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Fictions in Science and Literature: Language Structures as Interfaces

February 28th, 2012

The lecture traces the genealogy of fictions starting with Hinduist mythology (the goddess Maya) and early modern philosophical notions of “heterocosm” and “compossibility” (Addison, Leibniz, Bodmer and Breitinger) up to recent theories of “possible worlds” (Kripke) and “worldmaking” (Goodman). Then it focuses on the relation of fiction and language discussed first by Jeremy Bentham and the consequences of Bentham’s theory of language for the understanding of play and fiction in literature. The second part discusses the “philosophy of ‘as if’” of the German neo-Kantian thinker Hans Vaihinger, his thought of fictions as language structures and his functional approach to fictions in philosophy (especially Kant, Nietzsche) and science. The lecture is concluded by the reflection Vaihinger’s influence on Wolfgang Iser’s theory of the fictive and the imaginary, his literary anthropology and thought of culture.

Martin Procházka is Professor of English, American and Comparative Literature, Head of the English Literature Section and Chair of the Board of the Ph.D. programme English and American Literature at the Charles University in Prague. He is the author of Romantismus a osobnost (Romanticism and Personality, 1996), a critical study of English romantic aesthetics, Coleridge and Byron, Transversals (2007), an interpretation of Romanticism as the first pluralistic project of modern culture, and co-author (with Zdeněk Hrbata) of Romantismus a romantismy (Romanticism and Romanticisms, 2005), a comparative study on the chief discourses in the West European, American and Czech Romanticism. With Zdeněk Stříbrný he edited Slovník spisovatelů: Anglie… (An Encyclopaedia of Writers: England, Africa, Australia, India, Ireland, Canada, the Caribbean, New Zealand, Scotland, Wales, 1996, 2003). He has published two textbooks: Literary Theory (1995, 1997, 2008) andLectures on American Literature (2002, 2008), the latter jointly with Hana Ulmanová, Justin Quinn and Erik Roraback. His other publications include a number of edited volumes, book chapters and articles on Shakespeare, Romanticism, Structuralism and Poststructuralism, and translations of Byron’s Manfred and M.H. Abrams’s The Mirror and the Lamp into Czech (1991, 2001). He is the founding editor of the international academic journal Litteraria Pragensia. Studies in Literature and Culture and editorial board member of five other international academic journals. He is the Corresponding Fellow of the English Association (FEA) and the Visiting Professor at the Universities of Glasgow and Kent. He was the Benjamin Meeker Visiting Professor at the University of Bristol, Visiting Professor at Bowling Green State University (Ohio), Visiting Lecturer at the University of Heidelberg (Germany), Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the University of Adelaide and Visiting Scholar at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the Vice-Chair of the International Shakespeare Association (ISA), member of the Board of Directors of the International Byron Society (IBS), member of the Board of European Society for the Study of English (ESSE) and President of the Czech Association for the Study of English (CZASE). His current research areas include Shakespeare in intercultural communication, Preromanticism and the picturesque, British Romanticism and its Czech reception, American colonial literature and literature of the early Republic (Thomas Jefferson, Charles Brockden Brown), American Romanticism (Poe, Hawthorne, Melville), Cultural History of Ruins and Ghost Towns in the U.S., Structuralism and post-structuralist theories and the problems of fiction in literature and philosophy.