Death in Quotation Marks: Cultural Myths of the Modern Poet by Svetlana Boym

By Svetlana Boym

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What are his impurities? And finally, what is the conjunction between the poetic suicide and the myth of modernity? Mallarmé's death of the poet has been lavishly celebrated by literary critics. In fact, the changing reception of Mallarmé reflects important shifts in French cultural history, as well as in the European and American practice of reading. 3 In reaction to Valéry's official monument to the "pure poet," the French avant-garde artists, specifically, the Surrealists, tried to silence Mallarmé.

Fashion designates that peculiar space of vital intertextuality, or, as Shoshana Felman puts it, "vitality of texts" and "textuality of life," that might help us reshape the figure of the poet, and give us a broader insight into the making of the self in general. The study of fashions might unveil some spectacular theatrical underwear of the self, the self that can never be "layed bare" and exempt from everyday dramas. Even the pure poet is not completely unfashionable. In fact, "fashion" originates from the same verb as "poetry," "to make"—facere in Latin and poein in Greek.

The literary personality reveals the dynamic boundaries between literature and byt (here this refers to daily existence and "extra-literary" genres), showing how some facts of the poet's personal life can turn into literary facts and vice versa. Tynyanov's interest in the relationship between literary and other discourses demonstrates that contrary to many popular critical beliefs, the cultural project of the Formalists is not in opposition to that of Bakhtin. Tynyanov is concerned with what he calls cultural poetics of the author's life, rather than in psychological or psychoanalytical approaches.

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