Blok vs. Symbolism: Toward a Topography of Citation (1907–1909)

Stuart Goldberg, University of Wisconsin, Madison

A great deal has been written on the topic of Aleksandr Blok and twentieth-century Russian poetry. While this scholarship is certainly not limited to the examination of intertextual ties with Blok’s poetry, intertext has been a primary tool of exploration, particularly over the past twenty years. In my own work, while not abandoning intertext as a modus operandi, I strive to broaden the grounds upon which we may look at how later poets and contemporaries “communicate” with Blok and his legacy (as, for instance, M. L. Gasparov has done more broadly with his study of meter). One particularly problematic and fruitful area in which I attempt to accomplish this is on the level of the complex interaction of topoi and narrative structures which characterize Blok’s poetry. Given the travel of symbols and topoi within Russian Symbolism and the abundance of available models in European Symbolism and world literature generally, we cannot be too careful or reticent in our attributions. This said, Blok’s poetry, like that of any truly major poet, clearly represented a vivid and recognizable entity for his contemporaries, an entity which extended and extends beyond the precise boundaries of “what Blok wrote.” This recognizability is particularly well attested by parodies directed at Blok.

As I examine the boundaries of “Blok” within the greater movement, I broach such questions as: Within Symbolism, and especially “mythopoetic” Symbolism (keeping in mind the concept of a potentially common “goal,” a common realiora), what did it mean to share images/topoi/narrative structures? On what scale? What are the bounds of taste and acceptability? How does this change when we apply such concepts as tribute or parody? Importantly, I derive what answers I can to these questions from Symbolist praxis rather than theory, primarily examining three texts which highlight important aspects of the problem, Sergej Gorodeckij’s “Nevesta,” Petr Potemkin’s “Parikmaxerskaja kukla” and Valerij Brjusov’s cycle, “Obrečennyj”.