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Tradition and Innovation in Russian Church Slavonic Hymnography


The focus of this dissertation is the highly specialized and stylized liturgical language of Russian Church Slavonic (RCS). Historically, RCS has been strictly controlled by authorities and has conformed to established norms, but innovations have nevertheless arisen in response to various conditions. One major wave of innovations was a long, deliberate process, spanning the 16th-18th centuries, which led to the codification of RCS grammar and the renovation of liturgical texts. Another wave of innovations in RCS was incidental and took place following a sudden upheaval, namely the Bolshevik Revolution and the subsequent repression of religion in the Soviet Union. A diaspora situation was created in which hymnographers were cut off from traditional institutional structures, and the ultimate result was freedom for the hymnographer to innovate. The hymns of Valeria Hoecke, an autodidact who composed in Serbia and East Germany, show what can happen in diaspora. This work discusses both phases: the reforms of the 16th-18th centuries as seen in canonical hymns used now, and the example of hymns written in the diaspora, as seen in the work of this one writer.

Two aspects of hymnography are analyzed: use of person and perspective, and use of verbs and participles to comprise the global hymn structure. Two major sets of texts are analyzed. The first includes various texts that were edited in the 16th-18th centuries, at the time of reforms in the past tense system. Among other things, these reforms resulted in the codification of a rule for the use of past tense forms, according to which only the perfect form is used with the 2nd-person singular subject. Reformed texts discussed here include the Great Canon of Andrew of Crete and the Menaion. The Great Canon is a text in which a repentant sinner engages his own soul in dialogue. The nature of the identities of the speaker and the addressee are analyzed, as well as that of other persons mentioned in this text. The Menaion is a collection of hymns addressed to saints for each day of the liturgical year. It too is analyzed in terms of person and viewpoint. Here, however, the bulk of the discussion of the Menaion relates to the operation of verbs and participles within the reformed past tense system. The second set of texts includes twenty-seven liturgical pieces composed by the 20th century hymnographer Valeria Hoecke; these are compared and contrasted with the older texts. In addition, Hoecke's biography is presented, including new information gained from archival work in Belgrade.

This work finds a correlation among tense, person, and genre in RCS. RCS narrative is either exocentric or endocentric, and primarily features the first and third persons. The realm of the second person is in the genre of discourse. In RCS, discourse is the genre of possibilities and options, whereas narrative is the genre of constativity, specificity, and the pinning down of events within time. It is argued here that the discourse-specific niche for the second person may have led to the formal (reformed), past tense based differentiation in the context of the RCS liturgical language.

The 16th-18th century language reforms stipulated, among other things, an automatic correlation of past tense verbal form and grammatical person. This work finds that there is also a difference in temporal semantics between events expressed by 2nd- and non-2nd person verb forms. Second-person events (those that are addressed to saints and that describe a saint's actions) tend to be related causally, and conjunct participles play a key role in causal sequencing. Non-second-person events, however, behave differently: some pair with sequencing conjunct participles, whereas others do not. It is argued that the past tense reforms actually led to the evolution of a semantic distinction among the possible depictions of the events a certain subject can engage in.

Many of the 20th century hymns by Valeria Hoecke are canonical both in terms of person and viewpoint structure, and in verb and participle use. This shows that she understands how earlier hymns are constructed and that she continues this tradition. But her work also shows marked innovations from the tradition in that the focus is on the speaker as a self-conscious individual. The reader becomes a speaker, a participant in the text, when he maps Hoecke's textual "I" onto himself. Innovations in Hoecke's hymns also include her use of long strings of attributive participles, long strings of dative participles in dative absolute constructions, and strings of conjunct participles unmatched with corresponding finite verbs. Hoecke's frequent use of the present tense to express doxology, description, liturgical time, rhetoricality and modality represents a marked innovation from the earlier tradition.

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