The Sociological Truth of Fiction

the Post-Communist Novel as Social Theory of Normalization in Czechoslovakia
Seminars and Colloquia

Social scientists often refer to literary fiction as a source of inspiration, social understanding, and deep insights into the “Zeitgeist” or “episteme”. In passing, they often subsume literature into conceptual frameworks, approaching it as “fictional” data to be translated or converted into “factual” scholarly discourse. This presentation tried to develop an epistemological-theoretical model which treats novels as allies endowed with their own agency – not passive objects to be gutted by sociological theory. In the empirical part, Jan Vana demonstrates his model by analysing the Czech novel Bliss Was It in Bohemia by Michal Viewegh (1992). The aesthetic dimensions of the text (e.g., metaphors, genre, sound, and rhythm) allow for capturing and channeling the uncertainty, indeterminacy, and ambiguity of social experience as something essential for communism in 1970s and 1980s Czechoslovakia.

Jan Váňa is a PhD canditate, Faculty of Social Studies, Masaryk University, Brno. Currently he is a Junior Visiting Fellow at the IWM.

Comment by
Kapka Kassabova, writer of narrative non-fiction, fiction and poetry, Scotland, currently a non-resident Visiting Fellow at the IWM.

Moderation by
Ludger Hagedorn, IWM Permanent Fellow.