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Title: The burden of memories : towards a Bloomian analysis of influence in Osip Mandelstam's Voronezh notebooks
Author: Reynolds, Andrew W. M.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3514 6155
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1996
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The Voronezh poetry of Osip Mandelstam (1935-1937) is viewed by many critics as one of the most heroic of Russian literature's many confrontations between the poet and the tyrant. Recently, however, Mandelstam's image has seemed to be compromised by the existence of poems revealing a more loyalist Mandelstam, in particular an Ode written in January 1937 in praise of Stalin. Critics are divided as to whether this poem is an expression of genuine praise and loyalty, whether it was written out of pragmatic considerations, or whether it is in fact an attack, in Aesopian language, on Stalin. This thesis argues that the lack of critical concensus on this and other matters is caused in large part by certain dangers inherent in the main method (intertextual analysis) used to study Mandelstam. The thesis therefore has a dual focus: it investigates theories of intertextuality and influence as issues of central importance to current literary debates, and attempts to establish an eclectic theory which fuses elements of various approaches to intertextuality and influence; but it does so in order that the poetry of Mandelstam and other Russian poets may be better understood. The thesis provides a detailed examination of Harold Bloom's theory of influence and applies it to Mandelstam's poetry, and argues that it is possible that it may be applied fruitfully to other Russian poets. Yet Russian poetry also provides a corrective to Bloom's tendency to see poetic influence as almost exclusively a relationship between literary texts. The thesis argues that Mandelstam's poetic precursor is Pushkin, and that his sense of being Pushkin' & heir seems to place him under some sort of obligation to imitate Pushkin's life and death as well as his art an extreme case of zhlznetvorchestvo ("life-creation"). Mandelstam's most significant description of his own death as an imitation of Pushkin's is found in his "Stikhi o neizvestnom soldate" ("Verses on the Unknown Soldier"). Bloom's theory helps one realise that the "Ode to Stalin" is only a part of Mandelstam's rewriting of Pushkin's own uncertainties in his relationship with Nicholas I; one may view the "Ode to Stalin" and "Stikhi o neizvestom soldate" as a single text equivalent to Pushkin's examination in Mednyl vsadnik (The Bronze Horseman) of the conflicting claims of state and individual. Mandelstam's willingness to give the devil some of his best words is thus not incompatible with the anti-Stalin conclusions reached by his work taken as a whole.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Harold Bloom; Russian poetry