The Reception of G. Herwegh’s Personality and Work in Russian Culture: from Revolutionary Pathos to a Scandalous Love Affair

Natalia Nikonova, Lidia Dmitrieva

Abstract


This paper offers an overview of the perception of work and the evaluation of the personality of 19th century German poet Georg Herwegh. The research demonstrates that the character of perception is determined by the cultural and historical context in the receiving culture, and it is even more so with political poetry that is based on the rhetoric of spiritual edification. The analysis is made with reference to previously unstudied materials, namely, marks and notes from the archive of V. A. Zhukovsky made on the pages of Herwegh’s most popular book. On the basis of this material the authors conclude that this period was characterised by the initial attempt to represent Herwegh and his poetry within the framework of the history of German literature from its emergence to the mid-19th century. The second period of Russian authors’ reference to his poetry was dominated by the appearance in Russia of the ideological tonality typical of the political poems that won the German poet his fame. The beginning of this period was the post-revolutionary decade of the 1820s. Russian literature specially turned to Herwegh’s legacy, thus marking a new stage of perception by publishing Selected Poems, a new voluminous anthology of translations of his works, as well as a number of literary studies. A new burst of attention began between 2009 and 2013 when numerous articles on the relationship between the Herzens and Herwegh were published. Post-Soviet Russian scholars have examined the controversial personality of the German author through a lens which has brought new traits to the fore: the love triangle between Herwegh and the Herzens which was the main prototype of the conflict in Herzen’s My Past and Thoughts. The paradigmatic shift in the perception of the German poet connected with the change from the textual to the biographic discourse is directly reflected in Russian mass literary culture.


Keywords


V. A. Zhukovsky; G. Herwegh; A. I. Herzen; literary perception; biographical paradigm

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2016.2.167

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