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Nikolaj Gumilev and Neoclassical Modernism

The Metaphysics of Style


Raoul Eshelman

Nikolaj Gumilev occupies a paradoxical place within the history of Russian modernism. Although he is well known as the founder of Acmeism and is regarded as an important poet and critic, much of his work is difficult to reconcile with prevailing concepts of modernism. The present study seeks to explain this marginal position by reinterpreting Gumilev's work within the broader context of a modernist aesthetic of order, or «neo-classical modernism.» The term refers to an aesthetic line within modernism that sought to reconcile certain features of traditional rhetoric - in particular the triadic style system - with modernist strategies of innovation. Although primarily devoted to Gumilev, the study also touches on Russian and French writers adhering to comparable aesthetic values, among them Annenskij, Kuzmin, Gautier, Leconte de Lisle, Valéry and Gide.
Contents: Nikolaj Gumilev and his Place in Russian Modernism - Neoclassicism and Modernism - Modernist Neorhetoric - The Triadic Style System Revived - Deconstruction and Neoclassical Aesthetics - Russian and French Versions of Neoclassical Modernism.