Taras Ševčenko (1814–1861) is the central figure in modern Ukrainian literature, but despite the enormous attention that has been devoted to his person, his work, and his role in Ukrainian history and the Ukrainian national renascence, the core of the Ševčenko phenomenon—the symbolic nature of his poetry—has received little systematic analysis.
As this book argues, myth serves as the underlying code and model of Ševčenko’s poetic universe. Examining the structures and paradigms of Ševčenko’s mythical thought provides answers for various crucial and heretofore intractable questions, such as those concerning the relation of his Ukrainian poetry to his Russian prose, his sense of a transcendent “curse” and “guilt” in the Ukrainian past and present, the interrelation of his revolutionist fervor with his apparent providentialism, or of the tension between the nativism and the universalism of his poetry.
Moreover, it is through the structures of his mythical thought that we can understand Ševčenko’s “prophecy,” in effect, his millenarian vision. In this framework, too, the author focuses on the religious tenor of Ševčenko’s poetry, in which he is both expiator and carrier of the Word, and, finally, on the reception—indeed the cult of Ševčenko among generations of Ukrainians.