28C: December 28, 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Slot:       28C-1       Dec. 28, 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.                                                    

Panel:     Poet, Poetry and Poetics in the 19th Century

Chair:     Kerry Sabbag, University of Kansas


Title:       Muse or Anti-muse? The Concept of the Creative Act in the Poetry of Karolina Pavlova

Author:   Olena Chervonik-Bearden, University of Kansas

The shift from understanding creativity as skillful mastery of generic conventions to a state of being divinely inspired was a hallmark of Romanticism in European literature. Accordingly, poetry on metapoetic subjects such as the nature of inspiration, the essence of the poet, the nature of the creative act was well represented in the works of the Romantic poets. Because in the 19th century writing was viewed as a male occupation that was inappropriate or shameful for women, the concepts underlying the creative act were drawn from male-oriented discourse. Thus, the poet was most often conceptualized as a prophet or a priest, the muse as a submissive female Other, and the creative act as symbolic sexual intercourse. For obvious reasons such a perception of the creative act was ill-suited for any female poet who ventured to raise her voice in the male-oriented world of Romantic poetry.

This paper analyzes those poems of Karolina Pavlova that describe the creative process.  Building on the research of scholars such as Mary DeShazer and Diana Greene, I will demonstrate the ways in which Pavlova reconceptualized the male-oriented understanding of the creative act.  In doing so, I will place Pavlova’s works in the broader context of the woman poet’s conception of poetry and the poet, drawing parallels between her writing and that of Dickinson and Bronte.

All three poets reversed the traditional male poet-female muse trope, but found that the male muse overpowered the woman poet, denying her the authority of the creator.  The male muse emerges as an “anti-muse”: not inspiring but questioning the creative power of the woman poet. My study of the concept of creative inspiration in women’s poetry, with particular emphasis on Karolina Pavlova, addresses the various ways in which a woman poet could reinterpret the poet-muse relationship.


Title:       “Death of the Citizen” and Iambic Pentameter in Nekrasov’s Poetry

Author:   Viktoriya Kononova, University of Wisconsin-Madison

In his article on Brodsky, G. Levinton discusses a specific cycle “death of the poet,” which can be found in Russian poetry as a whole. Levinton defines the characteristic features of these poems and gives examples from Lermontov, Pushkin, and the 20th century. Interestingly, it seems that in the 19th century after Lermontov there is a gap in the succession of this type of poems. There can be several reasons for this, and this paper will concentrate on one of these, namely, that the epoch had other heroes to commemorate – that is, using Nekrasov's opposition, citizens. This paper will argue that there is a whole cycle “death of the citizen” that can be singled out in Russian poetry of the second half of the 19th century, the appearance of which was historically determined. It was forbidden to mention the names of some of these people, and thus the poems served as “obituaries.”

Nekrasov contributed most to the appearance of the cycle, writing poems about the deaths of Belinsky, Dobroljubov, Pisarev, “civic death” of Chernyshevsky, etc. It is noteworthy that some of these poems seem to form a separate “ensemble,” having specific intertextuality, tonality, time of creation, and, which is most important, meter – iambic pentameter. The paper will address this issue in relation to Mikhail Gasparov’s theory of “semanticheskii oreol.” According to Gasparov, meters acquire certain thematic and suggestive “auras” in the course of their historical existence. Thus, this paper will discuss the origins of the usage of iambic pentameter for the meaning in question and the connection of Nekrasov’s ensemble to similar poems of some of his precursors, contemporaries and followers (Benediktov, Palmin etc.).

Finally, the paper will consider the place of this "ensemble" among the other Nekrasov's poems written in iambic pentameter, especially its connection to those about the "weak, struggling and penitent author/poetic persona." The paper will show how the poem "Poet (Pamjati Shillera)" enabled Nekrasov to symbolically include himself to the circle of heroes whose mythology and canon he had already created.


Title:       Writing the Plastic Arts: Ekphrasis in the Poetry of A. A. Fet

Author:   Molly Thomasy, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Ekphrasis, defined by James Heffernan as “a verbal representation of a visual representation” occurs when a writer uses language to describe or incorporate a plastic work of art—a painting or sculpture, for example—into his or her text.  Scholarship devoted to the poetry of Afanasii Fet (Bukhstab, Gustafson, Klenin) identifies visual orientation as a key element in the aesthetic system of this poet.  However, very little has been written specifically on ekphrasis in Fet’s oeuvre. In her monograph Crossroad of Arts, Crossroad of Culture, Maria Rubins surveys the importance of ekphrasis in pre-Acmeist Russian literature, making brief mention of Fet and his poem dedicated to the Venus De Milo.  However, as this paper will demonstrate, Fet’s treatment of painting and sculpture in the more than ten works of ekphrasis he produced—inspired by such works as Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, Briullov’s “Diana, Endymion and Satyr,” and Vitali’s bust of Pushkin—is quite varied and complex.   

The present study traces the development of Fet’s ekphrastic poetry, examining the manner in which the poet renders several works of painting, sculpture and photography in poetic form.  In particular, I will consider the spatial and temporal poetics of these works, as well as the orientation of the lyrical speaker to the figures or events depicted in the original work of art.  The aim of this study is to gain a fuller understanding of Fet’s aesthetic approach to the plastic arts, but also to demonstrate subtle changes in the poet’s aesthetic philosophy.  Referencing Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s seminal work of art criticism, Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry (1766), I will argue that over time, Fet developed a perspicacious awareness of the limitations of poetic expression compared to the expressive powers of the fine arts.