Blok's Living Rampa

Stuart Goldberg, Davidson College

Aleksandr Blok was unique among Russian Symbolist poets in his intimate knowledge of and feel for the stage. In this paper, I explore how Blok's theatrical sense informs his "theatrical" poems. While the masquerade aesthetic evinced in the arch-Symbolist cycle, "Snezhnaja maska," is a fine correlate for the Symbolist conflation of spheres, collapsing actors and audience into a single dimension, Blok, after "Snezhnaja maska," reintroduces to his poetry that sense of boundary which is essential to theatrical play.

More specifically, my paper examines Blok's poetic transformations of the rampa (footlights), that "line of fire" which separates the world of the stage and art from the world of the audience (life). "Here these eternal enemies, who one day ought to become friends, tear from one another the most invaluable trophies" ("Pis'mo o teatre" [1918]). Blok's poems, particularly in the cycles "Faina" and "Karmen," are rich in embodiments, transformations, and displacements of this all-important boundary. In my paper, I will examine several poems from these two cycles, including "Ja byl smushchennyj i veselyj" (an Čtude of sorts on the rampa, which lays bare its semiotic structure), "Ja v dol'nij mir voshla, kak v lozhu," and "Serdityj vzor bescvetnyx glaz." Through comparative close reading of these poems, and, in particular, by allowing "Ja byl smushchennyj i veselyj" to shed new light on the latter two, we can come to a clearer understanding of the nature of this dividing line in Blok's art, and possibly also a renewed awareness of Blok's revision of the Symbolist aesthetic in his later poetry.