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Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 148–157 | Cite as

The affinity with the North American Indian in Czech literary discourse on the democratic roots of Czech national culture

  • Michal Peprník
Article

Abstract

This paper surveys the Czech cultural appropriation of the North American Indian in a historical perspective, through the three radical changes of the political paradigm: the first Czechoslovak democratic republic (1918–1938), the communist era (1948–1989), and the post-Velvet Revolution present. Although the American Indian was appropriated as a symbolic structure with surprisingly different functions in various social and political contexts, in most cases it figured in the democratic discourse.

Keywords

North American Indian democratic discourse appropriation Czech tramping movement Czech pulp Karl May James Fenimore Cooper German movie Indians rock music weekend Indians 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    As Leslie Fiedler was quick to point out, ‘Primitivism is the large generic name for the Higher Masculine Sentimentality, a passionate commitment to inverting Christian-Humanist values, out of a conviction that the Indian’s was of life is preferable. From this follows the belief that if one is an Indian he ought to, despite missionaries and school boards, to remain Indian; and if one is White, he should do his best, despite all pressures of the historical past, to go Native.’ Leslie A. Fiedler, The Return of the Vanishing American (New York: Stein and Day), 169.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The publication data are taken from Marcel Arbeit, Bibliografie americké literatury v českých překladech I-III/Bibliography of American Literature in Czech Translations (Olomouc: Votobia, 2000)Google Scholar
  3. 2a.
    J.F. Cooper, The Deerslayer (1889, 1908, 1928, 1960, 1991)Google Scholar
  4. 2b.
    J.F. Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans (1852, 1896, 1908, 1925, 1925, 1934, 1937, 1953, 1961, 1968, 1970, 1989, 1991); Adaptations: 1892, 1902, 1930, 1938, 1940, 1948, 1957, 1972Google Scholar
  5. 2c.
    J.F. Cooper, The Pathfinder Translation: 1929, 1934 (1942), 1957, 1963 (Henzl) Adaptation: 1892, 1930Google Scholar
  6. 2d.
    J.F. Cooper, The Prairie. Translation: 1908, 1926 (2 edn 1935), 1930, 1967; Adaptation: 1881, 1893, 1930. Other Cooper novels began to appear in the 1920s and 1930s.Google Scholar
  7. 3.
    Marcel Arbeit, ‘Neznámí nejznámější američtí autoři’, Host 10 (2004): 64.Google Scholar
  8. 4.
    Arbeit, Bibliography of American Literature in Czech Translations, 31.Google Scholar
  9. 5.
    ‘Stručná historie trampingu’ [Brief History of Tramping], https://doi.org/jackal003.sblog.cz.
  10. 6.
    See Tomáš Pospíšil and Don Sparling, ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at America’, Brno Studies in English 27 (2001), 73–84. The authors of this paper identify the tramps’ source of inspiration in ‘the mythic America of individual freedom amidst untouched Nature, in the world of the Wild West, among the Noble Savages’ (p. 77).Google Scholar
  11. 7.
    Bob Hurikán, Dějiny trampingu [History of Tramping] (Praha: Novinář, 1990), 10. The most popular Czech illustrator of adventure stories and prehistoric life, Zdeněk Burian, an active tramp and one of the founding members of the movement, also found the Indian to be the most powerful symbol of romanticism in the popular sense of the word (‘romantika’).Google Scholar
  12. 7a.
    See Vladimír Hulpach, Století Zděnka Buriana [The Century of Zděnek Burian] (Praha: Knizní klub, 2004), 107. The centrality of the Indian in Burian’s imagination is acknowledged by the editors of the two monographs of Burian: indeed, one book has his picture of the Sitting Bull on the cover, the other at least includes this picture among three smaller ones.Google Scholar
  13. 8.
    See more about tramp songs in Pospíšil and Sparling, 78–80.Google Scholar
  14. 9.
    Pavel Janáček and Michal Jareš, Svět rodokapsu [The World of Pulp] (Praha: Univerzita Karlova v Praze–Nakladatelství Karolinum, 2003), 73.Google Scholar
  15. 10.
    Michal Jareš, Svět rodokapsu [The World of Pulp] (Praha: Univerzita Karlova v Praze–Nakladatelství Karolinum, 2003) Ibid., 30.Google Scholar
  16. 11.
    Michal Jareš, Svět rodokapsu [The World of Pulp] (Praha: Univerzita Karlova v Praze–Nakladatelství Karolinum, 2003) Ibid, 30.Google Scholar
  17. 12.
    Michal Jareš, Svět rodokapsu [The World of Pulp] (Praha: Univerzita Karlova v Praze–Nakladatelství Karolinum, 2003) Ibid, 15–16.Google Scholar
  18. 13.
    Many now-forgotten writers–such as Joseph Altsheller and Thomas Mayne Reid–contributed to this phenomenon; they are too numerous to be listed here.Google Scholar
  19. 14.
    Pospíšil and Sparling explain the popularity of May as the ability to construct ‘other’ worlds–alternative realities, ‘the exotic “other”’ which offers freedom from a modern urban society, bound by conventions, regulations, rules and high cultural traditions, and confined to a narrow space’ (p. 74).Google Scholar
  20. 15.
    J.V. Sládek was a nineteenth-century poet laureate, valued by the communists also for his lower-class, country origin.Google Scholar
  21. 16.
    These films were directed by Harald Reinl, with Pierre Brice as Winnetou, and Leo Barker as Old Shatterhand.Google Scholar
  22. 17.
    Nejvetší německý indián’ [The Greatest German Indian], Interview with Gojko Mitic, Pátek Lidových novin (22 September 2006), 32–38.Google Scholar
  23. 18.
    The Dog Soldiers were the most famous military society among the Cheyenne. They were also used to keep order, as a kind of police. See Carl Waldman, Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes (New York: Checkmark Books, 1999), 52.Google Scholar
  24. 19.
    Jiří Veselý and Ondřej Hejma, ‘Indiánská dýmka míru’ [Indian pipe of peace], Psí kusy: ty nejlepší kousky [Dog pranks: the best bits], perf. Žlutý pes: Bonton Music, 1996.Google Scholar
  25. 20.
    Pospíšil and Sparling, 81.Google Scholar
  26. 21.
    See Jiřina Šiklová, ‘The “Gray Zone” and the Future of Dissent in Czechoslovakia’, in East Europe: Where from, Where to? ed. Arien Mack, spec. Issue of Social Research, 57 (2) (Summer, 1990): 347–364.Google Scholar
  27. 22.
    Co dĕlá indián [What does the Indian do]. Jiří Schelinger /František Ringo Čech. Unpublished lyrics available from: https://doi.org/www.akordytexty.cz (accessed 1 July 2008).
  28. 23.
    Young people, who spent their weekend and their holidays living like the Indians.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Taylor & Francis 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michal Peprník
    • 1
  1. 1.Katedra anglistiky a amerikanistikyUniverzita PalackéOlomouciCzech Republic

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