Join us on May 15th for a discussion with Michael Kunichika on “The Etymological Night: Velimir Khlebnikov, Osip Mandelstam, and Modernist World Culture”.
“Khlebnikov,” wrote Osip Mandelstam, is “a citizen of the whole of history, of all systems of language and poetry. A kind of idiotic Einstein, who cannot differentiate between what is closer, a railroad bridge or ‘The Song of Igor’s Campaign’…” It was in the work of this “idiotic Einstein” that we find a vision of modernist world literature and world culture that was no less robust in scope and aspiration as that of Osip Mandelstam’s. Whereas Mandelstam’s toska po mirovoi kul’ture, or yearning for world culture, was rooted in the traditions of Western Europe; the coordinates of Khlebnikov’s was in the spaces of Eurasia. One “will live either in the world of Khlebnikov, or in the world of Mandelstam,” writes no less than Nadezhda Mandelstam. While the poetic worlds of Khlebnikov and Mandelstam may have been incompatible, this paper considers how these two Russian modernists elaborated visions for a world culture in response to each other and to their ages, and in anticipation of debates regarding world literature today.
Michael Kunichika teaches in the Department of Russian and Slavic Studies at NYU. He is the author of the forthcoming Our Native Antiquity: Archaeology and Aesthetics in the Culture of Russian Modernism.