Constructing Jewish texts in Russian literature : the cases of Mandelshtam, Brodsky, and Slutsky / by Marat Grinberg.
"Constructing Jewish Texts in Russian Literature: The Cases of Mandelshtam, Brodsky, and Slutsky" examines the problem of Jewish literature and the Jewish artist in the 20th century. It asks: what happens when Jewishness enters the Russian literary tradition? And how does Jewishness affect the comprehension of the content and development of the traditions involved (Russian, Yiddish and Hebrew, modernist. Soviet) by writers, critics, readers? In order to shed light on these questions, I investigate the literary processes of quotation, reaccentuation, allusion, intertextuality, and remembrance in the encounter between Russianness and Jewishness.The dissertation's organization is thematic rather than chronological. The first chapter is devoted to the study of Osip Mandelshtam. I concentrate on the reading of his later prose pieces of the 1920's where Jewishness occupies the central place. I argue that as a Russian Christian poet Mandelshtam made certain that his own interpretation of Jewishness did not threaten his poetic persona but only solidified its fundamental features.The second chapter examines Joseph Brodsky's Jewishness, particularly his early major narrative poem, "Isaac and Abraham." I argue that through his interpretation of the "infamous" biblical episode, the young Brodsky managed to confront the question of his Jewishness. I propose that even though after "Isaac and Abraham" Brodsky deliberately eliminated the Jewish theme from his poetry, choosing instead the path of a Russian poet, his idiosyncratic sense of Jewishness remained one of the primary sources of his artistic vision. Thus his exegetical practices resulted in his polemical stance toward the Russian tradition that he had elected and fully embraced on his own idiosyncratic terms, but kept subordinate to his Jewishness.The last three present chapters retrieve chronologically and fully examine, for the first time in any language, the Jewish texts of Boris Slutsky. There is a direct correlation between Slutsky's self-fashioning as a Jew in the Russian/Soviet tradition and his programmatic poems. Having completely "converted" to the Russian and Soviet literature and ethos, he continued to dwell poetically on his Jewishness, conceiving of himself, I suggest, as a converso figure. In this supple role, through its interplay between Russianness, Sovietness, and Jewishness, Slutsky accentuated the centrality of Jewishness to his poetry and worldview. His late poems singularly reflect on and revise his Jewish image, marking the reversal from his assimilation into the Russian Soviet culture to his "de-assimilation" from it. They evoke directly his programmatic texts and replace Slutsky's Russian/Soviet poetic persona with that of an autonomously Jewish one in Russian.I end the dissertation with a short conclusion that maps out the possible future directions of Russian Jewish literary historiography that would grow out of the discussion and groundwork of my dissertation.
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