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Václav Smyčka History Caught in the Net

Václav Smyčka shows in his study how the subject of the post-WW II expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia is dealt with in the hypertext of Wikipedia. The author follows the negotiation of the content of selected articles on this subject. He draws attention to certain interpretational conservatism of Wikipedia which results from the concern of its core users with non-controversiality of the texts. At the same time he compares the generally formulated articles with more thematically narrow articles in their Czech and German language versions. Smyčka asserts that already the very asymmetrical structure of these articles in both language versions determines the interpretation of history within the hypertext and thus the resulting opinion of a reader.

Václav Smyčka Trace

This study describes and tries to explain the role which fragments from ‘ancient times’ played in the perception of historical time at the end of the Age of Enlightenment. In late 18th century, such valuable fragments could take the form of pieces of medieval texts found in the binding of books kept in Strahov Monastery, ruins of castles, imprints of prehistoric flora but even things such as collected folk poetry from the region of Kravařov. Focus shifts to the very notion of positive evidence which helps to form the framework within which such fragments presented themselves to their discoverers. It is about trying to answer the question what is a historical source, what form of factuality its ‘readers’ deal with, and how finders of such fragments situate themselves in history through such ‘traces’. This investigation thus leads both in the direction of phenomenology, to mediatedness of the specific kind of source a fragmentary ‘trace’ represents, and to a better understanding of the historical dimension of people in late 18th century.

Václav Smyčka Achilles and the Tortoise

The idea of continuous progress of mankind, which appeared in late 18th century in connection with the Enlightenment, went hand in hand with the complementary notion of the backwardness of cultures in earlier stage of development. Some cultures were thus seen as archaic and identified with older ‘epochs of mankind’, while others were seen as especially modern, at the forefront of the virtual vector of progress. This study investigates who and in what way presented these narratives in the enlightened society of the Czech Lands and how these narratives functioned in the ‘backward’ cultures. Using the example of historians, statisticians, and publicly active intellectuals who around 1800 described cultural differences in Central Europe (such as M. A. Voigt, F. A. Pabst, L. Zehnmark, M. A. Gotsch, and F. Kindermann), this study investigates the origins of such narratives of backwardness and their role in the Czech society. The author concludes that the role of ‘backward’ cultures was sometimes actively espoused by their representatives and that this model is based on the adoption of a specific regime of temporality, which itself can be seen as a subject of cultural transfer (i.e., it is a cultural transfer of a model of cultural transfer). This last mentioned aspect is developed in the conclusion, which suggests a hypothetical possibility of emancipation from power asymmetries which follow from the complementary narratives of progress and backwardness.