"Barren" shevyrev and "Fertile" Pushkin ?

Tatiana Smorodinskaya, Middlebury College

This paper will investigate the question of the poet's place in literary history. How does the poet define his poetic heritage? Can the process of literary "labeling" by contemporary critics affect his creative work and originality? How does the "assignment" of a poet to this or that trend, group or tradition help to shape the perceptions of future readers?

I propose to discuss these issues as they pertain to the case of Konstantin Sluchevskij, one of Russia's most original and misrepresented poets.

Contemporary critics likened Sluchevskij to Lermontov, Tjutchev and Fet, based on his themes, rhythmical structure, and psychological intensity. Soviet critics preferred to establish parallels with Nekrasov's democratic, "folk-imitating style." At the end of the 20th century Pushkin became the chief point of reference. I will argue that Sluchevskij was not merely an oddity among the poets of his time, who fit uneasily into contemporary poetic trends. He cannot properly be called a follower of any of the poets usually identified as his sources and influences. I propose instead to trace Sluchevskij's heritage back to Derzhavin, via the experiments of the "ljubo-mudry," and in particular to shevyrev, another unrecognized poet who was stigmatized as "an anti-Pushkin" verse theoretician. This heritage can be traced forward, in turn, to the futurists. The paper will argue that Sluchevskij was therefore an important "missing link" in the development of Russian poetry.

My argument will be supported by ideas and theories proposed in the work of Tynjanov, Bal'mont, Ètkind, Kozhinov and Ginsburg, and illustrated by examples from the poetry of Sluchevskij, Tiutchev, shevyrev and other ljubo-mudry, such as Glinka, Venevitinov and Xomjakov.