Theses Doctoral

Intimations of the Absolute: Afanasii Fet's Metalinguistic and Aspectual Poetics

Wright, John Cataldo

This work explores the poetry of Afanasii Fet from the perspective that careful observation of certain meta-lingual features of his work, most notably his use of verbal aspect, are relevant to understanding his metaphysical strivings and philosophical beliefs. The analytical focus is on a series of representative lyrics from throughout Fet's career. Each individual analysis is then interpreted in the light of Fet's biography, his poetic dialogue with his predecessors, and his unhappy romance with Maria Lazic. The analysis of the poetry considers that Fet's poetic language often uses the aspectual forms of the Russian verb as a significant organizing principle. Aspect as such in these lyrics interacts with the paraphrasable meaning, while it often stands out in a mathematically or graphically precise form. The introduction reviews Fet's life and his autobiographical works and offers a new reading of his autobiography to contextualize the metaphysical tension that plagued the poet throughout his long career. Chapter 1 gives linguistic and philosophical foundations for this approach, while Chapter 2 offers a set of individual readings to demonstrate the variety of types of meaning to which aspectual structures contribute in Fet's work. Chapter 3 considers verbal aspect in Fet's spring-themed poems, which express some of his most foundational meta-poetic and metaphysical ideas. The imperfective aspect as a principle to which the poet felt compelled to adhere even outside of discrete texts is the subject of Chapter 4. Chapter 5 considers how verbal aspect contributes to Fet's rewritings of key Pushkinian poems as part of his effort to find his place as a poet and as part of his attempts to re-read and re-define the failed relationship of his youth. Formal analysis of meta-lingual features leads these readings to new interpretations and juxtapositions of Fet's poetic persona, editorial practices, and failed love.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Slavic Languages and Literatures
Thesis Advisors
Izmirlieva, Valentina B.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 6, 2011