Boris Eikhenbaum


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Eikhenbaum, Boris Mikhailovich

 

Born Oct. 4 (16), 1886, in the city of Krasnyi, in what is now Smolensk Oblast; died Nov. 24, 1959, in Leningrad. Soviet literary scholar; doctor of philology; professor at various higher educational institutions in Leningrad.

Eikhenbaum graduated from the faculty of history and philology of the University of St. Petersburg in 1912. In 1918 he joined the Society for the Study of Poetic Language (OPOIAZ). Eikhenbaum dealt with problems of structure, rhythm, and style in such studies as “How Gogol’s ‘Overcoat’ Was Made” (1919) and The Melody of Russian Lyric Verse (1922). These works are noticeably influenced by the principles and inconsistencies of the formal method in literary scholarship. In his later works, which dealt primarily with L. N. Tolstoy (¿. Tolstoi, books 1–3, 1928–60) and M. Iu. Lermontov, Eikhenbaum adopted a more balanced approach. He analyzed writers’ works against a broad historical, social, and cultural background, employing large quantities of biographical, documentary, and archival materials. He never returned to the solitary study of structure that characterized his early, formalist writings.

Eikhenbaum’s best works are noted for the acuteness with which he poses literary problems, the originality of his insights, and the elegance of his exposition. One of the foremost Soviet textual critics, Eikhenbaum edited works by such writers as I. S. Turgenev, N. S. Leskov, and M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin.

WORKS

Stal’i o Lermontove. [Foreword by B. Bukhshtab.] Moscow-Leningrad, 1961.
Opoezii. [Foreword by V. Orlov.] Leningrad, 1969.
Oproze. [Foreword by G. Bialyi.] Leningrad, 1969.

T. IU. KHMEL’NITSKAIA

References in periodicals archive ?
While the Formalists established their main base at the State Institute for the History of the Arts (Gosudarstvennyi institut istorii iskusstv, hereafter GIII), Boris Eikhenbaum, Boris Tomashevskii and Iurii Tynianov, who had worked with Iakubinskii and others at the Petrograd Institute of the Living Word (Institut zhivogo slova, hereafter IZhS) from 1919, also played significant roles at ILIaZV.
In fact, as Boris Eikhenbaum demonstrated in his monumental study on Tolstoy, German Volkisch thought, especially Riehl's ideas, had an appreciable impact on the Russian novelist's worldview.
The approaches of Russian formalists such as Viktor Shklovskii, Boris Eikhenbaum, Roman Jakobson, and Iurii Tynianov, who describe film as an independent semiotic system of conventions, have had little impact on Soviet film critics, who continued to uphold the principle of fidelity and to give unwavering priority to the literary text.
The first time Anna Akhmatova was called half harlot and half nun, by the critic Boris Eikhenbaum in 1922, it was almost a compliment: "Here already we can see the beginnings of the paradoxical, or more correctly contradictory double image of the heroine--half harlot burning with passion, half nun able to pray to God for forgiveness.
2) Introduced into regular usage in the late 1920s by the Russian formalist critic Boris Eikhenbaum, the term literaturnyi byt (literary mores or lifestyle) refers to the norms of behavior and forms of social and economic organization practiced within a literary community.
In his article "Put" Pushkina k proze," Boris Eikhenbaum describes some features of this shift, especially Pushkin's own and other contemporary writers' changed attitudes toward lyric poetry and their awakening interest in developing a Russian literary language that could be used in fictional prose genres.
Otherwise it closely resembles the well-known essay on "The Theory of the Formal Method" by Boris Eikhenbaum, which is almost contemporary with it.
As the twentieth century draws to a close and we all, allegedly, surf happily on the information highway, creating endlessly provisional meanings, whether as readers or writers, it is salutary and exhilarating to have the opportunity to read, and to write about, such an excellent and courageous figure as Boris Eikhenbaum, a man who lived through extremely difficult personal circumstances but managed, with the partial exception of his final decade, to produce literary theory and criticism which is of the highest order, and which has added immeasurably to both our understanding of how literature is made, and of Russian authors, especially Lermontov and Tolstoi.
Each reading, whether it be Morson's aphoristic treatment of Bilibin and Prince Andrey, Love's apprehension of Kutuzov qua Platon Karataev and Pierre Bezukhov, Herberg-Rothe's juxtaposition of the respective "definite" and "indefinite" dialectics of von Clausewitz and Tolstoy, or, finally, Samet's revision of the Homeric epic of Boris Eikhenbaum via the Virgilian one of David Quint, presents an irreducible conflict between "narrative art" and "historical truth.
Worth recalling in this connection are Zhirmunskii's studies on the composition of lyric poems, his comparative analysis of the poetry of Pushkin and Briusov, a study elaborated by Boris Eikhenbaum on the melody of lyric poems, and numerous investigations of verse rhythm, (6) Iurii Tynianov's study of poetic semantics, the fruitful investigations of Viktor Vinogradov into the prose stylistics of Gogol and Dostoevskii, etc.
The Formalist critics and their followers, on the other hand, focused their attention on Gogol's extraordinary style, one of them, Dmitrii Chizhevsky devoting an entire article to the eccentric use of the word 'even' (dazhe) and another, Boris Eikhenbaum writing a book on The Overcoat that has become famous in its own right and is rightly the subject of close examination by the author.
The theoretical contribution of Russian critic Boris Eikhenbaum (1886-1959) to the modern understanding of literature is immense, albeit somewhat neglected in current scholarship.