Plzeňské sympozia

Kateřina Piorecká

"How Nice It Was in the Sitting Room When It had Grown Dark!" The Black Hour and Refleciton on it in 19th-Century Czech Literature

pp. 139–149 (Czech), Summary pp. 150–151 (English)

In the 19th century the term "the black hour" meant the break in work at sunset, before it was worth lighting the lamps. Figuratively it became the general term for the period of dusk and after nightfall, when people used to sit together and talk. This phenomenon was originally connected with winter seasonal work, in particular flax-spinning sessions. The lighting conditions allowed oral traditions to survive, which in the course of the 19th century came to interest students of folklore and ethnographers. However, the process of industrialisation not only put an end to the tradition of people sitting together and talking while spinning or plucking feathers, but also severed cyclical time and placed the emphasis on the linearity of everything that happened. As part of the progressive transformation of traditional structures in civil society the process of literalisation needs to be observed as well. Czech writers imprinted oral forms such as legends, fairy-tales, or humorous stories into prestigious literary genres such as ballads, idylls, or short stories with a moral. Taking the example of Božena Němcová's short proses and her novel Babička (Grandmother), the article shows that as a writer she tried to raise texts that had been passed down orally into the literary canon by the use of prestigious genres.

Key words: black hour - oral tradition - literalisation - Božena Němcová


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