ZfL INFO 36/2019: Moscow Formalism and Literary History, 12.06.2019
Moscow Formalism and Literary History
A panel discussion with Marina Akimova (Lomonossov State University, Moscow), Siarhei Biareyshik (ZfL), Frank Fischer (National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow). Chair: Zaal Andronikashvili (ZfL)
Since the 1930s Moscow formalism has undertaken exceptional research with algorithmisation and data processing. This is documented in a recent special volume of the »Journal of Literary Theory«, published under the title »Moscow Formalism and Literary History« (ed. by Frank Fischer, Marina Akimova, Boris Orekhov). Made available for the first time in English translation, texts by Boris Yarkho (1930s), Mikhael Gasparov (1984) and Maksim Shapir (2006) present three generations of Muscovite scholars whose work is strongly interconnected.
Yarkho, in particular, was strongly inspired by the precision of the natural sciences and worked on a methodology of »exact literary studies«. His late articles show forms of »computational thinking« and can therefore be implemented easily in digital literary studies. Yarkho also foresaw that this kind of literary studies requires a team, a lab. He described his work as that of an ant contributing »to the overall construction of the anthill«. However, his position was marginalised at the time, and it took some decades for his work to return to the public eye, first through Gasparov's study of his manuscripts in the 1960s, then through Shapir's edition of his works in the 1990s and 2000s. Despite of promoting Yarkho, Shapir himself took a very critical view of the pursuit of exactness in literary studies.
The event begins with an introductory talk on the overall topic by Frank Fischer, followed by a discussion of the possibilities and limitations of data-driven formalism for literary studies.