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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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Breakfast at Dawn

Breakfast at Dawn

Alexander Veselovsky and the Poetics of Psychological Biography

(p.314) Chapter 11 Breakfast at Dawn
Persistent Forms

Ilya Vinitsky

Fordham University Press

This chapter takes a close look at Veselovsky’s 1904 work on Vasily Zhukovsky, demonstrating that Veselovsky develops a rigorous “poetics of psychological biography,” in which the emotional world of an individual is approached as a product of a given cultural-historical moment, “the age of Sensibility” (or Sentimentalism). Imported literary texts emerge as crucial to these processes of self-formation, and the objective of Veselovsky’s psychological biography is to trace the ways in which a historical individual, existing within a close-knit community of friends, is able to fashion “alien” cultural goods into an authentic expression of his emotional life. As Vinitsky stresses, Veselovsky anticipates both Lotman’s semiotic approach to “poetics of behavior” and recent work on the history of emotions. Following Veselovsky’s lead, Vinitsky offers a close analysis of one formative moment of literary appropriation: a failed dramatic performance staged by the adolescent Zhukovsky, using a sentimentalist plot to reflect on, and possibly influence, his own position as a bastard son in a nobleman’s family.

Keywords:   biography, history of emotions, poetics of behaviour, Sentimentalism, Vasily Zhukovsky

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