The Prague Linguistic Circle came into being on the afternoon of October 6, 1926, when five Czech and Russian linguists gathered to hear a lecture by a German colleague. From this international beginning, the interests of the group grew to first encompass language in all its functional heterogeneity and then finally all of culture, which the Circle conceived of as a structure of sign systems. Semiotics was thus the overarching discipline for the Prague School, serving to organize all phenomena shared and exchanged by a cultural community.
In recent years increasing attention has been paid to the importance of the Prague School, but writing about it has frequently been marred by misconceptions. The central aim of this volume is to correct those misconceptions and to present the diversity of interests within the Prague School—literary criticism, linguistics, theory of theater, folklore, and philosophy. These essays by Bogatyrëv, Jakobson, Karcevskij, Mukařovský, Rieger, Vodička, and Honzl are here translated into English for the first time. Some have a special historical value in illuminating critical stages of structuralist thinking; others reveal the timeliness of the School's contributions for the theoretical conflicts of our day. Each essay is accompanied by an informative introductory note, and the whole is followed by the editor's "Postscript," tracing the roots of structuralist aesthetics.