How to Murder a Work of Art: Philology, Historical Poetics, and the Morphological Method.
Historical Poetics, while in many ways an ally of Formalism, finds itself in an uneasy relationship with the empiricist mode of formalist enquiry, inasmuch as the latter is seen as generally inimical to historical contextualization. On the other hand, representatives of both Historical Poetics and of the morphological method have at different points been accused of favoring atomizing analysis over aesthetic appreciation. Ironically, this putative inability to grasp the work of art as a totality is a taint that literary theory inherited from nineteenth-century philology whose mission was precisely to combine historicization with minute attention to details of verbal texture. By emphasizing their shared philological patrimony, the article argues for a reconciliation between the morphological method and Historical Poetics. An energetic theory of literary forms, which detects historical vitality in distinct elements revealed by morphological analysis, has important precedents in Alexander Veselovsky’s theory of motif and Mikhail Bakhtin’s concepts of architectonics and the chronotope.