Prague German Circle(s): Stable Values in Turbulent Times?
Renowned Max Brod scholar Margarita Pazi has argued that the historical and geographical constellation of Czech-German writers is unique and provided the context for some of the world’s greatest literature, including but not limited to Franz Kafka (Pazi, 1995). Do these Czech-German authors, centered – though not exclusively – in Prague make up a “circle” (Brod, 1966), a “school” (H.G. Adler, 2010 ), “circles” with “nodes” of connection (Weinberg, 2017), or a number of different “epicenters” (Jungmayr, 2014)? Any attempt to answer this question brings up a whole host of others: Is there indeed something (heritage? humanism? fate?) that unites the writers of this group and evokes the term, “circle”? What definitional contours did Max Brod use in creating this constellation of German-speaking authors? Was H.G. Adler correct in his assessment that this was a one-time phenomenon never to be seen again? And if one dispenses with the singular term (i.e., circle) does that adjust the focus away from Kafka as the central figure?
This special issue [of Humanities] will bring much needed attention in English to this group of Czech-German writers. With Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach as its inaugural author, Brod’s Prague Circle counted among its members some of the most sophisticated crafters of the German language. According to subsequent scholars of the Circle(s), many authors, such as Egon Erwin Kisch, Franz Werfel, Ernst Weiss, Paul Kornfeld, Oskar Baum, Ludwig Winder, Otto Pick, Willy Haas, Johannes Urzidil, Hermann Ungar, Rudolf Fuchs, F.C. Weiskopf, Hermann Grab, Friedrich Torberg, Paul Adler, Hanna Demetz, and Hans Klaus, were well-received critically in their own time but are still today not well-known, especially in the Anglophone world. Papers in English dealing with these authors are welcome as well as on the women authors who begin and end the existence of this unique constellation of authors: Ebner-Eschenbach and Lenka Reinerová.
We therefore want to bring together scholars not so much to debate the value of terminology (is it a circle or a school?) but to bring to light (forgotten or neglected) literary texts and their engagement with stable values, the dissolution of values (Broch, 1952), and/or the necessity of their rejuvenation (Schönwiese, 1959). Each paper should investigate the complexity of the work’s speaking intelligence in its context and bring to light what, if anything, these authors have to say to us today about the stability or instability of values in turbulent times. Submissions should address the literary qualities of the prose under consideration and suggest how the author(s) can speak to readers today in valuable and affirming ways, even if these authors invoke meaning through its absence.
- What is the role of modernist literature in a postmodern world?
- Can an analysis of the work Czech-German women writers contribute something new to and expand the conversation of/about women in literature?
- How might one carry on in Brod’s or Pazi’s spirit of a unifying moral imperative that makes these works identifiable to their time and place?
- What light would a discussion of terminology [e.g., circle(s) vs. a school] shed on the evaluation and interpretation of literature of this time and place?
- Can we identify epicenters among these writers that do not include Brod and Kafka? What about Hartmut Binder’s “lost generation” (1991) and authors not included by Brod in his Prager Kreis?
- Can we say that Berlin & Vienna were in creative crisis at this time, while Prague was ascendent? Alternatively, what does an investigation of Prague talent in Berlin or Vienna reveal?
- Is Czech-German literature as a phenomenon greater than the sum of its parts?
- Is Brod’s concept of a “transcendent realism” as a hallmark of the “Prague Circle” accurate or limiting?
- (How) is intertextuality characteristic of these writers in their various novels? How do themes recur and converge?
- What is the role of Prague in the works of these authors in the postwar period?
- Examination of the relationships of these authors to Czech authors/artists/musicians of the time.
- Czech-German authors in their role as cultural mediators.
Please send abstracts of 300-500 words, along with a short bio of 150-200 words, by 1 December 2023 to Traci O’Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org. Completed articles of 5000-7000 words should be submitted by 31 May 2024.
Adler, H. G. (2010 ). Die Dichtung der Prager Schule (2nd ed.). Arco Verlag.
Binder, H. (1991). Prager Profile: Vergessene Autoren im schatten Kafkas. Mann.
Broch, H. (1952). Die Schlafwandler: Eine Romantrilogie. Rhein-Verlag.
Brod, M. (1966). Der Prager Kreis. Kohlhammer.
Jungmayr, J. (2014). Der Prager Kreis um Max Brod. Tradition und Moderne: Versuch eines Überblicks. In J. D. Adler & G. Dane (Eds.), Literatur und Anthropologie H. G. Adler, Elias Canetti und Franz Baermann Steiner in London (pp. 260–308). Wallstein-Verlag.
Pazi, M. (1995). The Prague Circle. In D. G. Daviau (Ed.), Major figures of Austrian literature: The interwar years 1918-1938 (pp. 355–391). Ariadne Press.
Schönwiese, E. (1959). Probleme des Wertzerfalls und der Integration. Wort in der Zeit 5.12: 15-30.
Weinberg, M. (2017). Prager Kreise. In P. Becher, S. Höhne, J. Krappmann, & M. Weinberg (Eds.), Handbuch der deutschen Literatur Prags und der Böhmischen Länder (pp. 195–223). J.B. Metzler.
Traci O'Brien, Auburn University