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  Philologica 7 (2001/2002)  






A debate about verse and prose took place at the State Academy of Artistic Sciences (Gosudarstvennaia akademiia xudožestvennyx nauk, GAXN) on 15 October 1926. Boris Isaakoviè Iarxo was the keynote speaker. Neither the published account of the debate, nor the manuscript minutes from the meeting contain direct references to the fact that the speaker consistently contested Iurij Nikolaevich Tynianov’s The Problem of Verse Language (1924). This is, however, evidenced by archival sources: a rough draft of the principal points of the GAXN paper, outlines of Iarxo’s articles which were written at the same time, and preparatory materials for the lectures on the theory of verse given by him in 1926, 1927 and 1928.

Iarxo’s views were to a large degree opponent to Tynianov’s. It was his strong conviction that “there is no special verse language”. In his opinion, all the examples Tynianov gave to demonstrate the dependence of the poetic semantics on the position of the word in a verse construction were completely invalid: either they had no bearing on the subject, or they illustrated common language phenomena, which are as possible in prose as in poetry.

Iarxo raised even stronger objections against Tynianov’s distinction between these speech forms based on the verse graphics. Iarxo (following, in some degree, the works of Franz Saran) agreed with Boris Viktorovich Tomashevskij that verse is an acoustic (rather than a visual) form and, therefore, is not distinguished from prose because of its graphics, but due to a regular repetition of phonetic elements (that is, its rhythm), as well as a pause at the end of the rhythmic groups. For Tynianov, enjambement was a strong means enabling one to perceive the essence of poetic speech, whereas, for Iarxo, verse consisting of widespread enjambements was not verse at all.

In connection with the GAXN debate, Iarxo conceived several studies on the problem of “sound and meaning”. This is why (partly thanks to the polemic with Tynianov) the first serious attempts at the formalization of correspondences between phonics and semantics were undertaken: Iarxo succeeded in finding a mathematical way to describe the correlations between style and grammar, stanza and semantics, syntax and poetic rhythm.



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