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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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Columbus’s Egg, or the Structure of the Novella (1973)

Columbus’s Egg, or the Structure of the Novella (1973)

(p.392) Chapter 14 Columbus’s Egg, or the Structure of the Novella (1973)
Persistent Forms

Mikhail Gasparov

Fordham University Press

This chapter provides a translation of an article by Mikhail Gasparov from 1973. Gasparov distinguishes between plots typical of fable and of the novella; the former stress the status quo and teach a lesson to the individual who attempts to improve his or her situation; the latter foreground the agency of an individual. In contrast to the conservatism of the fabular plot, Gasparov speaks of the subversive qualities of the novella in a language likely intended as a covert commentary on the Soviet officialdom. Furthermore, he distinguishes between two varieties of the novelistic plot, one of which involves an unexpected move within the plot, and the other a major discursive shift, a “yoking together” of distinct experiential domains. Whereas the first plot type predominates in premodern narratives (cf. the picaresque novel with its enterprising hero), the second one is widespread in modern narratives (cf. Joyce’s Ulysses). What appears, at a very glance, to be an essay in structural analysis of narrative thus leads to an insight that pertains to the principal concern of Historical Poetics, the longue durée of literary forms.

Keywords:   fable, narrative, novella, plot, subversion

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