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Title: The literary ballad in early nineteenth-century Russian literature
Author: Katz, Michael R.
ISNI:       0000 0001 1677 1844
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1972
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There is remarkably little research on the history of the Russian literary ballad or on its principal practitioner, V.A. Zhukovsky. This thesis is an attempt to rectify the situation: it follows the development of the ballad genre in Russian literature from its emergence in the 179Os to its demise in the 1840s. It has been decided to concentrate on the style of the ballads as the most original feature of the Russian genre, and in particular on the epithets in Zhukovsky's ballads as his most important contribution to the development of Russian poetic style. Consequently there will be no discussion of metrics, and only occasional remarks on syntax. Chapter I treats the relationship of the Russian literary ballad to the traditional folk genre, to the "ballad revival" in late eighteenth-century European literature, and to late eighteenth- century "pre-romantic" developments in Russian literature. The traditional folk ballad is defined in terms of its narrative unit, method, and attitude, and in terms of its intangible "world" or "code". Attempts by Russian collectors and critics to characterise the popular genre are also considered. Two examples of Russian folk ballads are analysed in order to demonstrate the constant features of the genre. The literary ballad is defined in terms of these same features, and its aesthetic principles are shown to be completely antithetical to those of the traditional genre. The impetus for the emergence of the Russian literary ballad was provided not by a desire to imitate the traditional genre, but rather by the Western European ballad revival. The English revival is traced froa the change in attitudes towards the folk genre as expressed by Sidney and Addison, to Prior's early literary imitation, to Percy's collection of texts, and finally to the literary ballads of Scott and Southey. Other authors which had some influence on the Russian movement (Thompson, Young, Gray, Macpherson's Ossian) are considered briefly. The German revival is similarly surveyed: Bürger's Lenore, Herder's pronouncements on folklore, and the literary ballads of Goethe, Schiller, and Uhland. The chapter concludes with a section on Russian "pre- romanticism", including anthologies of Russian superstitions, traditions, and skazki. as well as collections and imitations of folk songs and related genres - all of which influenced the development of the ballad. Chapter II, after a brief bibliography of the Russian literary ballad, examines several ballads published anonymously during the 1790s, including two written by Anna Turchaninova , and then analyses the literary ballads of M.N. Murav'ev, N.N. Karamzin, A.F. Merzlyakov, and I.I. Dmitriev. This analysis is followed by some general conclusions on the ballads of the 179Os. The literary ballad developed as a genre independent of folk poetry; the earliest Russian ballads were translations of English and German sources or reworkings of common European motifs. Love is the most common subject of the ballads, and the emphasis centres on the conventionally depicted characters, in particular on the psychology of the heroine. The settings are generalised, and parallels are often drawn between nature and the psychology of the characters. Attempts at local colour are minimal and unsuccessful. The structure of the ballads is relatively simple; authors frequently intrude into the action to comment on its significance. The style of the ballads of the 179Os is characterized by emotionalism in the form of hyperbole, exclamatory and interrogative syntax, and the frequency and choice of epithets. While eighteenth-century vocabulary and syntax tend to be used for the narrative, both the setting and psychology of the characters are usually described in "pre-romantic" language. Both Karamzin's Alina (179Os) and Merzlyakov's Milon (1797) contain a striking contrast between idyll and ballad, between classical and "pre-romantic" styles. Chapter III begins with a bibliographical sketch of biographical and critical studies on Zhukovsky, and with a note on the various editions of his work. It then examines Zhukovsky's theoretical statements about the ballad and compares them with contemporary descriptions of the genre. Both in his own opinion and in the testimony of his contemporaries, Zhukovsky was virtually identified as a balladnik. His choice of the literary ballad is attributed to the genre's popularity in Western European literature, and to the novelty of its exotic world. Zhukovsky's views on translation as expressed in his articles and letters are summarized: the translator is a creator, inspired by what he considers to be the ideal of the source, and seeking to create an effect on the reader equivalent to that produced by the original. As an example of this theory put into practice, Zhukovsky's ballad Rybak (1818) is compared with its source, Goethe's Der Fischer (1778). The sources of Zhukovsky's forty literary ballads are then enumerated, after which eight representative ballads are examined with reference to their subject, characters, setting, theme, and style. Lyudmila (18O8) established the pattern for Zhukovsky's ballads and introduced Bürger's theme into Russian literature; Svetlana (18O8-12) was written as a parody of Lyudmila; in Adel'stan (1813) Southey's ballad was given an original conclusion and a setting which became typical for all Zhukcvsky's ballads; in Ivikovy zhuravli (1813) Zhukovsky transformed Schiller's classical theme and created a mood of profound suspense; Eolova arfa (1814) combined the poet's favourite verbal motifs of youth, silence, and despondency; Gromoboi and Vadim (Dvenadtsat' spyashchikh dev) (1810-17) were written as a great parable of suffering and remorse, aspiration and fulfilment; finally, in Zamok Smal'gol'm (1822) Zhukovsky turned Scott's imitation of a popular ballad into a successful literary ballad. Throughout his career Zhukovsky never altered his choice of sources, his method of transforming European themes, or his individual Russian style. While the events of the original ballad source were usually retained in outline form, the characters were metamorphised into romantic heroes and heroines, whose speech was identical with that of the narrator. The settings were generalised and details of local colour were eliminated or Russianized. Zhukovsky's real theme always remained the same: his own experience of melancholy, anxiety, despair, love, fear, or resignation. The style which expressed this theme was always "literary": its originality resided in the alternating intonations, in the negative constructions, in the syntactical parallelism, and, more significantly, in the frequency, choice, and meaning of his epithets. In Chapter IV the epithets in Zhukovsky's ballads are studied. It begins with a summary of previous definitions of the epithet from Quintilian to the Russian Formalists. A definition is accepted which includes all purely descriptive words under the term "epithet", and allows for a distinction in usage or function. A.V. Isachenko's grammatical classification of adjectival epithets is adopted. After an evaluation of previous research on the epithet in Russian folk poetry, in English and German literary ballads, and in eighteenth-century Russian poetry, the following conclusions are drawn: firstly, there is little variety and no complexity in the epithets of Russian folk ballads - indeed, the range and use of the epithet is very limited; secondly, epithets in folk ballads differ fundamentally from those in literary ballads: the concrete, unambiguous epithets of the former are replaced in the latter by emotional, connotative epithets; thirdly, from its relatively insignificant role in the classical style of Lomonosov and Sumarokov, the epithet increases in importance in Russian poetry during the late eighteenth century.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Ballads, Russian ; History and criticism ; Russian poetry ; e-ur--- ; Soviet Union ; 19th century