Words and images according to the Russian Formalism and its surroundings

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Stefania Irene Sini


In his 1923 article “Illjustratsii” Yuri Tynianov polemically discusses the editions of poetic texts accompanied by illustrations. In 1922 Viktor Shklovsky, just arrived in Berlin, publishes a review firmly hostile to a staging of Charles Dickens 'The Cricket on the Hearth” and deals with the "question of staging and illustrations", as the subtitle of intervention states. Consistent with the theoretical presuppositions of OPoYaz, both Tynianov and Shklovsky insist on the specificity of verbal art and its untranslatability into an image. Yet in the same 1922 Tynianov publishes “Oda kak oratorsky zhanr”, who initiates the reflections of mature formalism on the literary system in its internal dynamics and in its constitutive interrelation with the “extra-literary series”, starting with the various artistic series. In addition, the two scholars will collaborate in the next years with Boris Eikhenbaum and other opoyazovtsy to develop an intersemiotic theory of cinema and also will participate in the collective enterprise of the young Soviet cinema. Meanwhile, in Gustav Shpet “Esteticheskie fragmenty” (1922), the presentation and stratigraphic analysis of the structure of the word from a phenomenological point of view is accompanied by a series of considerations on contemporary art. If here Shpet thunders against the mixture of the arts, at this very moment he directs the Philosophical Department of the GAKhN, an academy that hosts interdisciplinary seminars in which the arts collaborate and contaminate each other in the empirical and theoretical dimensions. Starting from these and other examples (in particular related with the constructivist experience of VKhuTeMas very close to Vladimir Mayakovsky’s “LEF”), the contribution would like to reflect on the seeming antinomic connection between the desire for specification typical of the Russian formalists and the constant effective interrelation between the arts that characterizes their critical and creative activity.

Published: Nov 14, 2022

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Individual Sessions: Words and Images Crossing Literary and Critical Borders