A Choice 2012 Outstanding Academic Title

Mandelstam, Blok, and the Boundaries of Mythopoetic Symbolism

Stuart Goldberg


Literary Criticism/Russian & Former Soviet Union
305 pp. 6x9

$51.95 cloth 978-0-8142-1159-5
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Table of Contents


“In this subtle, nuanced interpretation of Osip Mandel’shtam in relation to the symbolists, . . . [Goldberg] employs various approaches . . . to expose the varieties of literary influence—both negative and positive—on Mandel’shtam. . . . [T]he greatest value of this book lies in Goldberg’s intelligent, perceptive, and enlightening interpretations of individual poems, not only as they fit into Mandel’shtam’s oeuvre but also as they relate to ‘early’ symbolists.” —Choice

“Throughout his book, Stuart Goldberg presents thoughtful and convincing interpretations, engaging the complex dynamics of Mandelstam’s verse. His readings include new findings and explore issues that heretofore have not been explicated in such detail. Mandelstam, Blok, and the Boundaries of Mythopoetic Symbolism will be invaluable to Slavists and to readers concerned with psychoanalytic and literary theory, and with modernism in general.” —Irene Masing-Delic, professor of Slavic and East European Languages and Literatures, The Ohio State University

“Stuart Goldberg is an excellent close reader of poetry with the ability to go beyond the individual poem and connect it to a broader worldview. His book offers superlative interpretations of both celebrated and lesser-known poems, setting Osip Mandelstam in the context of his time by investigating questions as varied as the structure of a book of poetry, the role of drama in early twentieth-century culture, poetic sincerity, poetic influence and appropriation. The relationship of Acmeism and Symbolism has never been treated in this depth or with this degree of erudition and imagination.” —Michael Wachtel, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Princeton University

“Mandelstam had no teacher,” marveled Anna Akhmatova, reflecting on his early maturity and singularity. But Mandelstam himself spoke of the need and even duty to study a poet’s literary roots. So how did this consummately complex, compelling, multi-resonant poet navigate and exploit the burden of the Russian Symbolist movement from which he emerged? How did this process change and augment his poetry?

Through a series of illuminating readings, Stuart Goldberg explores the ongoing role that the poetry of Russian Symbolism played in Osip Mandelstam’s creative life, laying bare the poet’s productive play with distance and immediacy in his assimilation of the Symbolist heritage. At the same time, Mandelstam, Blok, and the Boundaries of Mythopoetic Symbolism presents the first coherent narrative of the poet’s fraught relationship with Alexander Blok, the most powerful poetic voice among the Symbolists. This dialogue, which was largely one-sided, extended beyond poetic intertext into the realms of poetics, charisma, and personality.

Goldberg’s study pushes theoretical boundaries, exploring the juncture between pragmatics and intertext, adapting and challenging Bloom’s anxiety of influence theory, and, ultimately, tracing a shift in the nature of sincerity and authenticity that divided poetic generations.

Stuart Goldberg is associate professor of Russian at the Georgia Institute of Technology.