Václav Zheng

I am a historical theorist and a cultural historian of East-Central Europe. On the theory side, I engage with current debates in philosophy of historiography and adopt an anthropological approach to read contemporary historical practice. Specifically, I am preparing an article that provides a tropological understanding of “Renaissance” historiography, which identifies tropology as a favorable operation for historians practicing colligatory concepts, even from the perspective of post-narrativism. Another article attends to historical temporality and retro-chronological narratives, questioning if and how history could be written backwards. I also experiment with new ways of studying history. By going from source to event and back to source, I suggest there is a reflexive logic of historical documents and they could be read on their own to reveal further historical knowledge. It illuminates a more fungible relationship between evidence and reality and helps dissolve the putative text-context conundrum. 

My prospective dissertation explores the urban experience of living in the “ideal” town Zamość (f. 1580) and the mentality of Polish intellectuals at the turn of the 17th century. I ask why this town was so successfully built, realized and exemplified as a tour-de-force in Polish history and what it would be like for someone born in the 1550s to enjoy his entire life there. By de-centering the renowned Polish hetman and town founder Jan Zamojski, I hope to cast more light on other significant figures in the early history of Zamość and accentuate the collective meso-level efforts in the town-making process. Meanwhile, I am starting a family history project that narrates a “picohistory” of Chinese-Ukrainian interactions in the 1950s. I also envision writing a deep history of human fashion beyond clothing the body. 

In addition, I am interested in Polish Renaissance writers Sebastian Fabian Klonowic and Szymon Szymonowic, as well as Reformation writers Marcin Czechowic and rabbi Jacob of Bełżyce. In my free time, I read modern West Slavic literature, on authors such as Karel Čapek, Bohumil Hrabal, Jiří Weil, Stefan Żeromski, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Zofia Nałkowska, and Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav.

Main Advisor: Professor Maciejko