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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Vital Signs: Rhythm, Image, and Voice in Russian Modernist Poetry and Theory 1905-1924

  • Author(s): Palmer, Isobel M. J.
  • Advisor(s): Ram, Harsha
  • Golburt, Lyubov
  • et al.
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This dissertation focuses new critical attention on Russian modernism’s engagement with poetic form. Placing close-readings of poetic and theoretical texts in the context of rapid urbanization, the emergence of new technologies, and socialist revolution, it argues that it is precisely where modernist poets (Alexander Blok, Boris Pasternak, and Vladimir Mayakovsky) and formalist theorists (Boris Eikhenbaum, Viktor Shklovsky, and Yury Tynianov) are most interested in the nature and functioning of poetic language that they respond most urgently to the dramatic changes occurring in early-twentieth-century Russian society and public discourse. Contrary to common approaches to Russian modernism that view it primarily in terms of competing poetic schools and distinct periods, the three chapters of this dissertation aim to think across the theory/practice divide, highlighting the common impulses behind the diverse output of its central figures in order to arrive at a definition of modernism not through periodization or literary school but instead as a certain way of thinking about and through poetic form and its relation to society. Bringing Russian modernism into dialogue with contemporary Western theories of the lyric, old/new media, and the urban environment, the dissertation asks what the poetic and theoretical output of this period has to tell us about the functioning of poetry and its role in the world today.

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This item is under embargo until November 6, 2020.