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Nabokov Studies 5 (1998/1999) OMRY RONEN (Ann Arbor) Emulation, Anti-Parody, Intertextuality, and Annotation There is an old mystical tradition, stemming from Isaac the Syrian in the east and Scotus Erigena in the west, according to which afterlife is the same for all, but the sinners perceive the higher presence as hell and the righteous as paradise. In our lay field, too, in the face of a work of genius grateful admiration or an invidious proclamation of the author's death are a choice that depends on the moral character of the reader, or on the constructive (substantially monistic) or deconstructive (that is, dualistic, Manichaean and "Bogumil") attitude of the philosophically minded critic, or, finally, on the purpose of the scholar. If the scholar's purpose is a commentary, the presence of the creator's design in the creation is a necessary presupposition, and the task of the commentator is to provide the reader with the wherewithal required for the understanding of this design. The question that has a less certain answer, at least, in the case of those writers whose poetics is contingent to a significant extent on enigmatic devices, is this: how far should the interpreter's assistance extend so as not to interfere with the riddle-solving delights of the reader? Such a contingency is sometimes acknowledged by movie thriller producers when they beg the gentle public not to disclose the ending to those friends who have not yet seen the picture. At a more serious plane of analysis, it should be conceded, moreover, that the author's intent may be to create an enigmatic effect per se, an aura of mystery. As Evgenii Toddes (1968: 93) suggested in regard to Pushkin's "Bronze Horseman," enigmatic mysteriousness may be perceived as an objective property of certain artistic structures, a means of author's aesthetic influence upon the reader, and insofar as this quality is a full-fledged component of style, there is no need to "decipher" the poem and "solve its puzzle." Yet there are certain operations that any enigmatic or simply "difficult," that is, intellectually challenging text demands from the annotator. For example, even if the solution of the text's presumed enigma may be considered redundant or contrary to the author's design, the reader will usually benefit when certain presuppositions necessary for his most basic comprehension of the text 64 Nabokov Studies and the terms of its puzzles are laid out before him. Presuppositions which are most commonly, and rightly, in the opinion of any honest philologist, perceived as necessary for minimum understanding and therefore pertinent to commentaries have to do with the semiotic environment of the text, with what we now call the intertextual aspect of the work. Names, quotations, literary, historical, cultural references and allusions are expected to be identified and briefly explained. One might even say that the entire field of intertextual research as it was originally envisaged in the early sixties emerged out of the immediate exigencies of annotating such enigmatic texts as Akhmatova's "Poem without a Hero" or Mandelstam's "Na kamennykh otrogakh Pierii." Even though Shakespeare scholars, especially among the New Critics, knew this all along, because they were not concerned with theoretical conceptualization of the problem, it had to be formulated from the scratch, as it were, and the choice of 20th century material for this kind of theoretical inquiry was natural, because in 20th century poetics the device of intertextual reference and distanced reiteration is foregrounded. The result is that today we have more comprehensive "intertextual" commentaries to Mandelstam than to Pushkin. After all, as Vladimir Markov has mordantly pointed out, even the source of the quotation "s tekh por, kak etim zanimaius"' ("since I began to ply this trade") in "The Station Master" remains unknown. It is because of this urgent need that the younger Pushkin scholars, among them Dolinin, Ospovat and Kats, have, with renewed intensity of effort and breadth of vision, begun to fill the enormous gaps remaining in our knowledge of Pushkin's intertextuality even after the extensive research by such great pioneers of the field as Vinogradov, Tomashevsky, Alekseev, and, more recently, Vladimir Nabokov and Iurii Lotman. Yet there...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9965
Print ISSN
1080-1219
Pages
pp. 63-70
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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