With this concrete starting point, and with Karásek’s trilogy “Romány t í mág ” (‘The three magicians’ novels, 1907-1925) as material, Lishaugen approaches Karásek’s way of writing and examines whether the trilogy generates two reading roles that facilitate both a “straight” and a “queer” reading.
Umberto Eco’s notion of a so-called model reader, along with analyses of rhetorical strategies and play with presupposed competences, reveal how Karásek’s trilogy makes possible two different ways of reading. The reference systems and competences that are presupposed bring different semantic fields to the fore simultaneously, and thereby separate conventional meanings from subversive and unconventional ones. On the one hand, Karásek’s trilogy fulfilled literary conventions and stuck to a specific repertoire. On the other hand it undermined the same conventions by systematically using ambiguous references to historic persons, works of art, places etc. with an underlying homoerotic significance.
Lishaugen also examines how Karásek’s trilogy was received by the critics. To some extent its reception mirrors the ambiguity in Karásek’s texts. Furthermore, there were two different ways of approaching the trilogy: partly that of the official contemporary literary critic which focused on the problem of decadence, partly the somewhat later unofficial reception within the homosexual rights movement, where the focus was placed on the literary depiction of homoeroticism. This difference illustrates how aesthetic conventions and expectations change over time according to different literary norms. Furthermore, a majority and a minority view of literature is laid bare: The way in which the majority focus on literary conventions, while the minority try to uncover the subversive potential of texts.
Karásek is usually regarded as the leading representative of literary decadence within Czech literature. Lishaugen shows in his thesis that the actual decadence elucidates an ambiguous interpretation, and that by taking the ambiguity as a starting point, it is possible to trace the subversive forces in texts.
Title of the thesis: Speaking with a Forked Tongue. Double Reading Strategies in Romány t í mág by Ji í Karásek ze Lvovic.
The thesis will be public defended on Saturday 13 December 2008 at 1.00 pm
Location: Room L 300, Etnologen, Lennart Torstenssonsgatan 6
Opponent: Professor Petr Bilek, Prague
The thesis costs SEK 300 and can be ordered from the Department of Slavic Languages, firstname.lastname@example.org