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Persistent FormsExplorations in Historical Poetics$
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Ilya Kliger and Boris Maslov

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823264858

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823264858.001.0001

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From the Introduction to Historical Poetics

From the Introduction to Historical Poetics

Questions and Answers (1894)

(p.39) Chapter 1 From the Introduction to Historical Poetics
Persistent Forms

Alexander Veselovsky

Fordham University Press

Veselovsky’s 1894 essay proposes correlations between social and literary history in order to explain the rise and fall of particular literary forms in particular historical periods. It also puts forward a new fundamental mechanism of cultural history: the encounter between an imported and a native cultural impetus, which is often manifested in collaboration or confrontation between the elite and the larger populace. This encounter between the alien and the indigenous instantiates a dynamic that Veselovsky appears to have regarded as a historical universal: the ever-present combat between old (perceived as conventional or constrained) and new (perceived as free) cultural elements. Veselovsky pursues one of his major scholarly ambitions: to supplant aesthetic and evolutionary-teleological accounts of the supra-genres of Western literary history—epic, drama, and the novel (lyric is conspicuously absent from this essay)—with a historical examination of the preconditions for their (re)emergence and social efficacy. The concluding section of the essay is particularly significant from a methodological point of view. Having presented several case studies of periodic renewal of forms, Veselovsky offers a far-reaching reflection on the nonsynchronous quality of cultural memory in which older elements are preserved in a passive state, ready to be reawakened in response to “an urgent call of the times.”

Keywords:   drama, epic, individual vs. collective verbal creation, literary history, lyric, oblivion and recollection of forms, social demand

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