Theses Doctoral

Masks and Memory: The Search for Unity in the Poetry of Aleksandr Blok and Nikolai Gumilyov

Williams, Timothy Dwight

My dissertation attempts to uncover neglected affinities between two twentieth-century Russian poets often thought to be antithetical to each other, Aleksandr Blok and Nikolai Gumilyov. The poetry of Blok and Gumilyov represents the culmination of Russian Symbolism in its quest for unity driven by a sense of irreparable loss. My study traces this search through three broad thematic areas, each of which involves a myth of return to a lost paradise, and all of which intersect with the Christological narrative of the Fall: the Platonic myth of anamnesis, the myth of the Eternal Feminine (dealt with in two consecutive chapters, one on earlier, more mystical treatments, another on later, more secularized versions), and the twin myths of Don Juan and the Prodigal Son. Each of these myths is re-interpreted by the two poets using hybrid forms that combine elements of personal experience or autobiographical myth with pre-existing mythopoetic frameworks or “masks.” I discuss the influences of the Russian and European Romantic tradition on Blok and Gumilyov, and analyze how their work is both a continuation of those traditions and a departure from them. By analyzing their poetry using psychoanalytic theory, I endeavor to reveal previously neglected parallels in these poets’ search to find sacred meaning in a desacralized world.


  • thumnail for Williams_columbia_0054D_12782.pdf Williams_columbia_0054D_12782.pdf binary/octet-stream 2.24 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Slavic Languages and Literatures
Thesis Advisors
Izmirlieva, Valentina
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 1, 2015