THE MOSCOW LINGUISTIC CIRCLE
Edited, preparation of the text, introduction and notes by M. I. Shapir
This previously unpublished article of Roman Jakobson, the first Chairman of the Moscow Linguistic Circle (MLC), was written in early November 1976 at A. A. Reformatskij’s request and with his participation. The work was intended for the ninth (supplementary) volume of The Concise Literary Encyclopaedia, but it was not fated to see the light of day at that time. On 30 November 1977 Reformatskij informed Jakobson: the “note on the MLC for the Con. Lit. Enc. has had a sad outcome: after our efforts, yours and mine, they didn’t half hack it to pieces there! They have mangled it so much, and told so many lies that I refused to authorize the ‘proof copy’, having pointed out all their inaccuracies and all their lies. But I still have no reply! On your behalf and mine I have renounced their text”.
Jakobson’s entry for the encyclopaedia, furnished with an extensive preface and commentary, may serve as a substantial introduction for a student of the Moscow Linguistic Circle (19151924): the article gives an overall idea of both the principal directions of its activities and of its aesthetic orientation. However, the MLC’s strongest side was neither its wide range of interests, nor even its use of unknown facts, but the ability to look in a new way at long-standing and seemingly well known phenomena: as A. A. Buslaev said at the celebration of the fifth anniversary of the MLC (29 Feb. 1920), “the main task of the Circle is a methodological revolution”. The present publication, intended to mark the centenary of Roman Jakobson (11/23 Oct. 1896 18 Aug. 1982), may help us clarify the place of the MLC among other “Formalist” currents: it is on this group that the best traditions of Russian Structuralism and semiotics are based.