The Grotesque in the Literary and Visual Output of the Russian Satirical Weekly Journal Satirikon

Oleg A. Minin, University of Southern California

The relationship between the visual and the literary will be addressed by way of examining the synthesis of the satirical element, visual art and the written word in the Petersburg satirical weekly journal Satirikon (1908-1913). The satirical effectiveness of the journal’s visual and literary components was attained, it will be argued, through the use of the grotesque. In the context of Satirikon’s visual dimension, the use of the grotesque is seen in and exemplified by the satirical graphic works of the journal’s artists. Specifically, the grotesque is manifest in topical caricatures as well as the friendly caricature drawings (družeskie šarži) of Satirikon’s principal artist RE-MI (Nikolaj Remizov). Remizov’s work will, therefore, be at the centre of the present inquiry.

Short stories by the journal’s editor-in-chief Arkadij Averčenko will be looked at as paradigms of the literary embodiment of the grotesque in the service of satire. As it will be argued, Averčenko’s stories were as effective satirically as were Remizov’s caricatures. This was largely due to the satirist’s use of the literary grotesque. Examination of the visual grotesque in Remizov’s caricatures and of the literary grotesque in Averčenko’s satires will be undertaken on the basis of the theories of grotesque, satire, caricature and physiognomy, which were elaborated on in the writings of Johann Casper Lavater, Thomas Wright, H. Shneegans, Mixail Baxtin, Northrop Frye, W. Kayser and A. Radakov. The application of these theories in the analysis of Remizov’s and Averčenko’s works published in Satirikon will result in an inquiry not only into the nature of the grotesque, but more importantly into its function in the journal’s satirical literary and visual dimensions.


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