Theses Doctoral

Ethics to Art: Vasily Grossman's Poetics as the Realization of His Philosophy

Traverse, Emily Austin

This dissertation examines key texts from the intermediate and mature periods of Vasily Grossman’s career in order to determine the relationship between his evolving philosophy and the poetics that characterize his writing. While significant critique has been applied to the nature of Grossman’s philosophy, comparatively less has looked at the aesthetic and technical aspects of his writing itself; still less to the connection between Grossman’s abstract concepts and his accomplished texts. My effort has been to bridge the gap between these two areas of inquiry and to ascertain the quality of their tightly intertwined and complex relationship.

I analyze four of Grossman’s key texts in depth, with reference to several other writings. Of the primary texts considered in my study, two are essays from the writer’s intermediate period: “The Hell of Treblinka” («Треблинский ад») and “The Sistine Madonna” («Сикстинская мадонна»);” of the two longer works, one is Grossman’s multi-volume masterpiece novel Life and Fate (Жизнь и судьба) and the other is his novella (повесть) and final fictional work Everything Flows (Все течет). These texts were chosen for their aptness at demonstrating key features of Grossman’s prosody and philosophical thinking, both those that remained constant and those that evolved over time.

The following study establishes that Grossman’s writing itself, by means of the formal structures he employs throughout his works, constitutes the embodiment and realization of his ethics. Specifically, the following work considers modes of movement and generation in Grossman’s writing that speak to the value he places on the individual human experience.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Slavic Languages
Thesis Advisors
Gasparov, Boris
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 6, 2020