Theses Doctoral

Cultural Experimentation as Regulatory Mechanism in Response to Events of War and Revolution in Russia (1914-1940)

Tarnai, Anita

From 1914 to 1940 Russia lived through a series of traumatic events: World War I, the Bolshevik revolution, the Civil War, famine, and the Bolshevik and subsequently Stalinist terror. These events precipitated and facilitated a complete breakdown of the status quo associated with the tsarist regime and led to the emergence and eventual pervasive presence of a culture of violence propagated by the Bolshevik regime. This dissertation explores how the ongoing exposure to trauma impaired ordinary perception and everyday language use, which, in turn, informed literary language use in the writings of Viktor Shklovsky, the prominent Formalist theoretician, and of the avant-garde writer, Daniil Kharms. While trauma studies usually focus on the reconstructive and redeeming features of trauma narratives, I invite readers to explore the structural features of literary language and how these features parallel mechanisms of cognitive processing, established by medical research, that take place in the mind affected by traumatic encounters. Central to my analysis are Shklovsky's memoir A Sentimental Journey and his early articles on the theory of prose "Art as Device" and "The Relationship between Devices of Plot Construction and General Devices of Style" and Daniil Karms's theoretical writings on the concepts of "nothingness," "circle," and "zero," and his prose work written in the 1930s. My analysis probes into various modes in which trauma can present itself in a text, in forms other than semantic content, and points to what distinguishes a modernist text from one written under the impairing conditions of trauma, despite their structural similarities.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Slavic Languages and Literatures
Thesis Advisors
Nepomnyashchy, Catharine S.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014