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Russian literature at the crossroads of cultures

Priority areas of development: humanitarian
2019
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

Goal of research

The project is a comprehensive study of textual interactions between Russian literature and world literature at a variety of points in time, aimed at considering dynamic changes in historical and cultural conditions. Its central objective was to account for historical, cultural, and linguistic variables that determine the transfer of literary forms and ideas. In particular, emphasis was placed on literary texts scrutinized with corpus research methods, genesis and evolution of basic poetic form, drivers of creativity, appropriation of foreign literary practices, reception of Christian and Western philosophies, comparative history of concepts, international influence of Russian literature  and its role in global letters, as well as contemporary directions in the poetics of text.

Methodology

The research project is based on the theoretical developments in comparative and historical poetics, which combines traditional methodologies in literary criticism with highly formalized and precise methods of analysis. Special attention was paid to the study of various structural levels of text and language. The work employed the techniques to reveal the semantics of textual units, which were also subject to typological analysis. Methods in source and bibliographic studies, corpus linguistics, and postclassical narratologies were applied alongside those that are aimed at discovering direct consequences of historical events, as well as cultural and philosophical trends, upon the literature and arts. The project also engaged with modeling creative work by textual parameters and analysis of corpus data in multiple languages in order to determine both common and distinctive features of national literatures that exist within different traditions and interact with one another. The project deals with a wide spectrum of conditions that provide cultural dialogue—numerous blends and overlaps in the literary field. Certain aspects of religious worldviews and European philosophy of the 20th century were also subject to the project’s analytic scrutiny.

Empirical base of research

A broad set of Russian as well as international literary artefacts, in different languages, provided the empirical foundation of the research. The data from leading linguistic corpora and dictionaries of multiple European languages supplied extra resources under the project, which also relied on libraries and archives as well as sources and media in the public domain. The major object of research was constituted by the structure of literary texts themselves, their poetics, prosody, semantics, and phonics.

The project’s framework included a fundamental comprehensive study of interliterary and intercultural rapports in Russian, German, Dutch, Ukranian, Belorusian, and American literature. Developing new methods of prosodic analysis of verse in various languages, the research group members have applied current methods of phonetic description of verse structures through recent computer technologies and software evolved from the seminal experiments by V. S. Baevsky’s group. Computer modeling of verse prosody employed in the project have genealogic ties with those pioneered by A. N. Kolmogorov and his pupils such as M. A. Krasnoperova. Insights from psychoacoustics and music theory were found relevant for the study of polyphonic prose narrative.

Results of research

Overall, the work under the project results in an innovative research apparatus that enables one to analyze literary texts with methods from Digital Humanities backed with the profound awareness of contemporary trends in cultural studies, poetics, and quantitative linguistics. The project has encompassed research into the cognitive structures of text, study of key concepts in Russian culture as reflected in fiction and poetry, as well as samples of biographical discourse and historical documents. The revised methods of A. N. Veselovsky’s poetics prove to be applicable to a broad selection of Russian prose. Evolution of versification techniques is found to be traceable in poets’ prose writings. Philosophical and religious motifs in the work of 20th-century Russian and Soviet authors were regarded as belonging to ideologically distinct strands of Russian culture.

The results of the work under the project are presented in a number of Russian and international articles (see Publications). They are used by the Philology departments at HSE University’s Schoold of Arts and Humanities in St. Petersburg and Moscow in taught courses in verse theory, poetics, history of ideas, comparative literature. Research insights from the project also feature in new academic curricula developed for the educational programmes soon to be launched. Elements of project results are also imcorporated into basic courses in Russian and world literature.

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

The accumulated data, along with the entire set of newly studied texts, can be made use of by external experts in solving problems of Russian literature’s international interactions and links. Among project participants, there are 2nd-year Philology students from St. Petersburg and 1st-year students Philology and Linguistics majors from the Moscow campus. For them, the project is a source of practical skills in research and direct exposure to texts in several languages. The bulk of the project’s outcomes are related to the realms of theoretical and applied poetics blended with history of ideas. The area of their further use embraces extensive research options in the study of literature, language, and culture, including explorations in semiotics and modeling of creative process.

Publications:


Азаренков А. А. "Бессознательная работа гармонии": звук в поэзии Ольги Седаковой // В кн.: Авраамиевская седмица: материалы III международной научной конференции (г. Смоленск, 11–13 сентября 2018 года) Вып. 3. Смоленск : Свиток, 2019. С. 200-213.
Kazartsev (Evgenii Kazartcev) E. Probability and Cognitive Models of Verse Meter // Quantitative Approaches to Versification. Prague: Czech Academy of Sciences. 2019. P. 105-112.