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Mikhail Zoshchenko and the poetics of "skaz".

Hicks, Jeremy Guy; (2000) Mikhail Zoshchenko and the poetics of "skaz". Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The reputation of Soviet writer Mikhail Zoshchenko (1894-1958) was built and still stands upon his short stories of the 1920s. Their force derives from their most distinctive characteristic: they are told in the colloquial language of the people. This is called the skaz narrative manner and critics have associated the term with Zoshchenko from the beginning of his career. Nevertheless, as I argue in Chapter I, inadequate understanding of skaz has hampered study of his work. My thesis grounds its analysis of Mikhail Zoshchenko's 1920s short stories in an examination of theoretical treatments of the skaz technique (Chapter II) and a survey of its previous uses in Russian literature (Chapter III). Investigation of the definitions of skaz leads me to develop Mikhail Bakhtin's account of the term. Bakhtin divided the technique into parody and stylisation according to the author's intention in recreating another person's style and point of view. This approach is flexible enough to account for writers' divergent uses of the technique, and for readers' contradictory interpretations of them. Zoshchenko's use of skaz combines parody and stylisation. I illustrate this in Chapter IV by showing how Zoshchenko evolved this way of writing and in Chapter V, by relating it to 1920s Soviet journalism. Zoshchenko's reproduction of the feuilleton and letter of complaint forms is sympathetic stylisation aimed at cultural democratisation as well as parody. The same holds true of his language. Moreover, as I show in Chapter VI, the writer has a similarly ambivalent relation to his narrator's mentality: the concrete experiences that serve as the stories' material contradict the optimistic interpretations the narrator makes on the basis of those experiences. Zoshchenko himself is demonstrably unsure whether to trust the narrator's experience or his interpretation. The competing claims of interpretation and experience coexist precariously through Zoshchenko's exploitation of the inherent duality of skaz. His later works tend to resolve this conflict and forfeit any such balance.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Mikhail Zoshchenko and the poetics of "skaz".
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10103330
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