HARVARD SERIES IN UKRAINIAN STUDIES
Cover: Alexander A. Potebnja’s Psycholinguistic Theory of Literature in HARDCOVER

Alexander A. Potebnja’s Psycholinguistic Theory of Literature

A Metacritical Inquiry

Add to Cart

Product Details

HARDCOVER

$20.95 • £16.95 • €19.00

ISBN 9780916458164

Publication Date: 06/20/1988

Short

The work of Alexander A. Potebnja, a leading Ukrainian linguist of the nineteenth century, has significantly influenced modern literary criticism, particularly Russian formalism and structuralism. Potebnja’s theory, known as potebnjanstvo (Potebnjanism), flourished in the Russian Empire and in the Soviet Union during the 1920s. It attracted scores of adherents and gave rise to an influential literary journal and a formal critical school at Kharkiv. Yet despite his remarkable achievements in linguistics and literary theory, Potebnja’s work was officially renounced in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, and in the West he remains virtually unknown.

In his study, John Fizer carefully reconstructs Potebnja’s theory of literature from the psycholinguistic formulations found in his works on language, mythology, and folklore. Elaborating Potebnja’s concept of internal form, energeia, polysemy, and the semiosis of poetic discourse, Fizer develops the central tenets of Potebnja’s theory with regard to their philosophical, psychological, and linguistic bases. Largely influenced by Kant and by Humboldt’s philosophy of language, Potebnja conceived of language and the verbal arts as coterminous phenomena. He identified the internal form with the etymon of the word, which he considered the preeminent locus in the structure of poetic art. He insisted on the dynamic role of the Self in poetic creation and perception but, unlike many of his contemporaries, he believed that the diachronic depth of the signifiers was ethnic and had measureable limits. According to Potebnja, this depth (or internal form) reveals itself as a semantically multivalent image that induces self-knowledge and transforms the primary data of consciousness into syntagmatic wholes.

A great deal of Potebnja’s theory shares similarities with the work of Benedetto Croce, Leo Spitzer, and Charles S. Pierce. It anticipated modern literary criticism, and, as the author convincingly argues, retains existential and epistemological cogency even today. Fizer’s volume offers the first thorough study of Potebnja’s literary theory, and his insightful analysis restores Potebnja to his rightful place in the history of literary criticism.

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

Jacket: The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution, by Lindsay Chervinsky, from Harvard University Press

Why You Should Participate in an (Online) Book Club

Online book clubs can be a rewarding way to connect with readers, Lindsay Chervinsky discovered, when she was invited to join one to discuss her book, The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution. Since my book was published in April 2020, I’ve discovered that my work appeals to three main audiences. First, the general readers who are enthusiastic about history, attend virtual events, and tend to support local historic sites. Second, readers who are curious about our government institutions and the current political climate and are looking for answers about its origins. And third, history, social studies, and government teachers