Sarah Krive (Assistant Dean, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro)
“Periodic(al) Parody: Akhmatova’s Fate in the Post-Revolutionary Press”
Over forty years after her death, the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966) remains a rich, multifaceted symbol: she is a young poetess of love lyrics, a near-martyr at the hands of Stalin, the conscience of the so-called “internal emigration,” what Joseph Brodsky termed a “keening muse.” Before the Russian Revolution, a young Akhmatova achieved instant fame for her intimate love lyrics. After the Revolution, however, Akhmatova’s poetry was increasingly out of place within a Soviet system that eschewed personal lyrics in favor of art extolling the virtues of civic duty. Since she began to publish, different reading communities—scholarly and otherwise—have debated both the meaning of her poems and her role in society.
In previous analytic frameworks, Akhmatova’s stature within an elitist modernist milieu has been taken for granted, with examination of any aspect of her work or reception that contradicts her elite status dismissed as irrelevant to the proper study of literature. Within a periodical studies framework, however, the dichotomy imposed by high modernist elitism is thankfully eviscerated, allowing for examination of Akhmatova’s reception within and around journals and magazines of the period, including such journals and magazines as Vestnik Evropy, Den’, Zhizn’ dlia vsekh, Zhenskoe delo, Sovremennik, Kniga i revoliutsiia.
In this presentation, I will focus on contextualizing the publication sites of several early parodies of Akhmatova. When examined individually, post-Revolutionary parodies reveal a negative image of Akhmatova as a religious poet. Take, for example, the caricature reproduced below, accompanied by a parody of Akhmatova, which appears in Literaturnyi ezhenedel’nik 42 (1923) n.p. While close reading of the caricature and accompanying parody yields insight into the use of Akhmatova as a negatively valued religious poet, examining them within the context of the magazine’s larger editorial project, as evidenced in the visual layout, selection of authors in the issue, etc., will provide a more complete, and more nuanced approach to Akhmatova’s reception, one that, as Latham and Scholes put it, undoes the “modern bias against the commercial aspects of aesthetic production” (Latham and Scholes, 521).