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Mikhail Lomonosov and the rise of new literary forms in Russia

Priority areas of development: humanitarian
2015
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

The chief goal of the project consists in the investigation of M. V. Lomonosov’s role in the development of Russian letters and in the rise of new literary forms. In particular, our task was to explore a distinctive, revolutionary strategy in Lomonosov’s poetic oeuvre which made it possible for Russian literature to acquire the most advanced forms of Western European letters ahead of other Slavic nations. An important facet of the project consisted in the analysis of the poetics of a number of other Russian 18th century writers, considered in the context of the establishment of the Russian literary language. Particular attention was accorded to the study of poetic forms deriving from the Classical tradition.

Methodology: The research project relies on a methodological apparatus founded on the evolving theory of comparative, historical, and cognitive poetics. In particular, our method combines the traditional literary-historical toolbox with form-oriented approaches, most importantly those involving quantitative data analysis. A special mark of our research methodology consists in the attention to different levels of linguistic and poetic structure.

Empirical base of research: The project employs a particular methodology deriving from cognitive poetics, which makes it possible to develop a hypothetical reconstruction of the processes of literary creativity based on our knowledge of formal properties of the structure of poetic texts. The empirical basis for this project comprises a digital corpus of Russian and foreign texts (in several languages). In 2015, a part of this corpus was created and provided with rhythmic glossing executed in accordance with rules specially developed for the project. This corpus constitutes the basis of the project as a whole. In addition, members of the project investigated texts that are not included in the corpus, including those by Lomonosov’s predecessors and followers.  

Results of research: The project was aimed, first and foremost, at uncovering the sources of the first instances of Russian syllabo-accentual verse and the ties linking Lomonosov’s work to the Western European tradition of versification. In this context, attention was also accorded to Lomonosov’s biography, the circle of his acquaintances, and the formation of Lomonosov’s image in the biographical literature. Complex political circumstances of the work of Lomonosov and contemporary Russian poets were also taken into view. As a result of research already conducted, a new perspective was gained on the issue of the development of Russian literature, poetic diction, conceptual apparatus, and the reception of Classical poetry in Lomonosov’s work. It was demonstrated that Lomonosov played a central role in the transitional period in the history of Russian culture, bridging the heroic rhetoric of the Petrine epoch that put emphasis on the discontinuity of the historical processes and the stabilizing version of Enlightenment associated with the reign of Catherine the Great.

As already noted, as part of the research project, work began on a large digital corpus comprising Russian and Western European 18th century syllabo-accentual verse. An important preliminary task was solved: rules for the calculation of rhythmic elements of verse were laid down, enabling a comparative analysis of Russian, German, Dutch and English iambs written in that period.     

As part of the project, the monograph entitled Introduction to the Comparative Study of Verse was prepared for publication. In that monograph, the research methods that lie at the foundation of the project received a full explication. In addition to showcasing the distinctive and unique aspects of the project, the monograph charts future paths in which comparative study of verse can be taken. The preparation of the monograph made it possible to develop deeper insights into the application of these methods to the analysis of verse written in different languages.      

Detailed analysis of Lomonosov’s work in comparison to its foreign sources made it possible to reveal the causes of the strict correlation that obtain between meter and language at the early stages of the formation of the Russian iamb and the mechanisms behind the later emancipation of the rules of Russian versification.

Тhe work on the project made it possible to shed new light on the evolution of particular genres of Russian literature in the 18th century, such as the spiritual ode. New data was obtained suggesting the hypothesis that the formation of Russian syllabo-accentual verse resulted from a lengthy process of the propagation and evolution of iambic versification in Western and Northern Europe.

The results of research already completed, in large part, confirm this hypothesis. It is clear that the process of evolution of the Continental syllabo-accentual verse, whose pinnacle is represented by Lomonosov’s transformation of the Russian poetic tradition, was made possible by Petrine reforms and the outcome of the Northern War. These historical developments placed Russia in the most developed cultural realm of the time, that of the Northern Europe, and invited the borrowing of its system of versification.

Level of implementation,  recommendations on implementation or outcomes of the implementation of the results: The results of the research project are actively used by members of the faculty of the Department of Comparative Literature and Linguistics at HSE SPb in teaching courses on Russian and world literature, as well as in research seminars, particularly those that center on the study of poetics, versification, and literary style. The results of the project are included in three monographs (by E. Kazartsev, D. Kalugin and  K. Ospovat), as well as in several articles published or prepared for publication in 2015 (see the list of publications by E. Kazartsev, D. Kalugin, B. Maslov, B. Maslov and T. Nikitina, K. Ospovat). The digital corpus, currently in the process of creation, and associated software are open to other researchers for their work on a variety of problems related to the study of verse. It is also assumed that the results of the research project will be used by other colleagues in their research as well as in the development of new courses on Russian 18th-century literature, comparative literature, and cultural history.

 

 

Publications:


Kazartsev (Evgenii Kazartcev) E. Language and Meter in Early English, Dutch, German and Russian iambic Verse // Comparative Literature Studies. 2015. Vol. 52. No. 4. P. 682-703.
Nikitina T., Rodin (Maslov) B. Verse structure and literary tradition: Correlating rhyme and stress in the Onegin stanza // Style. 2015. Vol. 49. No. 4. P. 439-469.
Родин (Маслов) Б. П. Свобода вне либерализма: пиндарическая ода и трансформация поэтики Старого режима // В кн.: Современная республиканская теория свободы. СПб. : Издательство Европейского университета в Санкт-Петербурге, 2015. С. 212-250.