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Soviet critics on Batiushkov, 1917-1970

July 23, 2010

Fridman’s chapter on “The Historiography of Batiushkov’s Poetry” ends with the Soviet period up to the time of writing, or 1917-1970.

Fridman emphasizes that “in works of literary criticism in recent years, Batiushkov has been ever more often and more emphatically linked to romanticism” (62). A theme of the chapter has been that some critics incorrectly (in Fridman’s view) call Batiushkov a neoclassicist, beginning with Pletnev, while others correctly classify him under romanticism or at least “pre-romanticism,” as Belinskii did and Soviet critics more or less reliably do by 1971. Fridman credits Blagoi with getting this right in 1934 (54) and points out that Tomashevskii moved from linking Batiushkov to “new classicism” (or “Russian empire,” русский ампир) in 1936 to associating him with romanticism in a 1948 version of the same essay (54-55).

There’s a mild tension between praise of the methods of Soviet criticism in 1971 and criticism of its excesses in the 1930s. In Fridman’s time, scholars “not only continue in the tradition of Belinskii, but also put into effect the principle of concrete, historical analysis of literary phenomena, establishing the dependence of Batiushkov’s work on socio-political processes typical of Russian life in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, and decisively rejecting a narrow, biographical approach” (51). On the other hand, some years earlier Blagoi himself was guilty of exaggerating the importance of Batiushkov’s class identity (part of the “déclassé noble intelligentsia”), turning it into “a factor that directly determines the poet’s chief idiosyncrasies (such was the stage through which our literary criticism was then passing!)” (53-54). Perhaps this is unsurprising, but I would like to know more about how to draw the line between proper attention to “socio-political processes” and a reductive sociological approach.

Dmitrii Blagoi

Several commentators from World War II and earlier are treated in depth, especially Blagoi (who wrote on Batiushkov in 1934), but also Sakulin (1911 and 1929),  Tomashevskii (1936, 1948), Serman (1939), Meilakh (1941), Verkhovskii (1941), Gukovskii (1938, 1946), and Vinogradov (1941; also 1935), as well as Komarovich, who wrote on Pushkin’s marginal notes in his edition of Batiushkov (1934). (Fridman mines several scholars’ writing about Pushkin for treatments of Batiushkov, and comes up with quite a bit.)

After WW2: Cheremin (1949), Gur (1951), Alekseev (1949; suggests that Pushkin’s “Ne dai mne Bog soiti s uma” was an otzvuk of a visit to the mentally ill Batiushkov), Nemirovskaia (1948), Zalesskii (1949) on the effects of 1812 on literature, Ozerov (1955), Gaidenkov (1962), Makogonenko (1959), Kuleshov (1965), Gurevich (1964), Sokolov (1960), and Mezentsev (1963), as well as Fridman’s own numerous publications.

See section 6 of chapter 1 of N. V. Fridman’s Поэзия Батюшкова (Moscow, 1971), pp. 51-64.

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