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Block I Illinois Library Illinois Open Publishing Network


Vol. 9 (2021)

Viktor Zhivov "Toward a Typology of the Baroque in Russian Literature of the XVII—Early XVIII Centuries": Translated by Marcus C. Levitt

December 21, 2021


Viktor Zhivov’s 2007 article, here translated into English for the first time, attempts to describe the specific nature of the Baroque in Russia. According to Zhivov, Russian Baroque culture arose via transplantation and was not the result of organic cultural development. Because of their cardinal differences, the language of Western Baroque and that of traditional Russian culture represent polar opposites in many ways. Hence the transplantation of even the most insignificant element results in its radical transformation, highlighting the peculiarities of the process of reception.  The article outlines the principles that governed this process.  It argues that it was the external features of the Baroque style that were borrowed, while its deeper orientation on polysemy, which defined the Baroque worldview in the West, was not.  The assimilation of Western literature was eclectic and replaced rhetorical ambivalence with the rhetoric of didacticism. It took what could be synthesized with traditional culture most easily, at the same time as the more content-oriented features and those specific to European Baroque were rejected.  If in Western Europe the Baroque posed riddles for the reader, in Russia authors on the “European" trajectory assisted the reader by providing solutions.  The Baroque in Russia was primarily a phenomenon of Western influence, so that its unique features took second place in the process of forming a new cultural paradigm as a whole. “Baroque” elements acquired a completely new pedagogical function, becoming carriers of the new ideology that was being introduced.  The Baroque became a servitor of power, whose aim was the political reeducation of society.