on the Other in Czech Literature

Figuring the Other in Nineteenth-Century Czech Literature: Gabriela Preissová and Bozena Viková Kunetická.

This essay examines figures of the ethnic Other in fictional texts written by two late nineteenth-century Czech women writers, Gabriela Preissová and Božena Viková-Kun?tická. The author locates their writing in the broader context of Czech nationalist discourse and in the — by fin de si_cle already well established — tradition of Czech literature. Jusova argues that while (unlike German nationalism) Czech nineteenth-century literature did not tend to advocate aggressive outward politics, at least in some cases it did become aggressively discriminatory against certain racialized elements in its own population. Although Czech nationalism arose and continued developing as a reaction against the increasing aggressiveness of the neighboring German and Austrian nationalists, the popular Czech defensive concepts of the nation appear to have been based on a similar biological postulate and a similar principle of “the chosen people with a divine mission” as the concept of nation propagated by the militant followers of the Aryan theories in Germany and Austria.

Jusova argues that, while the exclusivist sentiments embedded in the biological concept of the national community were at first directed against the perceived “ethnically foreign elements” in the Czech national community (the Roma, the Jews), by the end of the nineteenth century they came to be aimed, at least in some writers’ work, at Czech peasants, the group previously celebrated by nationalists as the harbingers of “authentic” Czechness.