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Title:Primitivism in the early poetry of Velimir Khlebnikov
Author(s):Janicki, Joel Joseph
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Bristol, Evelyn
Department / Program:Literature, Slavic and East European
Discipline:Literature, Slavic and East European
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Slavic and East European
Abstract:Velimir Khlebnikov, one of the major figures of the Russian literary avant-garde, began his literary career in 1908 upon his arrival in Petersburg. The first decade of the twentieth century was a period of revolutionary ferment in all of the arts. The poets of the avant-garde set out to renew the literary language and this renewal took various forms. Attention was drawn to the inherent qualities of language and the word itself. This was manifested by an interest in naive verbal expression in the language of the folk and children. Themes from the mythical past were evoked in the form of Scythianism and the Hellenic past of the Southern Steppes. The revival of the past included both Slavic pre-history as well as the Kievan and Muscovite periods of Russian history. In addition, in an attempt to discover the roots of Russian culture and heritage, writers and artists rejected the cultural domination of the West and embraced the ancient traditions of the East. All of these elements are present in the early poetry of Khlebnikov.
Khlebnikov expanded the thematic boundaries of Russian poetry and transformed its structural basis. His innovative approach to language was characterized by an attempt to recover the lost relationship between sound and meaning. He also attempted to recapture the magic qualities of the word which can be found in such archaic genres of folklore as incantations, charms and proverbs. In addition, he consistently sought to resurrect the spirit of the past in his poetry. The "Hylaean" nature of his poetry reveals both Scythian and ancient Greek elements.
The role of peasant art and Slavic folklore proved a central one in Khlebnikov's aesthetics. He captured such primitivistic aspects of language as distortion and a naive and incoherent point of view in many of his early poems. In addition, Khlebnikov's works are filled with mythological figures that derive from the lore of other Slavic cultures, such as the Ukrainian and South Slavic lands. He also resurrected numerous historical figures from the Russian past.
Finally, the early poetry of Khlebnikov revealed his fascination with the Orient. The East, for Khlebnikov, represented a synthesis of many diverse elements found in his poetry and in the history and geography of the Russian land. It is the theme of the Orient that is most extensively developed in his later works. It was a theme that helped to shape his own identity as a prophet of peace and a spokesman of a utopian vision that would do away, once and for all, with the spectres of war and death.
Issue Date:1991
Rights Information:Copyright 1991 Janicki, Joel Joseph
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9136626
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9136626

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