Silence and the Rest
Verbal Skepticism in Russian Poetry
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Northwestern University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
I would like to thank my dissertation advisor, Svetlana Evdokimova of Brown University, and the members of my dissertation committee, Alexander Levitsky of Brown University and Stephanie Sandler of Harvard University, for their expertise and help with the project in its initial stages. ...
Introduction: Silence and the Rest
This poem, memorized by generations of Russian schoolchildren, epitomizes the culture’s mythologizing of its logos. Alexander Pushkin’s classic transposition of Horace’s “Exegi Monumentum” (book 3, ode 30), “I have wrought a monument not made by hand” ...
Chapter One. Initiating the Paradigm: The Inexpressible in Russian Romanticism
It was during the romantic period that the topos of verbal skepticism was inaugurated in Russian literature, and poetry in particular. Romantic poetry engages the ineffability device as much more than mere rhetorical technique; it probes manifestations of, and reasons for, the failure of the word. ...
Chapter Two. Osip Mandelstam’s Many-Voiced Silentiums
An important revival of verbal skepticism came during the Silver Age of Russian poetry, and Osip Mandelstam must be singled out among other poets of the age for his explorations of this topos. The traditional view of Mandelstam trusting language in the acmeist tradition invites a polemical corrective— ...
Chapter Three. A Figure That Leaves You Speechless: Joseph Brodsky on Death and Language
To fall back on Isaiah Berlin’s well-known dichotomy between the hedgehog and the fox, Mandelstam’s latter-day heir, the Nobel-winning poet Joseph Brodsky, is a hedgehog par excellence. The key theme of his poetry and essays, an obsessive focus of his philosophizing, his primary interlocutor, arch-nemesis, ...
Chapter Four. “A Poet Is Less Than a Poet”: Timur Kibirov’s Merry Logophobia
What happens when the hawk of poetry turns bird non grata in the stratosphere, however icy? Monuments not made by hand may not exactly stand on Alexandrine pillars, but they do crumble fast in a mass-consumer Elysium. ...
Conclusion: Logophobia in the Land of Logos
Polonius deems Hamlet’s reply nonsensical. Believing that the “insane” prince did not comprehend his questions, he rephrases them. In reality it is Ophelia’s father who remains in the dark regarding the purport of this exchange. As Hamlet dissembles a naive, literal understanding of the questions, he plays with one of the most fundamental philosophical problems ...