• A
  • A
  • A
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
Regular version of the site

­­­Literary Canon in Cross-Cultural Perspective

Priority areas of development: humanitarian
2017
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

Goal of research:

The goal of the research was to study the mechanisms of the formation and translation of the literary canon –  the modern phenomenon of the existence of literature inside the society, which provides the transfer of cultural memory and the reproduction of social norms and symbolic forms. Two interrelated tasks were to explain the institutional context of the formation of the Russian literary canon in imperial Russia (mid-19th century – 1917) and to describe cultural and literary mnemonics as a set of mechanisms that facilitate the transfer and productive mastering of poetic clichés and topoi through poetic texts over a long period of time and especially at moments of a cultural rift (1917-1940s).

Methodology:

The methodology of the research is based on Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of the literary field, John Guillory’s theory of literary canon, Bruno Latour’s actor-network theory, and cognitive poetics in the interpretation of Mikhail Gronas.

Empirical base of research:

The material for the study included the texts of Russian and French critics, translators, poets; school literature programs, textbooks, manuals of the 1850-1910s, historical documents of various organizations and departments (including archival ones), a database of the list of reading of Russian gymnasium students of the 19th and early 20th centuries (includes 1300 entries; was compiled by A. Vdovin and students-volunteer from School of philology).

Results of research:

The result of the study consists in an explanation of the institutional mechanisms of the formation of Russian literary canon in the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. The project participants for the first time described in detail the qualitative content of poetry and prose in the Russian gymnasium of the late 19th century, as well as the evolution of the principles of school interpretation of these texts. Based on the reading of pupils and school set texts, the research explained that the canon of the Russian novel of the 19th century shaped and evolved problematically in a pre-revolutionary school. The role of literary criticism as another important institution was described on the basis of formation of the reputation of the fabulist I.A. Krylov. On the basis of the history of Soviet literature, it was possible to study for the first time how the canon of European “left” literature developed in the USSR, and how Soviet translators constructed Kazakh literary canon almost “in manual mode”. The most significant result of the project was obtained thanks to the productive application of the actor-network theory of Bruno Latour to the study of the circulation of texts in the transitional period of the 1910-1930s, when the established social and literary institutions changed seriously, and the Soviet ones took their place. Based on the A. Kruchenykh’s famous abstruse poem Dyr bul shchyl, it was demonstrated how this desemantizated text was filled with meanings, and acquired more and more symbolic capital through a distribution, and informal institutions.

The application of methods of cognitive poetics made it possible to describe the mechanism of meaning creation in the “dark” verses of Mandelstam in the 1930s, in which references to folklore and folk-lore literary texts of the 19th century can be traced. An analysis of one of the most canonical poems by V. Khodasevich “Elegy” demonstrated how, in one and the same way, it inherits and transforms the poetic canon of the previous century.

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

The results of the project can be used to further study of Russian literary canon, as well as the canon of any other literature (especially the canons of literatures of the former Soviet republics). Based on the methodology, a special history of the formation and evolution of the literary canon in Russia, its institutional nature, social function, and cultural significance can be written. In addition, the results can be used for designing the courses and are already being used by project participants in teaching courses “Theory and History of Translation in Russia and the USSR”, and in the framework of research seminar “Russian Literary Canon”, and others.

Publications:


Vdovin A., Лейбов Р. What and How Russian Students Read in Schools, 1840–1917, in: Reading Russia: A History of Reading in Modern Russia Vol. 2. Milan : Ledizioni Ledi Publishing, 2020. P. 259-316.
Ostrovskaya E., Zemskova E. From International Literature to World Literature: English translators in 1930s Moscow // Translation and Interpreting Studies. 2019. Vol. 14. No. 3. P. 351-371. doi
Линкова Я. С. Малларме Стефан // В кн.: Европейская поэтика. XIX век. Энциклопедический путеводитель. М. : Intrada, [б.г.].
Мопассан Г. д. Пышка: новеллы / Сост.: Я. С. Линкова. М. : Время, 2017.
Lyamina E. Ivan Krylov as a Reader and Krylov's Readers / NRU Higher School of Economics. Series WP BRP "Literary Studies". 2017. No. 25.