This essay shows how the Language poet Lyn Hejinian came to relate her experiences of Russia and her poetics of the “person” to Victor Shklovsky's concept of estrangement (ostranenie). I argue that in The Guard (1984), Oxota (1991), Leningrad (1991), and in other writings about Russia, Hejinian came to conflate poetic estrangement with the estranging effect of Russia itself and, in so doing, developed her poetics of the person, which linked the material text of poetic estrangement with the social poetics of everyday life. Everyday life in Russia seemed to take on the very qualities that she associated with estrangement: the dissolution of defined objects and essential selfhood and their replacement with the dynamic experience that Hejinian defined as “personhood.” At the same time, Hejinian found in this dynamic personhood a means to oppose essentialist national identities, so that Russian estrangement also became central to her utopian vision of bridging the Cold War divide between Russia and the United States.

You do not currently have access to this content.