduces the most recent elaboration of a new and influential trend in contemporary literary theoretical study: possible-world semantics.

In this study I would like to highlight, first, the connection between Heterocosmica and the Czech structuralist tradition and, second, its place in the contemporary Czech theoretical environment. In this particular case, I would like to single out one important book that stemmed from this enviroment, Miroslav Cervenka's Fikcni svety lyriky (Fictional Worlds of Lyric Poetry, 2003), and to present a general comparison of the concrete theoretical results both books leave open for further literary investigation.

Dolezel's Worlds

The Czech translation of Heterocosmica is significant specifically for two reasons: first, it introduces the Czech reader to the results of work that Dolezel has been involved for more than twenty years; second, the translation given by the author himself provides Czech readers with completely new theoretical terminology. The book is organized around the crucial notion of fictional worlds. It must be mentioned that the concept of fictional worlds is not considered new. At least in Czech structuralist tradition it was, to a certain extent, used by Mukarovsky as well as by Vodicka. This kind of usage was, so to speak, theoretically innocent. Mukarovsky and Vodicka speak purely about a world within a work; the world itself is not subject to much discussion. (1) In their discussions the world of a work of art is not considered a referential framework of fictional semantics. This does not surprise us when we bear in mind that it is foremost the lack of reference that is considered one of the weakest points of the Czech structuralist school (see Dolezel, Occidental Poetics). Both structural analysis of particular texts and structuralist aesthetics as a part of the wider philosophy of art omit any deeper exploration of the notion of text reference.

Generally speaking, Dolezel has been involved in the topic of fictional worlds for several decades, whereas Cervenka offered the idea of fictional worlds of lyric poetry relatively recently and did so directly under Dolezel's influence. …

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