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Sorceress of the Folk Spirits: Božena Němcová

Božena Němcová was a feminist, revolutionary and writer who collected fairy tales and folklore from the Bohemian countryside.

If you think of the tales of mysterious forests, wicked witches and virtuous peasants, you probably think of the Brothers Grimm. But there is another reviver of fairytales, little known in the West, who is deeply intriguing. Božena Němcová (c.1820–1862) was a feminist, revolutionary and writer who collected fairy tales and folklore from the Bohemian countryside. Now a Czech national heroine, her work is a celebration of folk culture and fantasy, and was deeply influential for the Czechs, giving them a durable form of self-expression. Her writings fortified the sense of Czech cultural identity, and thus fed into the resistance during the 19th and 20th century periods of political oppression. But for all she is a heroine nowadays, in her own lifetime she was much reviled, since she flouted both literary and social conventions – she was too much of a tearaway and a rebel, so was sidelined out of public life.

Tonight, Dr. John Callow looks at some themes from Němcová’s work and life: invention and uses of folkloric tradition; the vision of the countrywoman and the witch; Němcová as feminist and political writer. Němcová’s best-known novel is The Grandmother, which weaves together stories of her own youth, with fables and stories first heard at the fireside. For a little basic background on her, see http://archiv.radio.cz/hrbitov/bozeng.html. The website of the museum devoted to her: http://english.muzeumbn.cz/

Dr. John Callow is Director of the Marx Memorial Library. His doctorate (Lancaster 1997) is in History. He is author of several scholarly and popular books concerning political, religious and cultural historical subjects.


Professor John Callow | talks | www


Date and Time:

25 February 2008 at 7:15 pm


1 hour 30 minutes



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