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Л. Г. Панова. Русский Египет. Александрийская поэтика Михаила Кузмина. Препринт

Аннотация на английском языке

The monograph “Russian Egypt. Mikhail Kuzmin’s Alexandrian Poetics” is the first book-length study of egyptomania in Russian literature. It consists of two parts and five appendices.

Part One, “Russian Egypt and its origins”, traces the stages passed by European literature and — in its footsteps — Russian literature in search of authentic Egypt. These stages were determined either by egyptological breakthroughs or by such fashions in egyptomania as freemasonry, occultism etc.

The Egyptian theme developed in Russian literature continuously from the end of the 18th century through 1920s, comprising some 260 texts written by about seventy authors. It reached its peak in refined, culturally and esoterically oriented Silver Age and was forced out by the onset of Soviet ideology after 1917. During those 150 years the Russian Egypt created its own palette: local color; special vocabulary; plots borrowed from the Bible, Greek and Latin writers, Ancient Egyptian history and early Christianity (Moses and Josef; Ramses II and Akhenaton; Cleopatra; Saint Anthony) as well as plots reflecting various aspects of egyptomania (ancient Egyptian sphinxes and obelisks brought to modern cities; mummies; archeologists in pursuit of antiquities; spiritualist seances); ancient Egyptian background; ancient Egyptian literature (used in fiction for ornamental purposes); fragmented structure, imitating badly preserved papyri; and free verse as an analog of unknown ancient Egyptian versification.

Special stress in this part is put on Silver Age poetry as it worked out Egyptian topos. This topos adopted the best from the Parnassians (and other European schools), adding to it mystical and esoteric motifs and involving all that in life-as-art programs. Thus, the Parnassian way of depicting Egypt in an “objective” and egyptologically correct manner was replaced with an egocentric perspective where authorial “ego” tended to overshadow Egypt itself.

Part two, “Mikhail Kuzmin’s Alexandrian Poetics”, is devoted to a close reading of works by Mikhail Kuzmin (1872–1936), a major Silver Age figure, still underinvestigated. It opens with an annotation to Kuzmin’s early masterpiece “Alexandrian Songs” (1904–1908). They were written as songs (Kuzmin at the time pursued an artistic career of composer and librettist) and performed with piano accompaniment, which largely accounted for their immediate success. They were also remarkable for the way they appointedly avoided the stereotypes of the Egyptian topos. Moreover, by ingeniously blending historical settings with emotional investment, ancient wisdom with homosexual (as well as heterosexual) love, hedonistic motifs with those of Kuzmin’s personal drama (sudden death of his beloved, an officer, after their voyage to Egypt and Kuzmin’s suicidal moods caused by the inner conflict between his Christianity and homosexuality), “Alexandrian Songs” created an original literary perception of Egypt. Their success encouraged Kuzmin to embark on a new artistic career, that of a writer.

Kuzmin kept resorting to Alexandrian poetics, as his style changed from “beautifully clear” to obscure and parabolic and when he sought spiritual resurrection. Thus, in his later poetry many of the same “Alexandrian” plots, scenes and metaphors appeared rewritten in different modes (in poems about Alexander the Great, Sophia, Gnostics, the poet’s own voyage to Egypt etc.).

The analysis of Kuzmin’s “Alexandrian” poetry bearing on its semantics, structure and intertextuality takes into account his prose, dramas and operas. New interpretations of more that fifty representative texts prove that there is no rupture between Kuzmin’s early “clarity” (which can be regarded as primal chaos put in order) and later “obscurity” (which sometimes only looks like chaos, but turns out to be a puzzle with a key).

Appendix I is an anthology of Russian “Egyptian poems” numbering 200. They are discussed in detail in Part One, Chapter II, and are sporadically mentioned in Part Two.

Appendix II is a collection of Russian poems on the topos of “Sophia… Eternal Feminine… Beautiful Lady”. They are prefaced with an essay on the way Russian Symbolists modified European models by converting Sophia into a religion of sorts, codifying the language and plots used and obscuring the meaning of their texts for profane readers. This Appendix serves as a point of reference for Kuzmin’s poetic cycle “Sophia”, which breaks many Symbolists’ taboos and offers a more refined, Gnostic, version of the myth.

Appendix III collects Russian poems about the Star of love /Venus/ Aphrodite serving as an intertextual background for Kuzmin’s poem “The Star of Aphrodite”.

Appendix IV contains Kuzmin’s own original music for “Alexandrian Songs”.

Appendix V is a metrical comment to the cycle “Sophia” written by academician M. L. Gasparov.

The monograph targets wide readership, from scholars with a professional interest in egyptomania, Russian philology and Russian appropriation of European models to layman lovers of Russian literature.

Дата публикации на Ruthenia — 12.09.06
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