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The Reemergence of Medieval Word-Weaving in Sasha Sokolov's Shkola Dlia Durakov: Invoking the Word

McDowell, Karen Rice
Thesis/Dissertation; Online
McDowell, Karen Rice
Connolly, Julian
Ryan-Hayes, Karen
Elson, Mark
Sablinsky, Walter
The present dissertation asserts that certain works of Joseph Brodsky, Andrei Bitov and Sasha Sokolov constitute a distinct aesthetic movement in Russian literature of the sixties and seventies, which, given the insidious effect of the grossly reductive and spurious policy of Socialist Realism, revitalized the Russian language 'and restored Russian literature to its position as a center of aesthetic and moral power. Brodsky's work, in particular his poems, Ostanovka v pustyne (1966) and Babochka (1972), became the credo for this intensely spiritual activity, while Bitov's early povest’, Zhizn' v vetrenuiu pogodu (1963), reintroduced traditional themes and motifs to Russian literature in a wholly apolitical context. The apogee of this movement is Sasha Sokolov's first novel Shkola dlia durakov (1976). Written in the highly ornamental style of pletenie sloves, of which the best example in Russian literature is Epifanii Premudryi's The Life of St. Stefan of Perm’ (c. 1392), Shkola dlia durakov presents three contemporary Russian saints: Nymphea, Pavl/Savl Norvegov and the Nasylaiushchii veter. By virtue of Sokolov's creative use of language and style, these holy figures, powerful cultural icons, extol the virtue of integrity and the spirit of imagination and thereby, redeem and replenish Russian culture. Chapter One provides interesting historical parallels between the cultural milieu in Russia at the time Epifanii Premudryl wrote The Life of St. Stefan and the cultural milieu in Soviet Russia, particularly after the Twentieth Party Congress in 1956, which support my thesis. Chapter Two details Brodsky's "neo-Acmeism" and Bitov's subtle use of intertextual reference, which form a significant part of their contributions to this uniquely apolitical movement. Chapter Three explores the origins and development of the style of pletenie sloves and demonstrates its reemergence in Shkola dlia durakov, where it creates the saintly figures of Norvegov and the Nasylaiushchii veter. Chapter Four introduces Nymphea, the adolescent schizophrenic narrator of the text, and several female figures and explains their significance in this modern hagiography. Chapter Five concludes this interpretation and discusses the implications for Russian literature and culture.
University of Virginia, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, PHD (Doctor of Philosophy), 1996
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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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