Acta Structuralica

international journal for structuralist research

Journal | Volume | Article

Comparative slavic metrics, 1967-2011

"Theory of verse" as pursued by Polish and Czech structuralists of the third wave

Klára Čermochová

pp. 85-126


11 Before delving decades into history, I wish to express my deep appreciation to two women who were instrumental in the writing of this article: Květa Sgallová (*1929) and Teresa Dobrzyńska (*1943), who both participated in the project personally and helped me by patiently answering my many questions and sharing with me their experience and memories. I will often refer to their words in the text below.

2This article is a commemoration of Słowiańska metryka porówna|wcza [Comparative Slavic Metrics], a unique international versification project. It was based in Warsaw and included leading scholars from nine Slavic countries.2 The project was carried out over a span of 40 years and has significantly contributed to verse research both in terms of inter-Slavic comparison and within the individual par|ticipating countries. The main idea behind the project was inspired by the structuralist approach to verse and consisted in studying the relationship between basic rhytmic structure (metre) and the language system in multiple Slavic languages (Sgallová 2016, 189). The research was accompanied by regular, nearly annual conferences held in Warsaw and its collected results were published in nine volumes between 1978 and 2011.

3Each of the volumes covered a stage of the research project that preceded the volume’s publication and was focused on a single topic (for instance the semantics of verse forms, verse of translation and sonnet in Slavic literature), which the individual national groups researched (using unified methodology) based on source materials consisting in works of national literature from the relevant period. The final chapter in the volume summarised the situation in the individual literatures and compared them in order to try and formulate generalised conclusions.

4The course and results of the project were summarised by one of its main organisers, Lucylla Pszczołowska, shortly before her death (Pszczołowska 2012).3 Her article contains a more detailed overview of the individual volumes and a summary of the results achieved in the individual research stages. This text is partially based on this article; however, it aims to offer a different perspective and recollections from the Czech participants as well as the historical and personal context of the entire endeavour. The text will also include some interesting technicalities of the research, while the final three sections of the article provide a detailed evaluation of the project and its contributions in various fields.

1 | Beginnings

5A strong impulse preceding the project came from the discussions at the Fifth International Congress of Slavists in Sophia, Bulgaria, in 1963, where Květa Sgallová and Miroslav Červenka, young scholars from Prague, met with versologists from Poland with whom they eventually began close collaboration (Sgallová 2016, 189).4 At that time, Sgallová worked at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University while Červenka worked with the Academy of Sciences. The meeting was also attended by older researchers, and there were no unknown names—such as Taranovski, Mayenowa and Jakobson (Sgallová 2016, 189). The latter was perhaps even initiated this meeting. In Sophia, they preliminarily agreed to start comparing Slavic verse—or, more precisely, that a systematic research of the poetic rhythm and the rhythm of specific Slavic languages would begin—with Warsaw taking over organisational responsibility. In the following years, specific steps, definitions and the method for studying source materials were considered and collaborators from other Slavic countries were sought out.

6Three years later, Czechoslovakia hosted the milestone and still well-remembered Second Brno Conference on the Theory of Verse with significant participation of international scholars. As summarised in the introduction to the conference proceedings by Josef Hrabák,5 the conference dealt with two central questions in the theory of verse that attracted significant attention by scholars and whose “solution required the broadest possible exchange of opinions”—the semantics of verse and the mathematical analysis of verse. In the final part of the foreword, Hrabák noted that a “need for intensive comparative study of Slavic verse” had become apparent (Levý & Palas 1968, 7).

7The conference in Brno was not directly linked to the initiative described in the preceding paragraphs, but a number of participants (Maria Dłuska, Maria Renata Mayenowa, Zdzisława Kopczyńska, Lucylla Pszczołowska, Květa Sgallová, Miroslav Červenka and Svetozar Petrović) later helped establish the Warsaw research group.6 Similarly, the central topics of the Brno conference—the semantics of verse, mathematical methods and comparative Slavic versology—were relevant for the project. Therefore, the idea and mission of the long-term Warsaw-based project did not arise ad hoc on account of common interests shared among a group of scholars, but rather in response to current problems and topics discussed in the verse theory community.

8Warsaw became the centre of the project for several reasons; chief among them was the fact that theory of verse had already been strongly established there (cf. Sgallová 201, 392). There was also the possibility of obtaining institutional support from IBL PAN7 (especially thanks to Renata Mayenowa, then deputy director of the Institute (IBL) and head of the Department of Theoretical Poetics [Pracowna Poetyki Teoretycznej]).8 Addition|ally, there was an effective team of young scholars (Kopczyńska and Pszczołowska) which was to become the core of the research group (Dobrzyńska 2019, 176). Finally, there was the fact than in the 1960s, Poland was one of the few countries where scholars from not only the Communist Bloc could travel relatively easily. Therefore, Poland could host key debates on international scholarly cooperation—for instance, Czech scholars were able to meet Kiril Taranovsky and Roman Jakobson, who lived in the United States.9

9The official beginnings of the Comparative Slavic Metrics (CSM) project can be dated to 1967 where the kernel of the later international group of Slavic metrics scholars was formed and started pursuing its objectives. For the time being, it consisted only of Polish and Czech scholars (most of whom were women) (Pszczołowska 2007, 186). The team comprised Zdzisława Kopczyńska, Lucylla Pszczołowska, Miroslav Červenka and Květa Sgallová, who were “students of Maria Dłuska and Jan Mukařovský, the founders of the modern conception of the science of verse” (Pszczołowska 2007, 186).10

10Červenka actively shaped the project’s course from its inception (Sgallová 2012, 189). A year after the meeting in Sophia, he was invited to Warsaw to take part in an international conference on Slavic and general metrics, and “from there on, he was a frequent guest at Instytut Badań Literackich” (hereinafter also referred to as “the Insti|tute”; Pszczołowska 2007, 185). Květa Sgallová, the second Czech team member, became involved thanks to her experience with processing of textual materials using punched cards. This method had been used by Sgallová (for the first time in Czechoslovakia) earlier to study verse for her dissertation (Sgallová 1967) and allowed to pro|cess and sort a large number of materials in an era before widespread availability of computers. This was essential for the statistical evaluation and subsequent comparison of large volumes of text that were being prepared for the project (cf. Sgallová 1964; 2012, 388nn).

11Květa Sgallová remembered the preparatory stage of the project as follows: “Miroslav [Červenka] was well-prepared for this kind of work. Since 1965, he had assembled a team at the Institute of Czech Literature of the Academy of Sciences, which had started preparing extensive source materials for studying and explaining problems concerning the relationship between verse and language. He even managed to secure approval of and funding for the entire project from the institutional management, which was quite anti-structuralist at the time” (Sgallová 2016, 189–190).11

2 | Political interference

12Shortly after its launch, the project faced difficulties associated with political developments. In August 1968, the reform movement in Czechoslovakia later known as “Prague Spring” was violently suppressed and replaced by a creeping, systematic “normalisation”—a term denoting the reassertion of the communist party’s totalitarian rule associated with renewed censorship, purges, driving dissidents out of certain professions, dissolution of many “troublesome” associations and organisations and many other forms of political repression. Within a few years, the emerging era of normalisation brought about new significant restrictions to scholarship that would last for a long time. Miroslav Červenka “was removed from public life: no one was allowed to employ him in any scholarly capacity and his books and poetry collections were purged from libraries. Naturally, publishing anything in Czechoslovakia itself was out of the question for him” (Pszczołowska 2007, 186–187). Květa Sgallová described the atmosphere at the time as follows:

Quite soon—when this hopeful decade [of the 1960s] was brought to an end—it turned out that versology without an ideological basis was as undesirable as the scholars who had refused to give it up. Since then, up until the 1990s, the study of verse could be pursued only as a hobby of sorts. (Sgallová 2015, 7)
Miroslav [Červenka] was driven out from scholarly professions, but he continued to pursue work on comparative Slavic metrics with a great deal of devotion. He worked during the evenings, on weekends and thanks to a rather decent people in Pragoprojekt’s management, he had no issues with participating in small, nearly annual conferences held in Warsaw. (I was in a similar situation, being employed in library at the University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague.)12 These days, few can imagine what it was like for people who had been denied access to the scholarly work they loved to be able—at least for a couple of days—to become scholars again at these conferences and talk with colleagues about the problems we were trying to solve together, to read many books and magazines that were available in Warsaw, but not in Prague, and even buy some and take them home. But that was not all there was to it. There was always some interesting theatrical play, an exhibition or a film to see. And our colleagues then became our dear friends with whom we could discuss not only scholarly matters, but also things related to culture and politics. We were experiencing both difficult and good times together. (Sgallová 2016, 190)

13The Polish team also did not escape problems. Mayenowa, who was responsible for the organisation of the project, was rather bluntly dismissed from her position at the University of Warsaw and the office of deputy director of the Institute during a wave of what is called “post-March repressions” in 1968. Fortunately, she was not forced to leave the Institute entirely, but was left with only a handful of the most loyal colleagues in the Department of Theoretical Poetics [Pracowna Poetyki Teoretycznej], which she had founded during the 1950s (Dobrzyńska 2016, 222).13 She continued attending the project’s conferences, but her activities were mostly limited to organisational matters and she did not deliver her own presentations.14

14Despite these difficulties, a “pilot” collection was published in 1971 under the title Metryka Słowiańska,15 a prelude to the first actual volume in the Comparative Slavic Metrics project. The studies included therein mostly comprised contributions presented at the comparative Slavic metrics conference organised by the Institute two years earlier. The collection was edited by Kopczyńska and Pszczołowska, core members of the emerging CSM project. The preliminary collection was dedicated to Prof. Maria Dłuska who at that time celebrated her 70th birthday. The dedication expressed espousal of the scholarly tradition she helped to establish and the topic which she pioneered in Poland. It was also an expression of gratitude and respect for her as an authoritative figure and educator with whom most of the contributors had a personal as well as professional relationship.

15This “Volume Zero” contained articles from some of the scholars who would later become long-time collaborators of the CSM research team;16 however, most authors (especially from Poland) did not contribute to the official CSM collection volumes. They included some well-known names such as Adam Kulawik and Jacek Baluch, who would later become important figures in Polish theory of verse, and Jerzy Bartmiński, a prominent Slavic studies scholar. Other names included the well-known Russian-American scholar M. G. Tarlinskaja.

16The conference and the collection drew attention to Slavic metrics. At that time, however, the individual versological contributions by various scholars were rather disparate and did not represent the kind of coherent, well-organised research anticipated by the CSM project. The project was supposed to be based on a long-term research of the selected topics conducted by national teams according to a unified methodology to allow a thorough comparison of various Slavic verses in their individual aspects.

17In the meantime, the search for permanent collaborators from other Slavic countries started in earnest alongside organisational and methodological preparations of the project’s first research stage. The first stage was to research the rhythmic vocabulary of versed text and its use in various types of verse (mainly iambs and trochees of various lengths). The resulting data were than compared with the functioning of the rhythmic vocabulary in prose. This stage of the research project essentially involved an extended, broadened and systematised application of Roman Jakobson’s pre-war concepts regarding the comparison of the rhythmic vocabulary of Russian verse to its Czech and Bulgarian counterparts (Pszczołowska 2012, 161–162). Jakobson himself, however, did not take part in the research. Instead, the researchers managed to secure the collaboration in the analysis of the Russian verse of arguably the best Soviet versologist of that time, Michail Gasparov, who joined the project with his student Dina I. Geliukh. Tone Pretnar from Slovenia and Atanas Slavov from Bulgaria also joined the research (Pszczołowska 2012, 162–163).

18Nearly every year in spring during the 1970s (and almost every autumn since the 1980s), the project participants would meet for a three-day conference in Warsaw, where they discussed and clarified research methods and specified the historical period from which source materials were to be sampled. Partial results obtained by the national research teams were then presented at other meetings and the data were compared and generalised. As the next step, a deadline for submitting final papers was set and the compiling of the collection began.17

19Other project participants considered Miroslav Červenka and Lucylla Pszczołowska to be the leading figures of the entire endeavour (Sgallová 2016, 189). Červenka and Pszczołowska also usually wrote the final chapter in each anthology, containing the “comparison of the results obtained within the national versifications and conclusions following from these comparisons that are essential to characterise Slavic verse” (Pszczołowska 2007, 188). In some volumes, they also jointly wrote the introductory part, where they outlined the research problems and methods (Pszczołowska 2007, 188). This took place while Červenka was officially employed at the Pragoprojekt state company and was not allowed to publish in his home country. He could only pursue versology in his spare time in the evenings, at the weekends and on holidays18 (Sgallová 2016, 190).19

20Pszczołowska remembered his colleague as follows: “Stunningly hardworking and diligent, yet able to explain even complicated matters in a clear and lucid fashion. Thanks to him, the chapters written by the Czechs served as a sort of an example to the other members of the group. Miroslav’s responsible approach to his work and punctuality in meeting deadlines were also exemplary—and very valuable in a group research” (Pszczołowska 2007, 188).

21The initial stage of research was completed after 11 (!) years in 1978 with the publication of the first collection titled Comparative Slavic Metrics. Volume I—Rhythmical Vocabulary and the Ways of Using it [Słowiańska metryka porównawcza. Tom 1 — Słownik rytmiczny i sposoby jego wykorzystania]. The publication was preceded by a long preparatory stage where rhythmic vocabularies were being compiled for the agreed literary period (the latter half of the 19th century)20—a vocabulary of words and a vocabulary of stress groups. The data were subsequently compared with a “neutral” distribution in non-versed texts, in this case literary prose of the given language written within the same time period (Pszczołowska 2012, 162). The results were presented to the other members of the research group at a conference held in 1976. The subsequent inter-language comparison was followed by a formulation of general tendencies and work on the collection volume itself.

3 | Innovative research methods

22Particularly deserving of attention was the use of a method relying on punched cards introduced by the Czech team. This method was used to process research materials in an era before the massive expansion of electronic computers. For the chapter of the first volume written by the Czech authors, materials were processed exclusively using this method. At the time, employing punched cards in this fashion was a pioneering approach.

23The credit for using punched cards to process (mostly) materials on Czech verse goes chiefly to Květa Sgallová who had previously experimented with it as part of her dissertation (Sgallová 1967). She summarised her experience in an article titled “Using modern technology to analyse verse” published in 1964 (Sgallová 2015 [1964]); I will quote several parts including the first sentence of the article:

It is without doubt that a scientific study of verse cannot be accomplished without the use of statistical methods. [...] The first step in modernising the study of verse consists in employing punched card machines. While it still necessarily involves quite a lot of human labour (in preparation and sorting of punched cards), the advantages are clear; additionally, the kind of experience obtained in this work is a prerequisite for the second phase where the description and analysis of verse will be conducted using automatic computers. This article aims to report on the first attempt to study verse using punched card machines […].
In preparing the punched cards, I aimed to include as much information in each punched card as possible and to sufficiently differentiate the information. The purpose was to obtain a very detailed material on the character of verse both in terms of rhythm and rhyme, the frequency of words of certain lengths, long and short vowels, the relationship between verse and sentence, etc. (p. 11).

24Each punched card in this method corresponded to a single line of verse and contained information for each syllable separately. The data could thus show whether a syllable was stressed or unstressed, short or long, or whether this syllable was placed at the end of a word or sentence, or whether it functioned as a proclitic.21 These punched cards (in the form of quite sizeable paper sheets) were then transported to an institution where they were automatically sorted using specialised machines according to set instructions and the results were recorded in prepared tables. The tabled information then showed for instance the frequency of certain phenomena and their interdependence. The result tables were quite numerous and they had to be manually checked and corrected where necessary; in extreme cases the sorting had to be repeated.22

25The source materials have since been lost, except for some token sets included in Sgallová’s personal archive; it is likely that except for the author herself, no one today would even be able to decipher them. Nevertheless, the research based on these materials is included, in a more comprehensible form, in the CSM project’s volumes and other texts written by the individual authors.

26The punched card method was also used in the next stage of the research. During preparation of source materials for the second volume, however, the members of the group (again especially Červenka and Sgallová) started trying to analyse the complex relationship between verse and syntactic organisation using a computer.23

Picture 2—Punched card. Photo source: Archive of Česká literaturaEvery punched card had 90 columns (45 at the top, 45 at the bottom below the dark stripe). Each of the columns can distinguish 10 values (0–9, odd numbers are pre-printed). One such card carried thoughtfully and purposefully arranged information about one verse line. Data were entered by perforation performed on the appropriate number.
Columns 1–7 are used to uniquely identify the verse line (poem, stanza and verse, etc.). Information about each individual syllable of the verse line is entered on the rest of the upper part of the card (columns 8–x), two columns are reserved for each syllable. While in the first of a pair of columns we find information on whether the syllable is stressed or not, whether it is short or long, etc., the second column shows the relationship of the syllable to the stress group or the higher language units—it shows, for example, if the word or sentence ends here.
The punched card in the picture ends with a perforation at column 23, thus showing an eight-syllable verse. If we want to know something about his first syllable, let's focus on columns 8 and 9. Column 8 is perforated at the number 0 (we see a black dot above the table), which can be interpreted according to the agreed rules as a “short, stressed syllable” (number 1 would indicate a “long, stressed syllable”, etc.). It can be deduced from column 9 that the word does not end with this syllable—the first word of the verse line, therefore, has at least two syllables.
Given that the upper half contained information about a verse up to 19 syllables long, the lower half, ie columns 46–90, could be used to describe the rhyme—we see, after all, that the lower half of the label is perforated only where the verse ends. From the data on the rhyme, its classification in terms of range, quality, or rhyme types can be read.
The main importance of working with punched cards was the possibility to sort a large number of verses (from one author or poetry collection, written in a certain meter, etc.) according to various criteria. They could be sorted, for example, in terms of the strictness of compliance with the metric rules, in terms of the type of rhymes, the distribution of words of a certain length in the verse, in terms of the relationship between the verse and syntax structure, etc. It was also possible to investigate the captured values in mutual relations, e.g.—how many syllables is the typical length for a verse line with a grammatical type of rhyme? How did the length of the verses change during the work of the poet XY?
The criteria had to be invented and entered by the researcher, but the sorting itself was made by the electric machines, which made it possible to examine an unusually large material.
(Additional note: The punched card we see in the illustration belongs to the oldest phase of research, described by Sgallová 1964. The rules for CSM research have already been somewhat changed (see Červenka 1965), but the principle remains the same.)

4 | Continuation of the project

27The second CSM volume was published in 1984. Sadly, the research group lost its key member, Zdzisława Kopczyńska,24 who died in 1982 aged 63 after succumbing to a terminal illness. Two years earlier, however, she actively participated in the preparatory conference and managed, together with Pszczołowska, to partially prepare the second volume in the project: Volume II—Syntactic Organization [Tom 2—Organizacja składniowa] (Mayenowa & Pszczołowska 1983, 409). Although she did not live to see even the second volume of the total of nine, she had spent approximately 17 years of her life working on the project as one of its core members.

28The second collection, too, dealt with the relationship between verse and the language system, specifically between the structure of verse and the syntactic structure. Pszczołowska wrote that it was easier to agree on the research task since all members of the research group had had some experience with the topic while analysing specific texts (Pszczołowska 2012, 164). Even then, the first two research stages took over 20 years to complete and were the most labour and time intensive of all. “We had to process an enormous volume of material, that is texts in verse as well as in prose. But this was the fundamental, basic work we had to complete. […] In our later collaborative work, but also in our own independent research projects, we would often refer back to our results presented in the first two volumes”, commented Pszczołowska (2012, 165–166).

29Conferences were held nearly annually in the 1970s and 1980s. “Interestingly, we were able to meet even during the martial law [N.B.: martial law was declared in Poland by the government of general Wojciech Jaruzelski in the period from 1981 to 1983]; we were told that the State had an interest in the continuation of these conferences as this helped create the impression of normality”, recalled Květa Sgallová.25 The conferences usually had about ten participants and typically took place over three days. From today’s perspective, they were notable for the lack of a single conference language. “We were all Slavic speakers so the participants usually spoke in their own language, with terminological explanatory notes being in Polish or Russian where necessary. It never posed a problem”, said Sgallová (Sgallová 2020, 228).

30The third volume on the semantics of verse forms [Tom 3 — Semantyka form wierszowych] was published in 1988; the late Kopczyńska was replaced as the author of the Polish chapter by Dorota Urbańska, who stayed with the project until the end and also co-edited the next four volumes (with Pszczołowska). Another researcher from the Institute who participated in the project during its entire course was Teresa Dobrzyńska. She was not part of the working group directly (which is why her name does not appear in the collection volumes), but she participated in discussions and the topic of the first volume published after the collapse of communist regimes in central and eastern Europe—the translation of Mickiewicz and Pushkin—was chosen on her initiative.26 She described the course and circumstances of the entire project on several occasions (see especially Dobrzyńska 2019).27 Two new names appear in this volume: Michail Gasparov was replaced by Mihhail Lotman in the research of Russian verse and Raia Kuncheva took over from Slavov in the study of Bulgarian verse. Both these scholars stayed with the project until its conclusion.

31The research group continued their work when their countries became democratic again. After 1989, long-persecuted scholars such as Červenka and Sgallová could hold official positions in research and education again and were able to publish their works in their own country. In her recollections regarding Miroslav Červenka, Pszczołowska pointed out that Červenka did not neglect his work with the “Slavic metrics group” even though he returned to the Department of Czech Literature at the Faculty of Arts (where he would serve as department head for several years) a year after the Velvet Revolution and he (again) become the editor-in-chief of the influential Česká literatura magazine. He also participated in the re|newal of the Prague Linguistic Circle in 1990.28 “For the planned sixth volume, he even secured the one and only grant, from the European University, received at the time of the research” (Pszczołowska 2007, 189).

32In the first half of the 1990s, two conferences took place in Prague; the subsequent meetings in 1998 and 1999 were again held in Warsaw. In the 1990s, four new collection volumes were published on the topics of verse in translation between Slavic languages, the sonnet (at that time, Ukraine joined the project with Ukrainian becoming one of the researched languages), European meters in Slavic literatures, and free verse.

33The first decade of the new millennium saw the final two conferences—one held in 2001 (resulting in the corresponding volume on short native meters published three years later) and the other in 2005. This year also marked a sad milestone for the Comparative Slavic Metrics projects as the team lost three important members of the research group: Miroslav Červenka, Mikhail Gasparov and Svetozar Petrović passed away. The ninth and final volume on hexameter in Slavic literatures published in 2011 was dedicated to these three scholars of considerable international renown.29

34The final volume was also edited, this time with Mihhail Lotman, by Lucylla Pszczołowska, who did not live to see it published (she died in 2010). Together with Květa Sgallová, they were the only two scholars who stayed with the project from the beginning to the end, i.e. for over 40 years. It should be pointed out, however, that the CSM project was unique in particular due to the stability of the research team. The remaining two founders, Kopczyńska and Červenka, both participated in the project until their death, and representatives from other countries also usually stayed with the project for many years and decades. The stability of the rather small research group contributed to a friendly and warm atmosphere at the conferences and over time resulted in strong bonds of friendship among the scholars (Pszczołowska 2012, 161).

35The final volume was impacted by the losses in the authorial team and it did not reach the level of the previous volumes in terms of uniform methodology and thus comparability among the contributions. The individual authors chose different scopes of study and there was disparity as to the choice of historical and theoretical approaches; even the citing standards and other formal requirements were not uniform (as e.g. Ibrahim 2012 pointed out in detail). However, the team managed to publish the volume and this event formally concluded the ambitious CSM project.

5 | The project’s legacy

36The fact that the project is finished enables to evaluate it in its entirety. As Zbigniew Kloch wrote in Pszczołowska’s obituary: “It is said that life is a book which one starts reading from the end, when it is certain no new chapters will follow” (Kloch 2010, 247). Similarly, only when a large scholarly project concludes does it become possible to fully appreciate its scope, difficulty and purposefulness of the effort exerted by the individual authors and the entire scholarly team, and especially the fruits of their labour.

37The results of the Comparative Slavic Metrics project are quite diverse. The most visible outputs comprise the nine volumes available in university libraries across the participating countries. However, there does not seem to be much interest in them among would-be readers.30

38I suspect that this is caused by a fact which was, paradoxically, interesting and beneficial for the project as whole—the lack of a single conference language. Today, one can hardly even imagine holding conferences (and subsequently publishing collected works) using eight different, albeit related, languages at the same time. Nowadays, organisers would very likely choose English as the common language (or perhaps Polish or Russian, the two languages in which explanatory notes were written at the project’s conferences).

39This would certainly have benefited the project in terms of a broad usability of the collection volumes. On the other hand, a choice of an unrelated language from a different literary and scholarly tradition that uses different terminology and classification (due to the forms and development of its native verse) would necessarily have led to a distortion and simplification of a number of important terms and ideas. The quality of the individual contributions would also have depended heavily on the competence of national scholarly teams in the chosen project language and its terminology, as well as the very applicability of its concepts to the particular national versification.

40However, having followed the course of the entire project and the lives and careers of its main participants, I have come to the conclusion that the official outputs in the form of the collected volumes were essentially the least important of the benefits the project has brought. Its footprints are much deeper looking at the list of works published by the project’s long-time members and the personal notes included in the various foreword and afterword sections. This will be illustrated on the example of the leading figures of the projects, Pszczołowska and Červenka. Naturally, other direct results of the joint research work can be found in the publications of the other research group’s members.

41Lucylla Pszczołowska’s crowning achievement is probably Wiersz polski. Zarys historyczny (1997)—a work which, after nearly an 80-year hiatus in this area, attempted to provide a synthetic overview of the history of Polish verse in terms of the evolution of verse forms. The publication received the prestigious Aleksander Brückner prize awarded by the Polish Academy of Sciences and is considered one of the main pillars of modern versology in Poland. In the conclusion of the publication’s first text, there are acknowledgements where the author thanked Teresa Dobrzyńska and Dorota Urbańska, her colleagues within the Institute of Literary Research (IBL PAN) and the Comparative Slavic Metrics project, for their help in creating the text. While the author refers primarily to particular works by other authors (Siedlecki, Dłuska) which the book builds on, there is no doubt that her own research has, to a large degree, been shaped by her experience from the international project, whether in terms of a detailed survey and specification of suitable methodology for the research of Polish verse (the character and development of the individual verse forms was at the core of the CSM project) or the elaboration of the individual tasks that could have served as inspiration to think about the evolution of Polish verse as a whole.

42Similarly, the collection of (mostly journal-published) studies by Pszczołowska titled Wiersz - styl - poetyka (2002) reveals the ways in which, at various points, the topics of collaborative research of Slavic metrics overlapped with Pszczołowska’s own individual research interests (especially with regards to topics such as the translations of Mickiewicz and Pushkin and the semantics of verse forms).

43Another research completed with a publication titled Na styku kultur: wiersz polski i ukraiński (2007) could be considered a direct branch of the CSM project (cf. Dobrzyńska 2019, 178), since Pszczołowska’s collaborators included no other than Nina Chamata, a long-time member of the project. This new research did not aim at a theoretical comparison of verse in multiple Slavic literatures (even though it was based on meticulously prepared materials), but at a practical study of a specific area (both in terms of place and literature) where Polish and Ukrainian languages and their associated literary and cultural traditions have historically met, permeated each other and mixed.31

44As regards Miroslav Červenka, his professional career would probably have taken a very different turn in the absence of the Comparative Slavic Metrics project. As was already mentioned above, for him and his colleague Květa Sgallová, the participation in the project represented the only possibility to continue their academic careers. Forewords to his publications independent of the CSM project which were released after the collapse of the communist regime often point out his gratefulness for the environment which for many decades continuously challenged him and kept him busy with intensive research.

45For example, Miroslav Červenka gratefully mentions his participation in the CSM project in one of his key monographs titled Dějiny českého volného verše [History of Czech Free Verse, 2001):

In the period when I was driven out of scholarly institutions, I learnt to work in solitude. Still, I fondly recall three little scholarly communities to whom I owe the motivation behind the project that culminated in this book. The first is the international group of scholars participating in the Comparative Slavic Metrics, who have for over four decades congregated in Warsaw and published their collections: the seventh volume deals with free verse and my contribution on Czech poetry led me to pursue it further in more depth. Lucylla Pszczołowska, Teresa Dobrzyńska and Dorota Urbańska, herself the author of an inspired book on systemic analysis of free verse (Urbańska 1995), deserve credit for maintaining the continuity of this group, which deeply and positively influenced, among many other things, my own scholarly bibliography. (Červenka 2001, 10)

46To remind, Dorota Urbańska (whose book was praised by many besides Červenka, as it is one of the seminal works of modern Polish versology) was one of the long-time members of the research groups and co-edited the aforementioned seventh CSM volume (and a few others) with Pszczołowska.

47In the introduction to another publication, originally meant to be released in samizdat, Červenka described the motivations and opportunities which shaped the form and direction of his scholarly work. He wrote that even the first research of the semantics of metrics, the individual research tasks within the CSM project (alongside work on other topics), enabled him to try out several methodological approaches. He meant, for instance, the research of Vrchlický’s metrics, the results of which formed part of Červenka’s and Sgallová’s contribution to the third CSM volume, and the detailed analysis of the Czech translations of Mickiewicz and Pushkin for the fourth volume, where the Czech scholars dealt with the problem of semantic motivations influencing the choice of metric equivalents (cf. Červenka 1991, 2–3).

48I will include one more quotation, this time from the foreword to Červenka’s last book titled Kapitoly o českém verši [Chapters on Czech Verse, published posthumously in 2006), where he unambiguously mentioned the ways in which participation in the CSM project shaped his own work. The monograph begins as follows:

The following text comprises the first half of my book, for which — but not nearly for it alone—Květa Sgallová and I were preparing material and which I thought about and kept writing in my mind for several decades [...]. It was shaped in a large part by our participation in the international research group within the Comparative Slavic Metrics project based in Warsaw. Many of the scholarly tasks set out by this group corresponded to a stage in the preparation of this book. (Červenka 2006, 5)

49Červenka’s Kapitoly o českém verši and Pszczołowska’s Wiersz polski. Zarys historyczny represent the life’s work of each of the two authors which covered an important part of their research into verse of their national literature; in Červenka’s case from a theoretical standpoint, and in Pszczołowska’s case from a historical one. Both works share an effort to step away from an abundance of notes, tables, statistical evidence and complicated terminology and move towards reader friendliness, fluency and terseness of writing. Over their successful scholarly careers, both Červenka and Pszczołowska became internationally known for their diligent approach to the subject matter based on scientific methods and an extensive source material base for each individual topic combined with their extraordinary capacity to interpret data and produce a coherent analysis. Therefore, thanks to their unassailable professional position, both had the authority to take this step towards their readers without being accused of sloppy scholarship.

50Therefore, while the project’s collections with their wealth of statistical data lie unread in libraries, many of the “secondary outputs” of this ambitious research initiative in the form of articles and books published by the individual project members have since become indispensable parts of the versological canon in their countries. Even though they do not contain much in the way of comparison, the very fact that the long-term participation in an international project confronted the authors with the forms of verse in other languages undoubtedly benefited them by enabling them to perceive the development of their “national verse” from a broader perspective necessary to better capture its nature.

51It should be mentioned that some of the Czech contributions were later reprinted in the authors’ collected works, where readers can find them to this day. With respect to the Czech team, this is Červenka and Sgallová’s book titled Z večerní školy versologie III: Polymetrie, Metrika překladu [From the Evening School of Versology III: Polymetry and the Metrics of Translation, 1995), which contains the Czech contributions from the fourth CSM volume. The most comprehensive source in this regard are Květa Sgallová’s collected works titled O českém verši [On Czech Verse, 2015], a significant part of which comprises the Czech chapters originally published in the first five CSM volumes. Interestingly — and unfortunately—none of the Polish contributions included in the CSM collections have been reprinted. The results of the research were in some cases partially reused in the authors’ other works, but the contributions were never reprinted as such.32

52Nevertheless, I should mention two interrelated areas where the legacy of the many years of research into Slavic metrics is clear, albeit in a modified form. The first relates to the successors and students of the individual project members and people following on the project as a whole, and the second involves the relevance of the entire project for the development and improvement of research methods, tools and approaches to versological research in recent decades.

6 | Successors of the project

53At first glance, the situation regarding people willing to build on the project’s legacy seems equally dismal as the fate of the collections themselves. When I asked the project participants Květa Sgallová and Teresa Dobrzyńska, neither knew about anyone in Czechia or Poland who would directly continue in the CSM project’s mission or at least use its results and research materials. There are several reasons for this.

54By coincidence, K. Sgallová retired in 1989 at a time, when the regime change finally allowed her to teach and publish freely again. While she returned to the faculty for three more semesters, the previous period of separation from pedagogical work had been too long and the career outcomes of her colleagues under the communist regime so disparate that she no longer felt comfortable at her previous workplace. She soon left to work as an external collaborator with the versological team at the Institute of Czech Literature of the Czech Academy of Sciences, where Červenka was also a part-time employee.

55His life took a different course: he returned to the faculty and was made a full professor in 1994. For some time, he even served as the head of the Department of Czech Literature, where he stayed until his death. Over his career, he mentored a number of students, some of whom even pursued versology in their diploma theses and dissertations; nevertheless, hardly anyone had remained with the field. Červenka’s student Josef Štochl had pursued versology, but unfortunately passed away prematurely. The most promising student and collaborator of Červenka and Sgallová who could follow in their footsteps was Petr Kaiser, who despite his undeniable talents and interesting results, chose to leave the academia.

56Currently, the most hopeful project continuing the scholarly work of Miroslav Červenka and Květa Sgallová is the Versification Research Group (in Czech “Versologický tým”) established in 2012 at the Institute of Czech Literature of the Czech Academy of Sciences, whose name deliberately refers back to the original group of the same name. The team comprises Červenka’s student Robert Kolár [ Ibrahim) and his younger colleague Petr Plecháč, who has been responsible for most technical tools used in the automatic analysis of verse and its components. The fact that the scholars named the software tool for the automatic analysis of verse Květa in honour of Květa Sgallová, the pioneer of using computing tools in the theory of verse, speaks for itself. The group also includes Jakub Říha, who mostly focuses on strophics and the rhyme — the second area was also developed within the Czech language environment by Květa Sgallová. The final member of the team, albeit less active in recent years, is another student of Červenka’s, Dalibor Dobiáš.

57The Versification Research Group draws on the Czech structuralist tradition as well as the legacy of generative metrics that can be found in Červenka’s later texts. The team members’ research projects directly follow on the ideas and methodology developed by the pioneers of Czech versology, employing new possibilities for study to push them further.33 The author of this paper also considers herself a follower of this school of thought, but this is where the list ends. The heirs of the Czech structuralist tradition could thus be counted on the fingers of one hand. However, looking at the issue from another perspective, the major influence of Červenka and Sgallová is clear. As far as I am aware, there is no other active versologist in the Czech Republic who is not associated with these scholars’ legacy and would not explicitly endorse it. As Květa Sgallová herself noted, “there were never more than a handful of versologists here, as is the case of all smaller nations” (Sgallová 2020, 228).

58While the data and results from the CSM project essentially stopped being used when the project concluded, one of the related projects by Červenka and Sgallová was preserved, modernised and prepared for use today: the Thesaurus of Czech Meters, which Červenka and his colleagues started working on in the 1960s. After the collapse of the communist regime and his return to the faculty and the Czech Academy of Sciences, he tried to renew the project, but none of his co-workers (except for Květa Sgallová) stayed with it. In the 1990s, another attempt was made to transfer the project into a computerised form, but technical difficulties eventually led to the project’s termination. A breakthrough only occurred with the foundation of the new Versification Research Group and the arrival of Petr Plecháč who was able to adapt the Thesaurus into a form that is usable with today’s technology. While the versification group later developed a number of its own tools, the Thesaurus continues to be a useful instrument for the study of the beginnings of modern Bohemian poetry around the period known as the “National Revival” (starting in the late 18th/early 19th century and lasting until the first half of the 19th century) because it contains categorised versed texts with commentary from poetry collections, but also from magazines and drama.

59In Poland, versology and poetics in general has traditionally been a larger field of study, on account of Poland being a larger country with more universities and centres of research. During the communist era, local scholars were not prevented from pursuing their research, teaching and publishing their works to such an extent as their Czech colleagues. On the other hand, as explained by T. Dobrzyńska, the Instytut Badań Literackich PAN as the centre where the comparative Slavic metrics research took place, was not a part of any university and it thus lacked the natural contact between lecturers and their students, who could have been systematically drawn into research through work on their Bachelor’s, Master’s and other theses. Since the 1970s, it became progressively more difficult to recruit new collaborators. This was partly caused by the political situation in the country and partly by the unwillingness of young researchers to sacrifice promising and potentially fast academic careers and choose laborious, long-term collaborative research instead. While the Department of Theoretical Poetics headed successively by Mayenowa, Pszczołowska and Dobrzyńska continues to exist (as the Department of Poetics and Cultural Semiotics), it no longer conducts much research into verse.34

60Probably the most prominent figure of Polish versology today (at least in Warsaw) is Witold Sadowski; nevertheless, he is not connected to the structuralist tradition described above and does not follow up on statistical research. Prof. Jacek Baluch († 2019), who collaborated with the IBL (especially with the group around J. Sławiński) should also be mentioned. While his name appeared in the “preliminary” collection titled Słowiańská metryka (1971) in an article on translation in the context of comparative metrics, he did not participate in the research group as a member. However, his lifelong passions included both versology and structuralism, especially in the Czech context, and his research, translations (of primary sources as well as scholarly literature) and popularisation activities have significantly benefited Polish versology and poetics. His work also significantly promoted Czech structuralism in Poland, where it resulted in a native variant, including e.g. the terminology system.

61On the other hand, responses to the CSM project and the work of its founders sometime come from unexpected directions. For instance, Tallinn University in Estonia organised the “Frontiers in Comparative Metrics 2” conference in 2014, which was dedicated to the memory of Lucylla Pszczołowska.35 Papers presented at the conference also included an English reprint of her text summarising the Comparative Slavic Metrics project (Pszczołowska 2014).

7 | Development of research methods

62The final aspect I would like to mention in relation to the legacy of the versification project is the evolution of research tools and methods. The working methods of the CSM research team were predetermined by the research of Polish verse which had continued at the Institute since the 1950s. They were based on statistically processed research of materials relying on precisely formulated hypotheses and using linguistic categories (Dobrzyńska 2010, 258). Their tangible outputs included several versologically oriented volumes of the series of books titled Poetyka. Zarys encyklopedycznyWiersz (1963), Strofika (1964), Rym (1972), Instrumentacja dźwiękowa (1977) and Wiersz nieregularny (1987). This ambitious edition, as well as many articles published in parallel, have significantly contributed to progress in the research of verse forms and introduced new ways of studying verse into Polish literary scholarship.

63The expansion of the research to the international level, without interfering with the work on Polish materials for domestic consumptions, represented the next logical step. Therefore, it is not surprising that the impetus for a collaborative research of comparative Slavic metrics came from Warsaw, specifically from the scholars behind the ongoing research of Polish verse (female researchers such as Mayenowa, Dłuska, Pszczołowska and Kopczyńska) who were quite experienced with this kind of scholarly study at the national level.

64The second methodological pillar of the international research was built upon the experience of Czech scholars, who brought into the project the tradition of pre-war Czech structuralism, especially the ideas of Jan Mukařovský and Roman Jakobson. This tradition was experiencing a kind of a renaissance in the 1960s, certainly in no small part thanks to Červenka and Sgallová. Even though the Prague structuralist school remained an unwelcome field in Czechoslovakia at the time, the gradual loosening of the regime in the 1960s created conditions for its further development, albeit sadly only for several years36 (Sgallová 2015, 7). The more restrictions structuralism faced in Czechoslovakia, however, the more it expanded abroad. Poland was one of the countries which adopted the approach, developed it further and linked to its current and pre-war scholarly tradition (cf. Baluch 2016, 15; Gierowski 2016, 481). This methodological basis was then supplemented, in practical terms, by the aforementioned pioneering experience of Květa Sgallová with evaluating statistical data using punched cards (and later also the first computers), which was essential for processing and comparing extensive source materials.

65However, automation did not only bring streamlining and speeding up of work with large amounts of data. It also created new requirements for the scholars who were responsible for putting in the source information. Sgallová herself pointed out that the “need for an exact and unambiguous evaluation of the individual phenomena created by the use of punched cards forced us to narrow down and refine our terminology” (Sgallová 2015 [1964], 14). Working with automated instruments often revealed ambiguities, inaccuracies and vagueness of some terms and categories used by linguistics as well as the theory of verse and directly stimulated debate on how to revise them (cf. Sgallová 2015 [1964], 13).

66It must be noted, for the sake of completeness, that testing out new methods and theoretical approaches useful for a research of Czech and Slavic verse also revealed some dead ends.37 However, trial and error played a useful role in identifying the most suitable approach to the subject matter.

67Besides modern methods of processing the (unprecedentedly extensive) source materials and the admirably systematic organisation of collaborative work based on the same methodological approaches, the Warsaw project also brought about a change in the general approach to verse and study thereof. Members of the research group believed in the structuralist premise that “verse is not a mere ‘clothing’, an adornment of a poetic work, but an important component of its structure which, together with the other components, enters into diverse relationships and cannot be studied in isolation” (Kolár 2015, 427). There was also the basic belief inherited from earlier research of Polish source materials that the shape of verse was not dependent merely on historical literary processes, but that it was significantly affected by the given language’s prosody (Dobrzyńska 2010, 258–259). In this day and age, hardly anyone would find that claim objectionable, but at that time this aspect of verse structure was not in the mainstream.

68The research group’s strategy was to focus on the manner in which the most widely used verse forms in Slavic literatures were employed, highlighting the variations caused by differences in the individual languages which, despite being closely related, differ in many particular linguistic aspects. Metric structures and various verse forms were analysed with regard to the manner of employing elements on various levels of the language structure. Such an approach naturally incorporated findings and categories established by other linguistic disciplines such as phonology, morphology, prosody and syntax. Care was given to also include various cultural and literary-historical phenomena that manifested differently across various Slavic literatures (Dobrzyńska 2019, 172; 177). “We were interested in the influence of each language within the same metric scheme. This would reveal what was determined by the language and what was determined by the particular metre used. We wanted to utilise this to demonstrate the differences. If the Polish language uses stress in the way it does, and it is different from Czech in that regard, then the structure of verse, even verse of the same type, must also necessarily be different. This manifests in the selection of words, their length and the length of the stress groups, and so on”, explained Sgallová in an interview from 2020 (Sgallová 2020, 228).

69The legacy of structuralist and neo-structuralist versification methodology is clearly discernible in Czech scholarship. While the aforementioned versification team did not directly follow on the research conducted by Červenka and Sgallová, there is clear inspi|ration in the area of methodology. Indeed, both sides have confirmed that. Květa Sgallová keeps in touch with the versification team and is quite pleased that “the boys” stand by the legacy of her work. She sees continuation of her previous work especially in the effort to approach the analysis of verse based on extensive source materials and application of objective criteria. Members of the team also confirm their inspiration in forewords to their publications.

70For instance, the introduction to a book on corpus verse studies (Plecháč & Kolár 2017) mentions the creation of a comparable corpus of prosaic text which was lemmatised and morphologically and phonetically annotated using the same tools applied to the corpus of the versed texts: “We should add that the idea of comparison with prosaic texts with the explicit purpose of establishing language conditions of versed speech is not new—following the abandonment of the probability model of verse [...], this approach was employed in the works by Miroslav Červenka and Květa Sgallová” (Plecháč & Kolár 2017, 10). They later continue: “We have already mentioned works by Miroslav Červenka and Květa Sgallová. We wish to emphasise that the connection is not merely symbolic. The following exposition must be understood as direct continuation of and an effort to supplement their work” (Plecháč & Kolár 2017, 11).

71“Corpus verse studies” (a term coined by the authors) represents a logical continuation of the research methods introduced into Czech scholarship by Červenka and Sgallová. Nevertheless, one should not arrive at the conclusion that Czech versology focuses merely on metrics. While this discipline continues to be the subject of a large part of the research, new topics are becoming popular in recent years, for instance “stylometry”, which also uses statistical methods and tools provided by corpus versology.

72The connection to both scholars’ work and, symbolically, to the CSM project was also declared at the occasion of the Quantitative Approaches to Versification conference organised in Prague in June 2019 by the Institute of Czech Literature of the Czech Academy of Sciences.38 The entire conference was dedicated to Květa Sgallová and symbolically followed in the footsteps of the comparative Slavic metrics conferences in Warsaw. Květa Sgallová herself took part in the conference, albeit mostly as a spectator (for her commentary, see Sgallová 2019, 224; 226; 227).

73Despite the promising work by the current Versification Research Group in both individual and collaborative projects, one cannot overlook a certain distance between the group and the broader scholarly community. The tools being developed are remarkable, modern and user friendly and the researchers are successfully publishing papers and keep in touch with the international scene (e.g., by organising the conference mentioned earlier). However, the most prominent group of Czech versologists lack the same thing their Polish colleagues (and, for a long time, Czech members of the CSM group) did—a closer and long-term connection to the university environment, which would enable to shape and influence new generations of students in order to recruit new scholars.39 While the author of this text has the benefit of working at a university, she lacks (despite occasional collaboration) the support in the form of the research and tools developed at the Czech Academy of Sciences.

74On a brighter note, the barrier between the university and the Academy of Sciences was broken by members of the team at least in one important aspect. What I refer to is Úvod do teorie verše [Introduction to Verse Theory] by R. Ibrahim, P. Plecháč and J. Říha (2013), a publication which (after many decades) attempts to introduce students and other interested parties to the basics of versology in a modern, well-arranged and attractive form (which I can attest to judging from my students’ feedback). The book of course has certain limitations and is in some respect still not as comprehensive as the older book by J. Hrabák with the same title, which was published multiple times in the period from the 1950s to the 1980s; however, the authors are the only ones who dared (or could) publish such a work after a long time.

75In Poland, there is no similar direct methodological connection; metrics is not a very popular discipline at the present time. The legacy of structuralist methods must be sought elsewhere. The extensive popularisation and pedagogical activities of Kopczyńska and Pszczołowska thus remain the most important heritage of the Polish structuralist versology associated with the CSM project. (Aside from teaching at university, Pszczołowska participated in the Polish Literature and Language Olympics committee for 15 years, for which she received a medal from the Commission of National Education.) This activity was closely associated with monographs, articles and student handbooks published by both scholars, especially Pszczołowska, whose longer life enabled her to leave a bigger mark. Many of her texts on literary history remain popular, with some being considered required reading for students of Polish studies. To name at least one publication: Dlaczego wierszem? [Why in Verse?] was first published in 1963 (cf. Dobrzyńska 2010, 258).

76Pszczołowska’s also successfully mentored two doctoral students whose work she had supervised. The first of them is Dorota Urbańska, who is known in the area of literary history especially for her Wiersz wolny: próba charakterystyki systemowej (1995), a publication on free verse that is based on her dissertation. The other Pszczołowska’s doctoral student was Tone Pretnar from Slovenia. Both would become long-time members of the comparative Slavic metrics research group.40 Teresa Dobrzyńska can also be considered a student of Pszczołowska and Kopczyńska, at least as far as versology is concerned. Both Urbańska and Dobrzyńska continue working with the Department of Poetics at the Institute. An important, although not readily visible, contribution to current Polish poetics, versology and literary scholarship in general definitely lies in maintaining and spreading the work of the two founders of modern Polish versology, Dłuska and Mayenowa.

77Most of the results of the educational and scholarly efforts of Zdzisława Kopczyńska and Lucylla Pszczołowska are impossible to describe and can only be estimated. It is clear that the two scholars’ work has helped shape several generations of students on all levels of education and at various universities in Poland and beyond (for more details, see Dobrzyńska 2019, 174).


  • 1 Klára Čermochová, Department of Czech Literature and Comparative Literature, Faculty of Arts, Charles University
    This work was supported by the European Regional Development Fund project “Creativity and Adaptability as Conditions of the Success of Europe in an Interrelated World” (reg. no.: CZ.02.1.01/0.0/0.0/16_019/0000734).
  • 2 The project studied Polish, Czech, Bulgarian, Slovenian, Russian, Ukrainian, Belo|russian, Serbian, Croatian and Macedonian literature (see e.g. Dobrzyńska 2019, 176–177; Pszczołowska 2012, 166). The research of Serbian and Croatian versification was carried out by Prof. Svetozar Petrović and his students.
  • 3 The first version of the text was published in the Stylistyka journal in 2008 (Pszczołowska 2008); the chapter quoted here contains only minor changes and updates. After Pszczołowska death, the English version of the text was published in Studia Metrica et Poetica (Pszczołowska 2014).
  • 4 Already in February 1963, some of the future project members met at the Young Literary Theorists Conference in Toruń, Poland (Pszczołowska 2007, 185). Multiple Czech-Polish conferences took place in Toruń starting from 1962. For more details on these meetings, see e.g. Głowiński 2006, p. 325.
  • 5 Josef Hrabák was a prominent populariser of the theory of verse and poetics in Czechoslovakia, and also the author of the first (and for the next 50 years the only) Introduction to Verse Theory (Úvod do teorie verše; the book was first published in 1956 with several revisions coming out later) in the Czech language.
  • 6 S. Petrović joined the Comparative Slavic Metrics team during the work on the second volume.
  • 7 IBL PAN means Instytut Badań Literackich Polskiej Akademii Nauk [The Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences].
  • 8 The IBL Institute was founded in 1948 and in its beginnings served as a Marxist propaganda centre. After 1956, however, it became an enclave of free and independent literary scholarship that played an important role in, e.g., the formation of Polish structuralism (see Gierowski 2016, 482 for more details).
  • 9 Such a meeting was not possible in Czechoslovakia since the communist regime would certainly not have enthusiastically welcomed the arrival of American scholars, especially Roman Jakobson, the co-founder of structuralism as an officially condemned school of thought (cf. Pszczołowska 2007, 186).
  • 10 While Červenka and Sgallová studied directly under Jan Mukařovský, they both drew information on structuralist versology and methods in general from international congresses and older texts, not from his contemporary lectures (Sgallová 2012, 392). To understand the context, one should realise that “in the politically extreme situation of the early 1950s, Mukařovský disavowed his structuralist past and adopted Marxist concepts of art and literature (e.g., in the treatise “On the Critique of Structuralism in Our Literary Studies”, 1951); however, he later returned to some structuralist topics and issues with certain modifications and inspired and taught structuralism in Czech literary studies in the 1960s” (see the entry on “Jan Mukařovský” in Dictionary of Czech Literature after 1945). Both Mukařovský’s students thus learned fundamental structuralist texts and the scholarly work methods “on the go” (Sgallová 2012, 388).
  • 11 Sgallová noted that she had met her future colleague already as a student. In that time he was a famous and successful poet. In late 1950s, his teacher Jan Mukařovský reputedly told him that his fame as a poet would fade, but his works on verse would remain relevant for the future (Sgallová 2012, 390). In this sense, Mukařovský proved quite prescient. Not so much because Červenka’s poetry collections (e.g., Strojopisná trilogie and others) do not deserve attention, but because it was the world of scholarship where his name would become famous.
  • 12 After being fired from the faculty, Červenka started working at Pragoprojekt, a state-owned construction company, which obviously was a field far removed from his scholarly specialisation. He worked there as a librarian and archivist (Sgallová 2020, 223; Pszczołowska 2007, 187). Květa Sgallová was also banned from pursuing pedagogical work in the early 1970s. After a prolonged attempt to fire her from the faculty, she eventually left on her own and found a job at the Central Library of the University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague (for more on her work there, see Sgallová 2020, 229–230).
  • 13 Within this group, the mission and the ideas of the formalists and Prague structuralists were brought to life. The group was founded based on the initiative of Mayenowa, but its activities relied heavily on the other members—two of the most active researchers responsible for lots of the outputs were Pszczołowska and Kopczyńska mentioned earlier (Dobrzyńska 2019, 173–174; more details on this topic are also available there). Later, from 1981 to 1992, Pszczołowska also headed the Laboratory.
  • 14 Květa Sgallová’s memories.
  • 15 The collection is mentioned e.g. by Dobrzyńska 2019, p. 176, but it is not officially a part of the project.
  • 16 These were Červenka, Gasparov, Slavov, Petrović and of course Kopczyńska and Pszczołowska as co-editors.
  • 17 Květa Sgallová’s memories.
  • 18 Miroslav Červenka hinted at this experience in the title of his collected studies, self-published through samizdat in 1983. The publication was titled From the Evening School of Versology [Z večerní školy versologie]. In reality, no such evening school existed and Červenka was referring to his research work conducted in the evenings over the span of many years (Sgallová 2020, 234). Another three “volumes”, followed after the Velvet Revolution: Z večerní školy versologie II, III and IV. Květa Sgallová co-authored some of these books.
  • 19 An interesting fact is connected to the samizdat publication of Z večerní školy versologie, as well as the CSM project itself: thanks to Červenka’s colleague in the project, Tone Pretnar, the book was also published officially (i.e., not merely in samizdat form) in Slovenian in 1988 [Večerna škola stihoslovja].
  • 20 In this period, accentual-syllabic verse was already established in all the languages included in the research and the results were thus comparable in a representative fashion. Only the Polish chapter of the volume also contained the most popular forms employed in Polish syllabism, which had persisted in Polish literature long after the accentual-syllabic revolution (Pszczołowska 2012, 163).
  • 21 More details about the technical principle in: Sgallová 2015 [1964]. The article quoted above describes in minute details and using multiple tables the principles behind using punched cards, the technical aspects of the research and all verse parameters that were studied and could later be used to sort the materials. For more information on the topic, see Sgallová 2012, 388–389. For the rules used directly for CSM research, see Červenka 1965.
  • 22 Described according to Květa Sgallová’s recollections.
  • 23 Květa Sgallová’s memories.
  • 24 Kopczyńska’s colleagues wrote that she used her considerable talents especially to support valuable collaborative research, particularly in the Instytut Badań Literackich, instead of pushing to publish papers under her own name. Nevertheless, she wrote several important texts such as Tonizm (1979), which she co-authored with T. Dobrzyńska (Mayenowa & Pszczołowska 1983, 407–408).
  • 25 Květa Sgallová’s recollections.
  • 26 For her, as well as for the others, the conferences were a source of inspiration for her own work; for example, Dobrzyńska developed the topic of the third volume (the semantics of verse forms) further in the years that followed.
  • 27 “To this day, I feel somewhat sad when I think about all those great scholars and our final meetings. They and the entire CSM group left behind a wonderful work. At every occasion, I write and I talk about that research and the people who initiated it and carried it out”, wrote Dobrzyńska in a letter to me where she recollected her work on the project.
  • 28 This was a continuation of the original structuralist association founded in 1926 by Roman Jakobson, Vilém Mathesius, Jan Mukařovský and others.
  • 29 Despite being dated to 2011, the final volume was actually released in 2012.
  • 30 For instance, library records of Charles University in Prague, from which the Czech members of the core team were recruited, show that no one has borrowed the two volumes accessible there since 2012 (older records are not available). I have no information on readers’ interest in volumes available in libraries in Warsaw and other cities.
  • 31 Pszczołowska & Czamata 2007.
  • 32 As confirmed by Teresa Dobrzyńska. I have no information regarding possible reprints of the studies produced by the other national research teams.
  • 33 For more information on the activities of the Versification Research Group, see and the publications by its members, e.g.: Ibrahim, Plecháč & Říha 2013; Ibrahim & Plecháč 2014; Plecháč & Kolár 2017.
  • 34 As explained by T. Dobrzyńska.
  • 35 The previous conference was dedicated to the memory of M. L. Gasparov.
  • 36 Following the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968, the resulting repressions and the onset of the period of “normalisation” led to gradual, but eventually quite strict rejection of structuralism. Scholars who pursued it then became as undesirable as the scholarly tradition itself (cf. Sgallová 2015, 7).
  • 37 In the case of Červenka and Sgallová, this was especially the widely criticised probability model of Czech verse, which the authors presented e.g. in Červenka & Sgallová 1968. This approach was described as a dead end for example by Sgallová 2012, 389.
  • 38 It was co-organised by the Institute of Russian Language at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
  • 39 Robert Kolár and Jakub Říha used to teach seminars at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University focused on verse theory, but this did not last very long and took place before the founding of the Versification Research Group at the Academy of Sciences.
  • 40 Tone Pretnar participated in the project until his death; he participated in the preparation of volumes I to V. He died shortly before the publication of the sixth volume, which is dedicated to his memory (as well as to the memory of Kopczyńska).

Collected volumes of the Comparative Slavic Metrics project


Baluch Jacek (2016) Wstęp, In: Czesko-polski słownik terminów literackich, Kraków, Wydawnictwo UJ, 7–22.

Červenka Miroslav (1965) „Nový projekt statistického rozboru verše“. Česká literatura 13 (6), 541–544.

Červenka Miroslav (1983) "Z večerní školy versologie: Čtyři studie 1975–83" (Manuscript).

Červenka Miroslav (1991) Z večerní školy versologie II: versologický průvodce tvorbou generace devadesátých let. II.. Pardubice, Akcent.

Červenka Miroslav (2001) Dějiny českého volného verše. Brno, Host.

Červenka Miroslav, Sgallová Květa (1968) „Na cestě k pravděpodobnostnímu modelu českého verše“, In: J. Levý & K. Palas (eds.), Teorie verše 2, Ústí nad Labem, Univerzita J. E. Purkyně, 6–72.

Červenka Miroslav, Sgallová Květa (1995) Z večerní školy versologie III. Praha, Ústav pro českou literaturu AV ČR.

Červenka Miroslav (2006) Kapitoly o českém verši, ed. Sgallová Květa; Holý Jiří. Praha, Karolinum.

Dobrzyńska Teresa (2010) „Wspomnienie o Lucylli Pszczołowskiej“. Pamiętnik literacki 101 (2), 257–262.

Dobrzyńska Teresa (2016) „Maria Renata Mayenowa“, In: , Portrety Uczonych, Warszawa, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, 218–228.

Dobrzyńska Teresa (2019) „Lucylla Pszczołowska – badaczka wiersza polskiego i słowiańskiego“, In: Z. Greń, K. Kleszczowa & Z. Zaron (eds.), My z Nich 3, Warszawa, Wydział Polonistyki UW, 171–181.

Dobrzyńska Teresa, Kopczyńska Zdzisława (1979) Tonizm. Wrocław, Ossolineum.

Gierowski Piotr (2016) „Strukturalizm czeski w Polsce: Posłowie“, In: J. Baluch & P. Gierowski, Czesko-polski słownik terminów literackich, Kraków, Wydawnictwo UJ, 475–488.

Głowiński Michał (2006) „Česká setkání“. Česká literatura 54 (2-3), 323–328.

Hrabák Josef (1956) Úvod do teorie verše. Praha, Státní pedagogické nakladatelství.

Ibrahim Robert (2012) „Konec velkého projektu“. Česká literatura 60 (3), 448–453.

Ibrahim Robert, Plecháč Petr (2014) Báseň a počítač. Praha, Academia.

Ibrahim Robert, Plecháč Petr, Říha Jakub (2013) Úvod do teorie verše. Praha, Akropolis.

Kloch Zbigniew (2010) „Wspomnienie o Profesor Pszczołowskiej“. Teksty Drugie 21 (5), 247–249.

Kolár Robert (2015) „Kde začíná básnit básník. Doslov“, In: K. Sgallová, O českém verši, Praha, Karolinum, 425–428.

Kopczyńska Zdzisława, Pszczołowska Lucylla (1971) Metryka słowiańska: praca zbiorowa. Wrocław, Ossolineum.

Kubínová Marie, Lantová Ludmila (2006) „Jan Mukařovský“, In: , Slovník české literatury po roce 1945, Praha, Ústav pro českou literaturu AV ČR.

Levý Jiří, Palas Karel (1968) Teorie verše 2: Sborník druhé brněnské versologické konference. Ústí nad Labem, Univerzita J. E. Purkyně.

Mayenowa Maria Renata, Pszczołowska Lucylla (1983) „Zdzisława Kopczyńska (11 stycznia 1919 – 14 października 1982)“. Pamiętnik literacki 74 (2), 407–410.

Mukařovský Jan (1951) „Ke kritice strukturalismu v naší literární vědě“. Tvorba 40, 147–155.

Plecháč Petr, Kolár Robert (2017) Kapitoly z korpusové versologie. Praha, Akropolis.

Pszczołowska Lucylla (1963) Dlaczego wierszem?. Warszawa, Wiedza Powszechna.

Pszczołowska Lucylla (1997) Wiersz polski: Zarys historyczny. Wrocław, Fundacja Projekt Nauka.

Pszczołowska Lucylla (2002) Wiersz – styl – poetyka. Krakow, Universitas.

Pszczołowska Lucylla (2007) „Miroslav Červenka (5. listopadu 1932 – 19. listopadu 2005)“. Slovo a Smysl 4 (7), 185–189.

Pszczołowska Lucylla (2008) „Słowiańska Metryka Porównawcza: Ewolucja celów i metod badawczych“. Stylistyka 17, 347–360.

Pszczołowska Lucylla (2012) „Słowiańska metryka porównawcza: Ewolucja celów i metod badawczych“, In: W. Bolecki & D. Ulicka (eds.), Strukturalizm w Europie Środkowej i Wschodniej, Warszawa, Instytut Badań Literackich, 161–170.

Pszczołowska Lucylla (2014) „Comparative slavic metrics: evolution of aims and methods of investigation“. Studia Metrica et Poetica 1 (2), 130–141.

Pszczołowska Lucylla, Chamata Nina (2007) Na styku kultur: wiersz polski i ukraiński. Warszawa, Instytut Badań Literackich.

Sgallová Květa (1964) „Využití moderní techniky při rozboru verše“. Česká literatura 12 (2), 158–165.

Sgallová Květa (1967) Český deklamační verš v obrozenecké literatuře. Praha, Karlova univerzita.

Sgallová Květa (2015) O českém verši. Praha, Karolinum.

Sgallová Květa (2016) „Příležitost překročit svou hranici…“. Slovo a Smysl 13 (25), 189–190.

Sgallová Květa, Ibrahim Robert (2012) „Trápí mě, jak málo se literární historici zajímají o verš…“. Česká literatura 60 (3), 385–397.

Sgallová Květa, Čermochová Klára (2020) „O verši, poezii a podzemní univerzitě: Rozhovor s čerstvě devadesátiletou Květou Sgallovou“. Slovo a Smysl 17 (33), 223–237.

Urbańska Dorota (1995) Wiersz wolny: próba charakterystyki systemowej. Warszawa, Instytut Badań Literackich.

Publication details

Published in:

Mrugalski Michał, Jeziorska-Haładyj Joanna (2022) Polish structuralism I. Acta Structuralica Special Issue 4 (1).

Pages: 85-126

DOI: 10.19079/actas.2022.s4.85

Full citation:

Čermochová Klára (2022) „Comparative slavic metrics, 1967-2011: "Theory of verse" as pursued by Polish and Czech structuralists of the third wave“. Acta Structuralica 4 (1), 85–126.