Peripheries2: Czech and Slovak digital literature on the edge of domestic and foreign interest

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Czechoslovak literature always kept up with literary trends, which were trying to combine texts and possibilities of new medias. Whether we speak about a period of literary avant-garde, or about a period of experimental poetry of 1960s, works of Czechoslovak authors were always at the forefront of domestic literary-theoretical and literary-historical reflection and had strong (in case of 1960s even initiative) cultural impact abroad. However, after the rise of digital literature the situation and position of Czechoslovak (and Czech and Slovak) literary production have changed. Domestic theory and praxis in digital literature have become marginal issue. Even if there has emerged a piece of work with potential to interest international readers and theorists, it has never crossed borders of former Iron Curtain in nearly 100% cases. Czech and Slovak digital literature has found itself at dual perihpery at the same time – domestic (internal) and foreign (external).

The aim of this contribution is clear then. First – to briefly sketch an evolution of CzechSlovak digital literature and introduce its (im)potentiality to leave the external periphery and get into the digital literature’s spotlight more. Second – to propose concepts and possibilities of researching and making the digital literature more international and attractive in an environment, in which there is a general lack of creative and theoretical interest in digital literature at all (pushing it to internal periphery).

Even though Czech-Slovak digital literature produces insufficient number of works on an average (even less of that noteworthy), such pieces of works which could succeed in an international gauge still can be found. Whether we speak about a field of computer-generated literature, interactive literary installations, hypertext novels or collaborative projects, CzechSlovak digital literature manages to follow international trends as Czechoslovak literature managed it during an era of experimental literature in 1920s and 1960s. So why is it not able to break through these days in the period of digital literature? Why is it not able to leave the sphere of overlooked external periphery? What is the Czech-Slovak digital literature missing? And finally: How to deepen the tradition of digital literature in those countries? And is it possible at all?

All of these questions will be briefly answered within the contribution and by using Leonard Flores’ idea of postnational phenomenon, it will try to outline the concept and approach, which could be ideal for deepening tradition of digital literature in „peripheral“ country and for taking the digital literature „from the internal periphery to the center“.

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Tomas Franta