Events in Modern Languages & Cultures
Dr Evgeny Pavlov: 'Time's Quiet Torso': Aleksandr Vvedensky's Rhetoric of Temporality
The last two decades have seen a surge of interest in the extraordinary Russian literary group OBERIU, often referred to as the “last” Soviet avant-garde circle. Scholars universally agree that there are many affinities between OBERIU’s works and European literary experiments of the 1920s and 1930s (Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism, etc.), and that in many ways Oberiuty went further than their European contemporaries, prefiguring much of what would happen in European letters after the war. At the same time, little attempt has been made to date to consider works of key OBERIU members in the light of central theoretical concerns of European modernism. The paper will focus on Aleksandr Vvedensky’s overarching preoccupation with time as set against the critique of traditional historicism found in Walter Benjamin. According to his own assertion, time was one of only three things Vvednsky was interested in (the other two being death and God), while seeking to overstep reason through his poetics of non-sense [bessmyslitsa]. My task will be to consider the metaphysical horizon of Vvedensky’s poetry against the background of what arguably the most celebrated theoretician of European modernism said on the subject of pure time. The paper will argue that although the two men’s respective critiques of rationally grounded understanding of time clearly demonstrate an underlying common ground, Vvedensky’s poetic experiments radicalize a certain particularity of the Russian modernist strain that sets it aside from any of its European counterparts.
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