A report on the conference "History of Russian uncensored literature: persones, communities, production of newforms and canons". MSTTU, March 22, 2014
The dissertation is devoted to one of the most pressing issues of modern literary criticism — canon formation studies. Until now, most of the scholarly investigations have focused on the anonymous sociological mechanisms of canon formation. The role of another important factor — literary criticism — has not yet been described sufficiently. By ranking writers aesthetically, the critics constructed a synchronic hierarchy that ostensibly had its summit in the person of the “head of literature” («глава литературы»). The process of competition and selection of hierarchies resulted in the emergence of the historical phenomenon understood as literary canon. The thesis explores for the first time the cultural role of Russian literary criticism of the 1830–60s in this process and in the development of the critical concept “head of literature”. Literary polemics from the period under study comprise the research material for the dissertation. This was a time when famous Russian critics V. Belinsky, A. Grigorjev and N. Chernyshevsky proclaimed writers N. Gogol A. Ostrovsky and the critic N. Dobroliubov as “heads of literature”. Since literary criticism in this way tried to guide literature and to plan its future, the concept “head of literature” is discussed as a cultural myth that was formed in the process of nation building upon the foundation of a national literature. The origins of such conception of criticism (the so called “romantische Programmatik”) go back to the ideology of German Romanticism, in particular to F. Schlegel’s ideas, the transfer of which into Russian criticism is also explored in the thesis. An exploration of the wider European context of aesthetic ideas and the historical semantics of pivotal aesthetic concepts such as “genius”, “nationality”, “artistry” has allowed to explain the sources of many of the literary polemics of the 1830–60s. The dissertation offers a new interpretation of the literary debates between Belinsky and Gogol, Belinsky and Shevyrjov (1830s), the critical discussions of A. Ostrovsky’s debut as a playwright (1850–52), and the repercussions of the early death of critic N. Dobroilubov (1861). All these polemics are regarded as a symptom of the critics’ continuous struggle for power in the literary field and for the right to construct a particular literary future. Ultimately, this interdisciplinary approach (based on the intersection of canon formation studies, history of aesthetic concepts, and the historic-functional method) gives us a new picture of the history of Russian literary criticism and literature itself, one that places them in context of the European Romantic thought.
The article is a critical review of the current condition of canon formation studies in Russia in its connection to Pushkin epoch and ‘golden age’ of Russian Literature. Besides, article reviews Pushkin reading which took place at the University of Tartu