Repetition, Temporality, and Pushkin's "chudnoe mgnoven'e"

Aaron Beaver, University of Chicago

Working against the standard interpretation, this paper analyses the temporality at stake in Pushkin's famous lyric poem "Ja pomnju chudnoe mgnoven'e...". The poem is usually read positively, as a recapture of vitality and return to inspiration in accord with Romanticism. By contrast, this paper posits a negative resolution centered in the temporality of loss. Such a reading requires, first of all, a clear framework for viewing the relationship between moments perceived on a quantitative horizon of historical time and the Romantic experience of a qualitative eternity within the moment. I argue that Pushkin's "wondrous moment" undermines the eternalizing impulse and settles instead into an ironic, though still Romantic, temporality.

Foregrounding the poem's temporality rather than (as Tomashevskij or Greenleaf) its metapoetic possibilities, this negative reading is argued for in two stages. First, an argument is made for an "irony of temporality" which accords with both Romanticism and Pushkin's lyric practice. Second, if the positive (standard) reading is to be rejected in favor of a negative one, it must also be shown why a final interpretive end-state must be reached at all. I will suggest that an argument for the negative reading in terms of the irony of temporality is also an argument against an undecidable analysis, one caught permanently in vacillation between the positive and negative poles of the poem, between recuperation and loss (what might be termed a deconstructive reading).

It is hoped that this negative reading is fruitful in its own terms but also that the outlined irony of temporality (as distinct from de Man's temporality of irony) might prove a useful tool in closely analyzing the lyric moment in general, particularly as it struggles for or against its Romantic inheritance.

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