Leśmian Internationally: Contextual Relations
A Comparative Study
Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- I Introduction
- II Context and Method
- The subject of comparative studies
- Typology of contexts
- Contextual analysis as a method of historical comparative studies
- Contextual comparative analysis of literary texts against the issue of historicity
- Aims of contextual comparative analysis
- III Context Relations: LeśMian Counterposed with Literary Predecessors and Cultural Traditions
- I Cross-Literary Filiations
- Literary Mediations (Poe – Baudelaire – Balmont – Leśmian)
- Poe via the symbolists: searching for sources of Leśmian’s inspirations
- Baudelaire’s Poe
- Balmont’s Poe
- Translative replicas (Poe – Baudelaire – Leśmian)
- Poe’s tales in Bolesław Leśmian’s translations: sources, inspirations, replicas
- Poe versus Leśmian: outlining the problem
- Leśmian and translators: the Genesis of Fascination with Poe
- Poe translated by Leśmian from Baudelaire
- Aesthetic transformations (the aesthetics of death: Poe – Baudelaire – Balmont – Leśmian)
- Ways of representing death
- Aestheticizing death
- Macabre aesthetics
- Macabresque aesthetics
- Stylistic and structural influences (symbolist style – the bylina tradition – the early prose work of Leśmian)
- The Symbolist Style of Bolesław Leśmian’s Early Work (illustrated by the case of “Baśń o Rycerzu Pańskim” [“Tale of the Lord’s Knight”])
- The lexical layer
- The structural layer
- Creative Inspirations or Influences?
- II The Intercultural Homologies
- The structural reminiscences (demonic female characters: Pushkin – Gogol – Leśmian)
- Not just folklore: on neglected intercultural homologies
- The function of female demons in Romantic literature, and their transformations in Leśmian’s works
- The anticipation of death: the horror of self-knowledge
- The victims and/or avengers: the hell of memory
- Initiation into the experience of time: the hell of nature
- The grotesque figure of the witch: from Pushkin to Gogol and Leśmian
- The Gogol context in Leśmian’s “The Witch”
- Grotesque embarrassment
- Grotesque reconstruction of the stereotype of femininity
- Grotesque disillusion and social roles
- Metaphorical and parodistic-apocryphal transformations (forms of kaliki perekhozhie: Yesenin – Gorodetsky – Leśmian)
- Common cultural traditions?
- The three poets’ kaliki as protagonist or collective subject
- Kaliki of Gorodetsky and Leśmian as parodist and individual characters
- The protagonist on the road
- Pilgrimaging kaliki-kaleki?
- Homologies or filiations?
- Genre and structural modifications, thematic references, lexical repetitions (Leśmian’s poetry and Ukrainian culture and folklore)
- Ukrainian culture and folklore in Leśmian’s poetry?
- Generic and structural modifications
- Thematic references
- Lexical repetitions
- How many traditions and cultures?
- IV Literary Followers of LeśMian’S Poetic
- From Allusion To Literary Stylization: Leśmian’s Intertext in Contemporary Polish Poetry
- Leśmian: Poet with No Followers?
- Parodist and pastiche stylizations
- Continuations of Leśmian’s aesthetics of death
- Continuations of Leśmian’s erotics
- Imitators? Followers? Successors?
- V Conclusion
- Bibliographic Note
- РЕЗЮМЕ (УКР.)
- Series index
A COMPARATIVE STUDY
Translated by Klara Naszkowska and Alan Lockwood
Edited by Tomasz Wiśniewski
Bibliographic Information published by the Deutsche
The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in
the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic
data is available in the internet at http://dnb.d-nb.de.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
A CIP catalog record for this book has been applied for
at the Library of Congress.
The Publication is funded by Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the
Republic of Poland as a part of the National Programme for the Development of the
Humanities. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Ministry
cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information
Reviewers: Professor Anna Czabanowska-Wróbel (Jagiellonian University),
Professor Aleksander Wirpsza (University of Warsaw)
© Żaneta Nalewajk-Turecka and Towarzystwo Autorów i Wydawców Prac
Naukowych UNIVERSITAS, Kraków 2015
Cover illustration and all illustrations within the book: Roussanka
ISSN 2191-3293 ∙ ISBN 978-3-631-82016-2 (Print)
E-ISBN 978-3-631-82246-3 (E-PDF) ∙ E-ISBN 978-3-631-82247-0 (EPUB)
E-ISBN 978-3-631-82248-7 (MOBI) ∙ DOI 10.3726/b16985
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About the author
Żaneta Nalewajk is a literature historian, comparativist and editor. She works at the Faculty of Polish Philology at the University of Warsaw, Poland. Her texts have been translated into English, Ukrainian, Russian, Bulgarian, Czech, Slovenian, Hungarian and Serbian. She has received several academic and editorial awards, both in Poland and abroad.
About the book
Leśmian Internationally: Contextual Relations
This book shows the literary legacy of Bolesław Leśmian, the great Polish writer, as engaged in a dialogue with the tradition, and forged on the crossroads of literatures, and epochs. Exploring American, French and Russian contexts (Poe’s writing, Baudelaire’s oeuvre, Balmont’s texts, the symbolist style, the bylinna tradition), highlighting the correspondences between Leśmian and the romantics (Pushkin, Gogol) as well as the modernists (Jesienin, Gorodetsky) and connecting his work to Ukrainian culture through the evocation of old Slavic folklore, the book showcases Leśmian’s work as an example of inter-literary and inter-cultural transfer of aesthetics, styles, genres and motifs. A crucial outcome of this research is the codifying of a contextual analysis as a method of comparative studies.
This eBook can be cited
This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.
PROBLEMS OF CONTEXTS AND RESEARCH METHODS IN COMPARATIVE STUDIES
The subject of comparative studies
Contextual analysis as a method of historical comparative studies
Contextual comparative analysis of literary texts against the issue of historicity
Aims of contextual comparative analysis
III CONTEXT RELATIONS: LEŚMIAN COUNTERPOSED WITH LITERARY PREDECESSORS AND CULTURAL TRADITIONS
Literary Mediations (Poe – Baudelaire – Balmont – Leśmian)
Poe via the symbolists: searching for sources of Leśmian’s inspirations
Translative replicas (Poe – Baudelaire – Leśmian)
Poe’s tales in Bolesław Leśmian’s translations: sources, inspirations, replicas
Poe versus Leśmian: outlining the problem
Leśmian and translators: the Genesis of Fascination with Poe
Poe translated by Leśmian from Baudelaire
Aesthetic transformations (the aesthetics of death: Poe – Baudelaire – Balmont – Leśmian)
De-specification and/or alegorization of death
Stylistic and structural influences (symbolist style – the bylina tradition – the early prose work of Leśmian)
The Symbolist Style of Bolesław Leśmian’s Early Work (illustrated by the case of “Baśń o Rycerzu Pańskim” [“Tale of the Lord’s Knight”])
Creative Inspirations or Influences?
II THE INTERCULTURAL HOMOLOGIES
The structural reminiscences (demonic female characters: Pushkin – Gogol – Leśmian)
Not just folklore: on neglected intercultural homologies
The function of female demons in Romantic literature, and their transformations in Leśmian’s works
The anticipation of death: the horror of self-knowledge
The victims and/or avengers: the hell of memory
Initiation into the experience of time: the hell of nature
The grotesque figure of the witch: from Pushkin to Gogol and Leśmian
The Gogol context in Leśmian’s “The Witch”
Grotesque reconstruction of the stereotype of femininity
Grotesque disillusion and social roles
Metaphorical and parodistic-apocryphal transformations (forms of kaliki perekhozhie: Yesenin – Gorodetsky – Leśmian)
The three poets’ kaliki as protagonist or collective subject
Kaliki of Gorodetsky and Leśmian as parodist and individual characters
Genre and structural modifications, thematic references, lexical repetitions (Leśmian’s poetry and Ukrainian culture and folklore)
Ukrainian culture and folklore in Leśmian’s poetry?
Generic and structural modifications
How many traditions and cultures?
IV LITERARY FOLLOWERS OF LEŚMIAN’S POETIC
FROM ALLUSION TO LITERARY STYLIZATION: LEŚMIAN’S INTERTEXT IN CONTEMPORARY POLISH POETRY
Leśmian: Poet with No Followers?
Parodist and pastiche stylizations
Continuations of Leśmian’s aesthetics of death
Continuations of Leśmian’s erotics
IMITATORS? FOLLOWERS? SUCCESSORS?
←10 | 11→
Although his literary debut that was the 1912 volume Sad rozstajny [Crossroads Orchard] went practically unnoticed, at present Bolesław Leśmian holds in the opinion of contemporary Polish literary scholars a very firm position in the national literary canon. Two fundamental monographs, Jacek Trznadel’s Twórczość Leśmiana. (Próba przekroju) [The Works of Leśmian (A Cross-section Attempt)] (1964)1 and Michał Głowiński’s Zaświat przedstawiony. Szkice o poezji Bolesława Leśmiana [Underworld Presented: Essays on the Poetry of Bolesław Leśmian] (1981),2 have been followed by a constantly growing number of new interpretations of the author’s literary legacy.
If, however, we sieve through hundreds of Polish and foreign studies devoted to Leśmian, searching for texts that present his detailed portrait as a writer whose oeuvre includes numerous references to foreign masterpieces and to cultural phenomena differing from national ones, we find just over ten items. The list of these studies written in the second half of the twentieth century would certainly include the chapter “Niektóre problemy symbolizmu rosyjskiego a wiersze rosyjskie Leśmiana” [“Some Problems of Russian Symbolism versus Leśmian’s Russian Poems”] in Seweryn Pollak’s volume Srebrny wiek i później [Silver Age and Later] (1971),3 the chapter in Rochelle Heller Stone’s Bolesław Leśmian: The Poet and His Poetry (1976),4 “Leśmian and the Russian Contemporary Literary Scene,” and her introduction to Skrzypek opętany [Mad Fiddler] (1985),5 Michał Głowiński’s article “Leśmian, Poe, Baudelaire” first published in the collection Wielojęzyczność literatury i problemy przekładu artystycznego [Multilingualism of Literature and the Problems of Artistic Translation] (1984),6 and Wołodymyr Wasyłenko’s monograph ←11 | 12→Поетичний світ Болеслава Лесьмяна [Bolesław Leśmian’s Poetical World] (1990).7
The list of such works that were written in the 21st century would include: Andriej Bazylewski’s article “Baśń mimiczna Leśmiana ‘Skrzypek opętany’ w kontekście symbolizmu rosyjskiego” [“Leśmian’s Mimical Fairy Tale ‘Mad Fiddler’ in the Context of Russian Symbolism”] and the article by Wasyłenko titled “W kręgu rosyjskojęzycznej poezji Bolesława Leśmiana” [“In the Circle of Bolesław Leśmian’s Russian Poetry”] in Poetyki Leśmiana. Leśmian i inni [Leśmian’s Poetics: Leśmian and Others] (2002),8 Tamara Brzostowska-Tereszkiewicz’s essay “Sofia zaklęta w baśniową carewnę. ‘Piesni Wasilisy Priemudroj’ Bolesława Leśmiana wobec rosyjskiej poezji symbolistycznej” [“Sofia Enchanted into a Fairy-tale Daughter of a Tsar: Bolesław Leśmian’s ‘Songs of Vasilisa the Wisest’ against Russian Symbolist Poetry”] (2003),9 Anna Sobieska’s Twórczość Leśmiana w kręgu filozoficznej myśli symbolizmu rosyjskiego [Leśmian’s Work in the Circle of the Philosophical Thought of Russian Symbolism] (2005),10 and the chapter “Dwa symbolizmy” [“Two Symbolisms”] from Edward Boniecki’s volume Archaiczny świat Bolesława Leśmiana. Studium historycznoliterackie [Bolesław Leśmian’s Archaic World: A Study from the History of Literature] (2008).11 This list should also include Katarzyna Kuczyńska-Koschany’s 2012 text, “Zawier(u)szony znikomek. Rimbaud Leśmiana. Recepcja nowoczesna?” [“Misplaced Nearunbeen: Leśmian’s Rimbaud, a Modern Reception”], which revises the formerly undisputed conviction that the poet was strongly inspired by Rimbaud.12←12 | 13→
Despite the fact that Polish literary scholars have assured Leśmian a spot in the literary hall of fame and recognize his work as an almost unique phenomenon in the history of Polish literature, the poet has not been a favorite subject of analysis among comparatists. This situation is reflected by the fact that, since his book debut in 1912 with Crossroads Orchard, only a small number of published texts have compared Leśmian’s literary oeuvre with those of foreign authors. All the above-mentioned works take on analytical and factual characters. Their authors usually set forth theses with a status of literary criticism,13 and use comparison for various reasons.
First of all, comparisons have been limited to references, as in the case of Stanisław Brzozowski’s essay “Miriam,” in which the Polish philosopher, writer, columnist and literary critic of the Young Poland era described the difference between Novalis, Poe, Tadeusz Miciński, the Czech writer Julius Zeyer and Leśmian in a single sentence.14 Similar comparisons can be found in the book by Wacław Kubacki, the Polish literary historian and critic, Lata terminowania. Szkice literackie [Years of Apprenticeship: Literary Essays], with phrases including “like in Poe” and “almost like Baudelaire.” The former referred to the coexistence of symbolism and naturalism in Leśmian’s poetry, the latter to the link between literary visionaries and burlesque.15
Second, comparisons were made with the intention of discrediting Leśmian, as in the review by Otton (Jan Nelken, a Polish psychoanalyst occasionally involved in literary criticism), “Wrażenia i refleksy” [“Impressions and Reflections”]. After reading Crossroads Orchard, the critic stated that Leśmian was “extremely influenced by French culture”16 and that, among its representatives, the poet was artistically indebted mostly to Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine. Nelken argued for Leśmian’s reliance on the poetical solutions used by Baudelaire by referring to ←13 | 14→the cycle “Oddaleńcy” [“The Remote Ones”]. Nelken also emphasized the secondary character of the poem “Nieznana podróż Sindbada-Żeglarza” [“The Unknown Journey of Sinbad the Sailor”]. In this case, he identified Edgar Allan Poe’s tale “Ligeia” as the source of influence. His accusation of unoriginality was based on the discussion of a motif of the protagonists’ hair changing color, present in both Leśmian and Poe, and of the theme of murder resulting not from an act but rather solely from intention. Nelken believes Leśmian to be an epigone.
Third, a comparative method was used by writers to elevate Leśmian. This was the intention of the Austrian-Polish philologist Forst de Battaglia, who discussed Leśmian in his essay “Polnische Poesie der Gegenwart. Bolesław Leśmian” [“Polish Contemporary Poetry: Bolesław Leśmian”].17 Battaglia recognized Leśmian as a virtuoso able to appropriate models from others and fill them with wonderful new content. At the same time, he believed Leśmian to be a symbolist and a Parnassian; he discussed the poet’s inspirations from works of Arthur Rimbaud and Henry James, and listed Leśmian’s masters rooted in the Polish literary tradition: Franciszek Karpiński, Adam Mickiewicz and Cyprian Norwid. Leśmian’s cousin, Antoni Lange, polemicized with Battaglia – not quite justly – accusing him of reducing the poet’s work to a combination of influences.18
Finally, comparative studies served to show the independence of the Polish writer’s talent. Such was the case in Julian Przyboś’s essays “Poeci żywiołu…” [“Poets of the Element”] and “Czytając Supervielle’a” [“Reading Supervielle”].19 Comparison of works of Leśmian and Russian poet Sergei Yesenin was the starting point for the thesis that “the author of The Meadow appears to be […] incomparable; he is the only poet of our symbolism, who created his world by himself, a sovereign creator, a creator without a beginning.”20 Before that, in the interwar period, Stefan Napierski, a Polish literary critic and poet, employed the comparative method in his text “Bolesław Leśmian,” which presented the poet as “the only entirely original Polish symbolist […] a born symbolist, impervious to trends, one who developed trends, independent from the foreign authors.”21←14 | 15→
Paradoxically, the conviction that Leśmian deserves, in Czesław Miłosz’s words, to “be ranked with the great figures of modern European literature”22 or even world literature, relatively rarely goes hand in hand with comparative contextual studies and comparative poetical studies. A similar situation exists with the dispute over Leśmian’s symbolism, despite the fact that Leśmian’s monographer and editor (with major contributions to the dissemination of Leśmian’s heritage), Jacek Trznadel, stated almost a quarter of a century ago: “A comparison of Leśmian and symbolism should be a comparison of works (a task that has just been initiated in a number of studies), and not a comparison of theories, or even of a theory and poetry.”23 There is much truth to this statement, as research reduced to a comparison of two theories neglects artistic practice, while confrontation between a theory and literary work runs the risk of treating works as illustrations of theoretical concepts. One ambition of this book – not, however, the only one – is to fill the gap, at least in part, in comparative studies of poetry focused on Leśmian’s symbolism.
On the other hand, the very issue of specifying symbolism (which rejects the material world and sensory cognition in favor of the world of ideas accessible by means of a symbol) is very complex. This is the case even if we do not adopt a broad definition of the phenomenon, by which symbolism is an artistic trend of the second half of the nineteenth century with precedents in the century’s first half (and even in the eighteenth century) and with continuators in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Even if we consider symbolism a narrowly understood literary trend with a well-defined time frame and premises culminating in Jean Moréas’ famous symbolist manifesto from 1886, the issue remains debatable of whether it can be described as a uniform, internally consistent artistic formation. After all, there are national variants of symbolism, often rivaling each other, not just in a relationship of correspondence.24 Such is the case with theoretical approaches to French and Russian symbolisms that influenced the work of Leśmian.
It is pertinent to bear in mind that in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Russian writers had to face with the problem of autonomy and independence of Russian symbolism, among other issues. The questions of artistic ←15 | 16→independence and specificity must have been relevant at the time, if only because these trends had first appeared in France, and reflection upon them was part of a broader discussion of self-determination of native culture that took place in Russia at the end of the nineteenth century. Disputes over the independence of symbolism led to a divide among representatives of the Russian symbolist movement into two camps: Zapadniki (zapad, Russian for “the West”] and Slavophiles. Dmitry Merezhkovsky and sometimes Valery Bryusov, for instance, were regarded as representatives of the former, while Vyacheslav Ivanov was associated with the latter.25 Opponents of symbolism regarded it as a “late manifestation of the naive approach of Zapadniki.”26 In contrast, opponents of Slavophilism advocated for establishing cultural contacts with the West, and for a literary and intellectual exchange of ideas allowing Russian literature an opportunity to actively participate in trends in artistic development characteristic to the West, and to move closer spiritually to the West.
Russian artists with a pro-Western orientation turned, for example, to French culture,27 where symbolism was a well-developed late nineteenth century trend. Russian interest in this trend came about: pan-European skepticism towards the ←16 | 17→idea of reason being the source of knowledge about the world, a sense of a forthcoming crisis, a turn towards the realm of feelings, a search for a new language of poetical expression, focus on the inner world, and a conviction about the existence of an intuitive bond with what constitutes the essence of external reality. For Russians, however, French symbolism was not so much a model to imitate as an impulse for artistic and spiritual development, soon to be born in the form of a specific variant as the Russian symbolist movement.28
It appears that “older symbolists” contributed most significantly as theoreticians to the popularization of French symbolist literature in Russia: Merezhkovsky, the author of the article “О причинах упадка и новых течениях в современной русской литературе” [“On Reasons for the Fall and New Trends in Contemporary Russian Literature”],29 Bryusov, an older Russian symbolist seen as a creator of the movement,30 and Konstantin Balmont as a translator. According ←17 | 18→to Merezhkovsky, French poets undertook an exploration of the mysteries of the world and beauty, with significant aesthetic investigations; they lacked a spiritual leader, however, identified later by the Russians as Vladimir Solovyov, a Russian philosopher of the “eternal feminine,” poet and Slavophile. They recognized him as a charismatic figure, an author of poems with philosophical depth capable of setting a poetical path towards an eventual break in the spiritual impasse in culture. Merezhkovsky believed this to be possible by drawing on vital sources of religion and on ancient tradition.31 For this reason, French symbolism could not be the right symbolism for the Russians. Its birth proved to be a matter of the future. And this did not take long: Solovyov’s ideas quickly influenced aesthetic views and the works of the younger symbolists Alexander Blok, Andrei Bely and Vyacheslav Ivanov. Leśmian’s symbolism was identified with the latter’s concept of “concrete symbolism.”32
What is characteristic of studies of Leśmian’s symbolism in that situation? We know the poet was interested in achievements of the French (the pre-symbolist Baudelaire, above all) and of the Russians, and, moreover, he was fascinated by the Romantic legacy. This included the Russians Alexander Pushkin and Nikolai Gogol and Poe, recognized by both the French and the Russian symbolists as the precursor of the trend. The question just posed leads to the realization that Leśmian’s work, in its entirety, cannot be reduced to assumptions of theoreticians of symbolism, just as French symbolism cannot be reduced to Russian symbolism, and vice versa. Another issue arises: how to establish a relationship between these inspirations and Leśmian’s interest in folklore and sentiment for Ukrainian landscape, discussed by the poet in an interview with the critic Edward Boyé?33 Their discussion, leading to the conclusion that Leśmian’s oeuvre had an illustrative character in relation to the existing concepts, may need to be juxtaposed with a contextual analysis of his works, and then with a comparison of their poetics with texts of other authors, with the style of the period, and with the literary and cultural traditions to which he referred.←18 | 19→
This book presents arguments that aim to depict the artistic legacy of Bolesław Leśmian as dialoguing with tradition and with his predecessors, at the intersection of literatures, cultures and epochs.
Among the possible types of contextual relations that Leśmian’s work enters, I decided to focus on two: international interliterary filiations (that is, parallelisms detectable in the poetics of works, determined by literary contacts) and intercultural homologies (that is, correspondences in the shape of works, motivated by contacts with a common archetype). I chose to analyze only contextual relations that influenced the shape of the works of Leśmian and have attempted to show their poetic consequences. A study of the associations of his work with the oeuvre of the American Romantic Edgar Allan Poe, the works of French symbolist Charles Baudelaire, the older Russian symbolist Konstantin Balmont and other Russian symbolists, concludes with a description of textual effects of these filiations, manifested in the form of literary borrowings, translation replicas, aesthetic transformations, and stylistic and structural influences. In my analysis of the intercultural homologies, I attempt to identify sources of correspondences between Leśmian’s work and the works of Romantics (Pushkin and Gogol), of Russian modernists (Sergei Yesenin and Sergei Gorodetsky), and of Ukrainian culture and folklore. In this part of the book, I demonstrate that similarities in the construction of characters present in literary works by these authors result from references to common archetypes, including proto-Slavic folklore, the tradition of bylina, or traditional Russian song praising heroes and their achievements, and the pilgrim tradition called kaliki perekhozhie. I have attempted to describe transformations these archetypes have undergone over time, and to prove that references to them in Leśmian’s work were manifested through structural reminiscences, metaphorical and parodist-apocryphal transformations, and lexical repetitions, as well as genre, structural and thematic modifications. When describing contextual relations, I concentrate on Leśmian’s international, intercultural and inter-epochal connections.
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- Bolesław Leśmian Comparative studies Polish literature Slavic literature Contextual relations Comparative research
- Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 348 pp., 21 fig. b/w.