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Russian Verse Reform in 18th Century: Genesis and Evolution of Forms

Priority areas of development: humanitarian
2016
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

Goal of research: The main objective of the project consisted in the study of mechanisms of the emergence and development of the syllabo-tonic system of versification in 18th c. Russian poetry, mainly with reference to the work of M. V. Lomonosov and A. P. Sumarokov. The small iambic corpus of V. K. Trediakovsky was also taken into account. The main research task of the project was to investigate the genesis and the evolution of the early form of the iamb in Russian poetry. Inquiry into verse structures that appeared in the 18th century and developed fully in the 19th and 20th c. was also an important part of the project. Some poetic forms distinctive of Russian modernism which originated in the 18th c. were also a significant object of investigation.

Methodology: At the basis of the method lies the developing theory of comparative and historical poetics which combines traditional literary studies with form-oriented analytic approaches, including exact methods. Particular attention has been accorded to the study of various levels of the structure of text and language. This method encompasses some aspects of the study of historical semantics and contemporary methods of corpus and cognitive linguistics.

Empirical base of research: The empirical basis of the project comprises a specially designed electronic corpus of Russian and foreign-language texts of the 18th c.; corpus data of other European languages and lexica was also put to use. Archival and library sources that pertain to this period were also used.

Results of research: The purpose of the research was first and foremost to reveal Western European sources of the emergence and development of the Russian letters of the 18th c. The results obtained in our project make it possible to state that foreign influence on the process of creation of Russian syllabo-tonic verse was much more significant than it was previously believed. This influence is evident not only in +formal feature of stanzaic architecture and metrics but also in the semantics, verse rhythm and in poetics more broadly. It left an imprint on the development of the main genres of Russian literature, as well as on new conceptual formations which had an important reception in the later periods of Russian history.

Most significant results include the discovery of the dependence of the verse of early Lomonosov (and, in part, of Sumarokov) on foreign sources, particularly on the so-called continental (German) model of syllabo-tonic versification.

Another notable result is the analysis of the genesis of the concept of motifin Russian literature and literary scholarship. The study of the tradition of the elevated ode, which defined the panegyrical poetics of Lomonosov, became an important intellectual context in which Western literary scholarship assimilated the analysis of motifs. Our research has also revealed the processes of crystallization of several important Russian ethical concepts that derive from cultural practices of the 18th century.

A detailed examination of the poetics of Sumarokov and some other authors made it possible to conclude that poetics represents a mediating normative discourse that was central to post-Petrine culture and shaped the new ideologies of the Russian state.

New knowledge has been obtained pertaining to the emergence and development of the verse structures of Russian iamb of the 18th and early 19th centuries. New tokens of influence of the German poet Johann Christian Günther on Lomonosov came to light, as seen, first and foremost, in the character and prosody of the early works of the Russian poet. This data puts into doubt Viktor Zhirmunsky’s hypothesis of the independence of the rhythm of early Russian iambs from foreign sources.

Level of implementation, recommendations on implementation or outcomes of the implementation of the results. The results of this research are actively put to use by the academic staff of the Department of Comparative Literature and Linguistics at the Higher School of Economics at St. Petersburg in the teaching of undergraduate research seminars, including the seminars on verse study, poetics, and linguistics. These results will also be used in preparing the lecture course on the theory and history of verse, as well as in various seminars and lecture courses linked to the study and teaching of poetics, stylistics and history of culture. Results of this research were published in articles and monograph chapters (see also Project Publications below).

The electronic corpus of texts as well as a special corpus designed for the analysis of the iambic verse of A. P. Sumarokov can be employed by other researchers with the purpose of solving various problems relevant to the study of Russian verse. B.A. students in philology took part in the research project, which allowed him to acquire useful research skills of working with texts written in different languages. 

Publications:


Rodin (Maslov) B. Introducing Historical Poetics: History, Experience, Form, in: Persistent Forms: Explorations in Historical Poetics / Ed. by I. Kliger, B. Rodin (Maslov). NY : Fordham University Press, 2016. P. 1-36.
Kalugin D. A Society that Speaks Concordantly’, or Mechanisms of Communication of Government and Society in Old and New Russia, in: Matters of (Dis)order': Public Debate in Russia. Edinburgh : Edinburgh University Press, 2016. P. 52-85.
Kazartsev (Evgenii Kazartcev) E. Quantitative und vergleichende Versforschung – Ausweg aus der Krise? // Jahrbuch für Internationale Germanistik. 2016. No. 1. P. 53-72. doi
Nikitina Т., Rodin (Maslov) B. Rhyme in European Verse: A Case for Quantitative Historical Poetics // Submitted. 2017
Ospovat K. Allegories of Terror: Tragedy of Origins and the Origins of Tragedy in Eighteenth-Century Russia, in: Politics and Aesthetics in European Baroque Tragedy. Leiden : Brill, 2016.