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­­­European Literature of the 19th-20th Centuries.  Cross-Culture Perspective: Text and Context

Priority areas of development: humanitarian

European 19th and 20th century literature may be perceived as a complex and contradictory social-cultural system, which is founded on a totally novel type of literary language. 

This is a period when different cultures appear to form a new type of synthesis. The growing conflict between culture and civilization demanded the appearance of a new type of narrative, as the relation “author-text-reader” was constantly changing and resulted in new approaches towards literary heritage. This is a period when we can speak about the emergence of the concept of “world literature”, which may serve as further proof  of the importance of studying the literature of various countries in a cross-culture perspective. In this light we can note that translation of texts becomes an unprecedentedly important issue (accepting or rejecting “foreign” texts of different epochs and traditions that are connected with them), as well as ideas regarding the history of national culture (accepting or rejecting texts that may or may not serve as ideological “landmarks”). This fundamental analysis of literature presupposes a special focus on the concept of “context”.    

Goal of research

The authors involved in the project studied influential texts of Western European, Latin American and Russian literature, including such significant names as A. Blok, B. Pasternak, P. Claudel, S. Mallarme, R. Dario, Ramon Gomez de la Serna  and others within the broad context of social-cultural and comparative modern humanities studies. 


The basis for the study were Classic works in the history and theory literature and semiotics of culture (French Structuralism, New Criticism, Tartu and Moscow Schools, receptive aesthetics,  comparative studies). Other important research of interpreting and commenting literary texts is based on the methodology of such distinguished authors as M.L. Gasparov, R.D. Timenchik, S.N. Zenkin, A.L. Zorin, G.K. Kosikov). The authors of the project also based their methodology on previous research, conducted by their colleagues, in 2013 and 2014, as well on O.A. Lekmanov’s notes regarding V.P. Katayev’s novel “My Diamond Crown” (2004) and A.A. Sabashnikova.   

Empirical base of research:

The goal of the project was  to define the general features of various trends and genres in European 19th and 20th century literature, the specific features of literary evolution in the 20th century, as well as on the intrinsic contradictions of Modernist texts within the contexts of social and cultural environment and contemporary philological studies. In this sense the project also involves the new methodology of analyzing and commenting texts, including the interpretation of texts and notions regarding the conceptions of “subtext”,   (individual creative system, texts of man of letters who share the same views, united by the ideas of being in the same artistic group).

Results of research:

One of the spheres of research of the present project was focused on European literature within the context of Symbolism, a leading artistic movement in the late 19th-early 20th century. For example, if we take a look at A.A. Sabashnikova’s work, who studies the dramaturgical style of Paul Claudel, analyzing one of his most distinguished dramas “L’Annonce Fete a Marie”. This work was looked at as a certain genre experiment, which became possible in the early 20th century owing to the obliteration of borders, characteristic for Symbolist drama. Beside the principal theme one may notice here a second “melody”, which symbolically includes the essential episodes of Sacred History. This allows us to speak about a certain revival of the genre of mystery in Claudel’s theatre, a genre that appears once more in the early 20th century and which later will influence experimental theatrical productions. In this light Claudel’s drama, viewed in the context of Symbolist aesthetics, may be  seen as a phenomenon, determining the future evolution of Modernism.

Y.S. Linkova’s study of the conception of play in the oeuvre of the famous French Symbolist writer Stephanne Mallarme made it possible to trace a certain tendency connecting Symbolist Theory and French Structuralists. This approach, in terms of analyzing and interpreting texts,  made it possible for Y.S. Linkova and other participants of the project  to work out certain methods of analyzing literary texts within the context of modern concepts of culture.

As the project was carried out, special attention was given to studying texts in the cross-culture paradigm. This gave us an opportunity to take a closer look at a previously unexplored sphere of culture, for example, orientalism in Spanish literature of the early 20th century. If preceding works were mainly focused on orientalism in the art of France and England, the study of N.Y. Kharitonova opens  a new theme: orientalism in Spain within the context of the Fin de Siècle style. The usage of Spanish press, little-known to Russian readers, may demonstrate the importance of a social-cultural approach towards literary texts. By taking a closer look at not only the literature and arts of Spain, but also at the political situation of the country, we can truly understand all the alternations that happened in the Spanish culture of the late 20s  and early 30s. This was a time when “art for arts’ sake” turns into real politicized art, and many young writers, who were activists of the Avant-Garde movement, become more and more left.

The research conducted also involves studying literature in terms of the influence of particular writer or a certain work of fiction. In this line we can note the works of O.A. Lekmanov, dedicated to the “Block Trace” in 1922, greatly expanded our notion of the role of this Russian Symbolist in the 1920s. These concepts help us understand more clearly the role of Symbolism in Russian mid-20th literature.

Another aspect in looking at the role of context and interpretation of fiction of the period may represent works by A.A. Sabashnikova about the MackOrlans’ novel,  N.M. Dorlgorokuva’s  paper on M.M. Bakhtin and A.O. Lekmanov’s article on Pasternak’s verses.

On the whole the current project continues the research which was previously conducted by our colleagues from the Laboratory of the School of the Humanities (i.e.  the project “Social-Cultural History of Literature: methods and instruments”). As a part of the project many interesting ideas came up regarding literary criticism, translations and philological essays of the 20th century. Results of these studies may allow to speak about a new level of philological analysis that  takes into considerations the present state of academic research.      

Level of implementation,  recommendations on implementation or outcomes of the implementation of the results

As this project was being realized, its participants took part in many educational programs, like “Literature of Europe and USA, 19th century”, ‘ Literature of Europe and USA in the 20th Century”,  ‘History of Russian Literature in the 20th Century”, “Key Texts of French Literature”,  ‘Key Texts of Spanish Literature”.

Research, that has been  made in the course of this project,  involving important works of European literature,  will definitely be useful  in publishing original texts and fundamental academic research with regard to European literature of the 19th and 20th centuries.


Linkova Y. Mallarmé at Play / Высшая школа экономики. Series WP BRP "Literary Studies". "12/LS/2015". 2015. No. 12. 
Лекманов О. А. Блоковский след в поэтических книгах 1922 года: новые материалы и соображения, in: ACTA SLAVICA ESTONICA VII. Блоковский сборник XIX. Александр Блок и русская литература Серебряного века. Тарту : Издательство Тартуского университета, 2015. С. 110-126. 
Dolgorukova N. On Early Russian Reception of Mikhail Bakhtin's Work. The Case of V.N. Turbin, or Staying at the "Boundary of Silence" // The Dostoevsky Journal. A Comparative Literature Review. 2015. Vol. 16. P. 75-87. 
Sabashnikova A. Paul Claudel «L’annonce Faite A Marie»: A Study Of Genre / Высшая школа экономики. Series WP BRP "Literary Studies". 2015. No. WP BRP 06/LS/2015. 
Долгорукова Н. М. Собеседники М.М. Бахтина: В.Н. Турбин и другие // Вече. Журнал русской философии и культуры. 2015. Т. 27. № 2. C. 180-187. 
Лекманов О. А., Устинов А. Б. Истинная жизнь Мориса Лапорта: о сюжете одного стихотворения Маяковского // Сюжетология и сюжетография. 2015. № 1. C. 170-180. 
Харитонова Н. Ю. Пародия и эксперимент в прозе Рамона Гомеса де ла Серны 20-х годов // Латинская Америка. 2015. № 9. C. 90-99. 
Ostrovskaya E. Poetic Translation and the Canon: the Case of Russian Auden, in: Translation in Russian Contexts: Culture, Politics, Identity.: Routledge, 2018. С. 292-305.