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Chekhov for the 21st Century. Carol Apollonio and Angela Brintlinger, eds. Bloomington, IN: Slavica Publishers, 2012, 211–21.       The Psychology of Chekhov’s Creative Method and Generative Poetics Andrei Stepanov Scholars  endeavoring  to  reconstruct  Chekhov’s  creative  process  inevitably  en-­‐‑ counter  a  number  of  serious  difficulties.  The  writer  kept  practically  no  diaries,   and  after  completing  a  work  he  would  destroy  both  his  preliminary  notes  and   his   drafts.   Moreover,   only   with   the   greatest   reluctance   would   Chekhov   ad-­‐‑ dress   the   writing   process   in   his   letters;   sometimes   he   would   simply   note   a   topic   (“I   am   describing   the   steppe”1 );   occasionally   he   would   identify   proto-­‐‑ types  or  details  from  real  life;  only  rarely  would  he  analyze  an  already  com-­‐‑ pleted   text.   Contemporaries   have   left   few   accounts   of   Chekhov’s   creative   plans,  and  those  accounts  that  do  exist  have  primarily  to  do  with  unrealized   ideas.  Thus  the  kinds  of  sources  that  literary  historians  generally  use  to  recon-­‐‑ struct  a  work’s  creative  history  are,  in  Chekhov’s  case,  extremely  meager.     It  is  true  that  the  writer’s  notebooks  have  been  preserved,  and  they  can   show  how  some  of  the  later  texts  came  into  being.2  These  notes  contain  short   outlines  for  plots,  individual  details,  and  various  utterances,  which  represent   “seeds”  of  future  stories  and  plays.  But,  as  Z.  S.  Paperny  observed  when  he   tried  to  use  these  data  to  reconstruct  the  writing  process  for  individual  works,   in   Chekhov’s   case   “from   a   grain   of   wheat   something   completely   different   might  grow,”3  that  is,  ideas  would  change  radically  during  the  writing  proc-­‐‑ ess.  Furthermore,  the  notebooks,  as  opposed  to  the  drafts,  do  not  provide  an   adequate   basis   for   analyzing   the   writing   process   as   a   whole;   there   are   too   many  lacunae,  and  “the  scholar  trying  to  make  sense  of  Chekhov’s  notebooks   faces  a  multitude  of  unknowns.”4     These   difficulties   compel   the   scholar   to   seek   detours,   roundabout   ap-­‐‑ proaches   to   the   problem.   All   we   can   do   is   propose   hypotheses   about   Chekhov’s   thought   processes,   and   to   support   them   with   textual   examples.   The   most   effective   of   these   roundabout   approaches   is   generative   poetics,   which  views  a  literary  text  as  the  result  of  a  process  whereby  an  initial  matrix                                                                                                                             1  “Описываю  я  степь”  (Letters  2:  179).   2  Particularly  valuable  are  the  first  (“creative”)  notebook  and  a  small  number  of  notes   on  separate  pieces  of  paper  that  Chekhov  used  during  the  writing  process.   3  Z.  S.  Papernyi,  Zapisnye  knizhki  Chekhova  (Moscow:  Sovetskii  pisatel’,  1976),  44.   4  Ibid.,  72.     212 ANDREI STEPANOV undergoes  a  transformation  and  develops  under  the  influence  of  operations   that  A.  K.  Zholkovsky  and  Iu.  K.  Shcheglov  have  identified  as  “expressive  de-­‐‑ vices”  (priemy  vyrazitel’nosti).  According  to  this  principle,  as  they  put  it,  “the   text  emerges  from  the  theme.”     Two   caveats   are   in   order.   First,   generative   poetics   is   not   the   same   as   a   psychology   of   creativity.   Zholkovsky   and   Shcheglov,   as   they   devised   their   own   “poetics   of   expressiveness,”   or   “expressive   poetics”   (poetika   vyrazitel’-­‐‑ nosti),   to   follow   models   created   by   V.   Ia.   Propp,   S.   M.   Eizenshtein,   Noam   Chomsky  and  I.  A.  Melchuk,  stated  from  the  outset  that  their  principle  was   not  to  be  associated  with  any  assumptions  “about  the  diachronic  process  of   creation  of  a  work  of  art  by  an  artist”5  (although  apparently  nothing  prevents   the  generative  process  described  in  this  way  from  being  treated  as  an  hypoth-­‐‑ esis  about  “what  went  on  inside  the  artist’s  head”).  Secondly,  if  the  initial  ma-­‐‑ trix   for   generative   poetics   is   the   “theme,”   in   Chekhov’s   case   non-­‐‑thematic   elements  can  play  that  role.     I   identify   three   such   elements:   (1)   a   specific   transformation   of   a   speech   genre;  (2)  an  extended  (razvernutaia)  metaphor  (usually  habitual  [uzual’naia]);   (3)  an  individual  detail  (usually  “incidental”  [sluchainaia]).  My  goal  here  is  to   prove  this  latter  point,  using  examples  from  Chekhov’s  works.       1.   Let’s   begin   with   the   generative   function   of   merging   and   “dislocation”   (smesheniie  i  “smeshcheniie”)  of  speech  genres.  It  is  impossible  here  to  provide  a   complete   typology   of   speech   genre   transformations   in   Chekhov;6   I   will   just   clarify  this  function  using  one  simple  example.     The  early  story  “The  Philanthropist”  (“Filantrop,”  1883)  features  a  doctor   and  a  patient  who  is  in  love  with  him.  She  summons  the  doctor  four  times  in   a  single  day,  complaining  of  imaginary  diseases,  hoping  he  will  take  the  first   step  and  confess  his  love  for  her,  which  the  doctor  won’t  do,  because  he  does-­‐‑ n’t   love   her.   In   the   final   scene   the   hero   takes   pity   on   the   poor   woman   and   writes  her  a  prescription:  “Be  at  the  corner  of  Kuznetsky  and...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780893578923
Related ISBN
9780893573928
MARC Record
OCLC
859687104
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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