6.0564 A Gaggle of Queries -- From Fiction to Hus (1/42)

Tue, 2 Mar 1993 17:08:14 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 6, No. 0564. Tuesday, 2 Mar 1993.

Date: Tue, 02 Mar 93 12:04:42 -0500
From: BLOCH al <albloch@cs.concordia.ca>

Having enjoyed many of the goodies on HUMANIST as a spectator for many moons,
I'll jump in with several feet and ask a few myself; who knows, I might even
start a row! (I'll never forget the Pakistani professor houseguest whose way
to enjoy my parents' dinner parties was to drop some outrageous assertion,
then sit back and watch how the fur flew.)
1.) I'm trying to get a feel for life in rural Bohemia in the 16th - 19th
Centuries; it occurred to me that the research of others might appear
in relatively palatable form as historical novels. I lucked out and
found Diane Pearson's 1975 _Csardas_, which gives quite a picture of
Hungary (and environs) during and after the First War; close, but no
cigar. Any more pertinent suggestions (fiction or otherwise)?
2.) My expert reference librarians are not aware of the existence of any
index of fiction by historical era or region; would this make a good
thesis project for some frustrated library scientist, or what?
3.) My Trekkie son has begun to infect me with Roddenburriasis; one aspect
of the Star Trek subculture which impresses me is the facility with
which any number of seemingly unrelated authors manage to ring the
changes on standardized sets of characters and relationships, much
like so many chess players creating uncountable games using the same
pieces. My query, for those who studied literature while I read it:
is there a jargon term for this phenomenon? If so, what are its
concomitants or implications? How prevalent is the phenomenon of
multiple authors contributing to a corpus of disparate stories based
on a common list of Dramatis Personae? (I guess the Bible might
offer a jumping-off point, being composed by some two-score
individuals at least, over a period of some 16 centuries, all dealing
with God and man; the 4 Gospels even share the same characters in
detail, from different angles.)
4.) I read (in Joseph Wechsberg's 1971 _Prague,_the_Mystical_City_, pg. 161)
of a collection of 15th Century Hussite `fighting and mocking songs'
under the title of _Jistebnice_Cantional_, some of which were written
and/or composed by Jan Hus himself, a precursor of Luther in hymnody
as well as in general effect on society. I might happen upon a copy
in a second-hand store in Prague this summer; but I don't read Czech.
Anybody know how many of Hus' hymn tunes are presently available, or
which of his hymns exist in English translation? It would also be of
value to see what folk were singing then, even if Hus didn't write it.
(Jistebnice is a tiny burg half-way between Prague and Czeske Budejo-
vice, east of the Vltava; must have figured in Hussite history?)
This should be enough to keep the juices flowing for a while.
Alan N. Bloch, MPH, MS; Centre for Pattern Recognition and Machine Intelligence
Department of Computer Science, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada