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  Philologica 4 (1997)  
   
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B. I. IARXO

DISTRIBUTION OF SPEECH IN THE FIVE-ACT TRAGEDY
(On the Question of Classicism and Romanticism)

Edited, preparation of the text, and notes by M. V. Akimova
Introduction by M. I. Shapir

 
 
 


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Summary

The primary goal of the research work of Boris Isaakovich Iarxo (1889—1942), one of the most prominent literary scholars of the twentieth century, was to make the study of literature a “normal” science which, in terms of precision and demonstrativeness, would not be inferior to the natural sciences. In this large-scale theoretical and methodological programme a special role was allocated to the work published here. This is Iarxo’s only completed monograph, and is devoted to the problems of “diachronic synthesis”. To establish the laws of evolution of dramatic forms in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Iarxo was the first to construct a typology of literary movements using quantitative methods. He identified four stylistic periods (early and late classicism, early and late romanticism), and defined the following parameters for five-act tragedies of each of these movements: 1) the number of speaking characters in a scene; 2) the standard deviation from the average number of speaking characters; 3) the number of scenes in the play (the measure of mobility of the action); 4) the total number of characters.

The classics of the second half of the seventeenth century differ from ancient tragedy by the expansion of the range of speaking characters from four to five. In the late classics this range rises to six, while the proportion of “duologues”, on the contrary, decreases. All classics are typified by the predominance of duologues over all other kinds of scenes put together, as well as by an insignificant standard deviation and low mobility of the action. In early romanticism the number of speaking characters is potentially unlimited, a factor of mobility of the action increases 2.5 fold, while the total number of characters increases threefold. In the tragedies of moderate romantics the range of speaking characters and the standard deviation slightly decreases again.

Iarxo considered all the laws he discovered as particular cases of general world-wide laws. Among them the principal is “the law of waves”, which manifests itself in an undulatory development of literary forms.

 


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