Browsing by Organization "Columbia University, USA"

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  • Turoma, Sanna (2008)
    Joseph Brodsky, one of the most influential Russian intellectuals of the late Soviet period, was born in Leningrad in 1940, emigrated to the United States in 1972, received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987, and died in New York City in 1996. Brodsky was one of the leading public figures of Soviet emigration in the Cold War period, and his role as a model for the constructing of Russian cultural identities in the last years of the Soviet Union was, and still is, extremely important. One of Joseph Brodsky’s great contributions to Russian culture of the latter half of the twentieth century is the wide geographical scope of his poetic and prose works. Brodsky was not a travel writer, but he was a traveling writer who wrote a considerable number of poems and essays which relate to his trips and travels in the Soviet empire and outside it. Travel writing offered for Brodsky a discursive space for negotiating his own transculturation, while it also offered him a discursive space for making powerful statements about displacement, culture, history and geography, time and space—all major themes of his poetry. In this study of Joseph Brodsky’s travel writing I focus on his travel texts in poetry and prose, which relate to his post-1972 trips to Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, and Venice. Questions of empire, tourism, and nostalgia are foregrounded in one way or another in Brodsky’s travel writing performed in emigration. I explore these concepts through the study of tropes, strategies of identity construction, and the politics of representation. The theoretical premises of my work draw on the literary and cultural criticism which has evolved around the study of travel and travel writing in recent years. These approaches have gained much from the scholarly experience provided by postcolonial critique. Shifting the focus away from the concept of exile, the traditional framework for scholarly discussions of Brodsky’s works, I propose to review Brodsky’s travel poetry and prose as a response not only to his exilic condition but to the postmodern and postcolonial landscape, which initially shaped the writing of these texts. Discussing Brodsky’s travel writing in this context offers previously unexplored perspectives for analyzing the geopolitical, philosophical, and linguistic premises of his poetic imagination. By situating Brodsky’s travel writing in the geopolitical landscape of postcolonial postmodernity, I attempt to show how Brodsky’s engagement with his contemporary cultural practices in the West was incorporated into his Russian-language travel poetry and prose and how this engagement thus contributed to these texts’ status as exceptional and unique literary events within late Soviet Russian cultural practices.