The goals of the research project
The main goal of the project consists in an investigation of the various aspects of Mikhail Lomonosov’s contribution to the development of Russian letters and to the rise of new literary forms. The project’s focus is on the study of the emergence of Russian syllabo-accentual verse and the ties linking Lomonosov’s oeuvre to the Western European tradition of versification. In particular, we propose to investigate the mutual influence of Lomonosov’s and A. P. Sumarokov’s principles of versification, as part of the process of the evolution of Russian verse.
One of the chief concerns of the project is with the distinctive revolutionary strategy displayed by Lomonosov’s poetic oeuvre, which resulted in Russian literature acquiring, ahead of other Slavic poetic traditions, the most progressive forms of European versification. In order to explore how that revolution of poetic form occurred, we intend to provide a thorough-going analysis of Lomonosov’s role in reforming Russian versification at the end of 1730s and in the first half of 1740s, as well as his influence on the development of Russian verse following 1745. In this context, the study of foreign – most importantly, of German – influence on Lomonosov, his metrics and rhythmics, as well as on his theory of verse, becomes essential.
The completion of these objectives necessitates the creation of a digital corpus of Russian and Western European (first of all, German) verse and prose. In addition, it will be necessary to develop rules of representing their rhythmic properties, as well as to design software programs for the purpose of analyzing them. Two separate corpora will need to be created, one for the short-verse form (iambic tetrameter), and one for the long-verse form (iambic hexameter). An additional aim of the project consists in the study of the genesis of Russian tragedy as a literary genre and of the peculiarities of its patterns of verse organization.
At the basis of the project’s methodology are the current theoretical approaches to comparative and historical poetics. In particular, we combine well-established literary-scholarly methods with exact empirical methods of studying literary forms. While being attentive to various levels of language and the structure of the text, we focus on statistical distribution of different metrical and rhythmic structures in the corpus. This data, obtained from several linguistic and literary traditions, is then subjected to comparative analysis.
The application of this method for the study of the structure of verse opens new perspectives for structural analysis of literary works. At the threshold of the 21st century, the so-called “lingual-statistical” method became the foundation for a new field of study that employs mathematical modeling of deep processes of the composition of poetic texts. Closely associated with the work of M. A. Krasnoperova, this field has received the name of “cognitive poetics” (see also the works of R. Tsur).
In our project, we intend to supplement comparative poetics with the toolbox of cognitive poetics, aiming at a hypothetical reconstruction of the processes of artistic creation, based on the evidence supplied by the formal analysis of the structure of verse. It should be noted that this approach has never before been applied to such a wide-ranging comparative investigation. E. V. Kazartsev’s recent monograph, Introduction to Comparative Study of Verse: Methods and Foundations of Analysis (see Publications), discusses avenues of future research opened up by this methodology.