Category: Project workshops

Questions of canonicity spark lively debate


The first in a series of three collaborative workshops took place at the beginning of December 2011. The aim of the workshops is to bring together specialists in twentieth-century Russian culture to discuss the process of canon formation. The purpose of the first workshop was to introduce areas of study and raise questions about the way in which canon formation takes place, particularly in the post-Soviet context.

Katharine Hodgson opened proceedings with a discussion of the poet Boris Slutskii, an ‘approved’ Soviet poet and Communist Party member. The question of émigré poetry and its place in the post-Soviet canon was posed by Maria Rubins, and led to an interesting debate on whether poetry written by poets in emigration should be considered part of the wider Russian canon. The ways in which Vladimir Maiakovskii’s poetry is taught in school was the subject of Natalia Karakulina’s paper.

Osip Mandel’shtam’s late poetry formed the basis of Andrew Kahn’s contribution, while the polar opposites, Aleksandr Kushner and Viktor Sosnora were the starting point for Emily Lygo’s consideration of the post-Soviet canon. Robin Aizlewood offered a different method for exploring the process of canon formation, using metrics and the work of Mikhail Gasparov.

The second day of the workshop began with Stephanie Sandler’s consideration of contemporary poetry’s paradoxical work of canon formation, which looked at the impulse to have canon formation versus resistance to such a process. Alexandra Harrington discussed Anna Akhmatova as a canonical author responsible for the creation of her own biography. Joseph Brodsky’s transition from the margins to the mainstream was considered by Aaron Hodgson, who suggested using obituaries to chart this change.

Josephine von Zitzewitz and Alexandra Smith each looked at three poets: Viktor Krivulin, Aleksandr Mironov, and Elena Shvarts were evaluated by Josephine, while Alexandra discussed Maria Tsvetaeva, Vladimir Nabokov, and Vladislav Khodasevich. The workshop was concluded by Joanne Shelton’s paper on Ivan Bunin.

Each of these papers will be developed further for the second workshop in June 2012.

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