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Chelovecheskij dokument : Istorija odnogo ponjatija

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Title: Chelovecheskij dokument : Istorija odnogo ponjatija
Author: Jakovleva, Natalia
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts, Department of Modern Languages, Russian Language and Literature
Thesis level: Doctoral dissertation (monograph)
Abstract: This study is a historical and semantic description of the notion of the human document (document humain), borrowed by Russian critics from the literary theory of French Naturalism. To this day the term remains current in the Russian language in fictional and scholarly texts, mostly in the humanities. Becoming something of a cliché, however, it has lost its strict, narrow sense. This book details the evolution of the notion over the relatively long period of its existence.

The term itself was invented by two French writers the Goncourt brothers, whose works were less known to Russian readers than, for instance, the ideas of Hyppolite Taine, where one could find semantically similar formulas. Meanwhile the texts of Emile Zola achieved particular popularity in Russia, and the human document played a key role in Zola s aesthetics, especially in his theory of the experimental novel . For Zola the human document rejected the ideology of Romanticism with its orientation on inventive and captivating fictions. It is a noteworthy fact that Zola s works devoted to the experimental novel were first published in Russian, since the French writer was collaborating with Russian periodicals. At the same time, similar expressions were wide spread in Russian critical discourse: for example, the prominent and influential critic Nikolay Mikhaylovsky oft en used synonyms like documents about the human, and one can find other derivatives like female document or Parisian document .

On the other hand, Russian reception of Zola s declared interest in psychic physiology and human degradation was also negative, and in the end of the nineteenth century the human document acquired a range of pejorative connotations. As Naturalist theories were gradually becoming obsolete and disappearing, the term s semantic associations were markedly transformed. The 1910s were a crucial period in its history. Although one can find the term in the texts of Russian Naturalists like the prolific writer Aleksandr Amfiteatrov, it was no longer strictly connected with this aesthetical and intellectual tradition. Displaced and half-forgotten, human document appears in the contexts of women s literature , memoirs, and even autobiographies about the 1905 revolution. Now it was associated with different documentary genres, such as diaries and confessions, as with the literary strategy of frank or true expression. This suggests that the term was becoming a part of the rhetoric of anti-literature . As a result, the positive ideal of frank testimony was combined with psychic physiology s negative associations, and this ambiguity allowed the application of the term to a certain set of specific subjects. For example, it was connected with the marginal hero of the age , i.e. the time of decadence and social decline (the revolutionary, the scoundrel, the cynic, and so on).

The 1920s and 1930s were the heyday of the human document . The term was rarely used in early Soviet literature but flourished among Russian emigre writers. Thanks to the older generation, who actively took part in pre-revolutionary literary discussions, this cliche gradually returned to the pages of émigré periodicals. In the 1930s, as in Zola s time, it assumed the form of a literary manifesto and united different circles of young Russian writers, mostly in France. Human document became a keyword in the famous discussion between two prominent figures of the Paris emigration, Vladislav Khodasevich and Georgy Adamovich, who considered the goal of a new literature to be the return to raw, frank self-expression. This new development in the history of the term was partly supported by the interest of contemporary French writers like Louis-Ferdinand Celine in naturalistic literary devices. In this period human document became a kind of synonym for a certain sort of poetry which was called the Parisian note . It is not unusual that this cliché sometimes appeared in Soviet criticism as a means of describing and then belittling émigré literature. It arose in the mid-1960s, probably after the polemics about frankness in literature and then was borrowed by literary scholar Lydia Ginzburg, who worked on the history of documentary genres in Russian literature.This study is a historical and semantic description of the notion of the human document (document humain), borrowed by Russian critics from the literary theory of French Naturalism. To this day the term remains current in the Russian language in fictional and scholarly texts, mostly in the humanities. Becoming something of a cliché, however, it has lost its strict, narrow sense. This book details the evolution of the notion over the relatively long period of its existence.

The term itself was invented by two French writers the Goncourt brothers, whose works were less known to Russian readers than, for instance, the ideas of Hyppolite Taine, where one could find semantically similar formulas. Meanwhile the texts of Emile Zola achieved particular popularity in Russia, and the human document played a key role in Zola s aesthetics, especially in his theory of the experimental novel . For Zola the human document rejected the ideology of Romanticism with its orientation on inventive and captivating fictions. It is a noteworthy fact that Zola s works devoted to the experimental novel were first published in Russian, since the French writer was collaborating with Russian periodicals. At the same time, similar expressions were wide spread in Russian critical discourse: for example, the prominent and influential critic Nikolay Mikhaylovsky oft en used synonyms like documents about the human, and one can find other derivatives like female document or Parisian document .

On the other hand, Russian reception of Zola s declared interest in psychic physiology and human degradation was also negative, and in the end of the nineteenth century the human document acquired a range of pejorative connotations. As Naturalist theories were gradually becoming obsolete and disappearing, the term s semantic associations were markedly transformed. The 1910s were a crucial period in its history. Although one can find the term in the texts of Russian Naturalists like the prolific writer Aleksandr Amfiteatrov, it was no longer strictly connected with this aesthetical and intellectual tradition. Displaced and half-forgotten, human document appears in the contexts of women s literature , memoirs, and even autobiographies about the 1905 revolution. Now it was associated with different documentary genres, such as diaries and confessions, as with the literary strategy of frank or true expression. This suggests that the term was becoming a part of the rhetoric of anti-literature . As a result, the positive ideal of frank testimony was combined with psychic physiology s negative associations, and this ambiguity allowed the application of the term to a certain set of specific subjects. For example, it was connected with the marginal hero of the age , i.e. the time of decadence and social decline (the revolutionary, the scoundrel, the cynic, and so on).

The 1920s and 1930s were the heyday of the human document . The term was rarely used in early Soviet literature but flourished among Russian emigre writers. Thanks to the older generation, who actively took part in pre-revolutionary literary discussions, this cliche gradually returned to the pages of émigré periodicals. In the 1930s, as in Zola s time, it assumed the form of a literary manifesto and united different circles of young Russian writers, mostly in France. Human document became a keyword in the famous discussion between two prominent figures of the Paris emigration, Vladislav Khodasevich and Georgy Adamovich, who considered the goal of a new literature to be the return to raw, frank self-expression. This new development in the history of the term was partly supported by the interest of contemporary French writers like Louis-Ferdinand Celine in naturalistic literary devices. In this period human document became a kind of synonym for a certain sort of poetry which was called the Parisian note . It is not unusual that this cliché sometimes appeared in Soviet criticism as a means of describing and then belittling émigré literature. It arose in the mid-1960s, probably after the polemics about frankness in literature and then was borrowed by literary scholar Lydia Ginzburg, who worked on the history of documentary genres in Russian literature.
URI: URN:ISBN:978-952-10-8162-0
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/36468
Date: 2012-09-15
Copyright information: This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for Your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.
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