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2021 Vol. 12 №4

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Between phenomenology and futurism: Roman Jakobson’s poetics before the WW 2



The article is based on a chapter from the author’s book Russian Formalism: A Metapo­etics (1984). It deals with the poetics of Roman Jakobson formulated during his stay in Prague from 1920 to 1938 and treats this subject from an epistemological perspective outlining three incompatible scholarly/artistic trends which informed it: Husserlian Phenomenology, Saus­surian linguistics and Russian Futurism. From Husserl, Jakobson borrowed the concept of “expression” (Ausdruck) — the sign whose self-sameness was absolute. But he departed from the German philosopher by conceiving of this semiotic identity in terms of a Saussurean “so­cial consciousness.” And he further relativized it through the modernist notion of “de-familiarization” — an incessant drive of poetic signs for an aesthetic rejuvenation. To miti­gate the tension between Phenomenological stability and Futurist instability, the essay con­cludes, Jakobson grounded his poetics in phonology: the universal system of distinctive fea­tures common to all languages that is impervious to any violations.


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