From its first publication in 1923, Viktor Shklovsky's book Zoo, or Letters Not about Love has been discussed as a text that takes up a borderline position between literature and literary theory. The fact that the book was written and first published in Berlin ensured its place in studies of émigré literature concerned with geographic borders. In light of this twofold understanding of border as a boundary between genres and a category of literary cartographies, this article offers a rethinking of the notion of border in Shklovsky's early poetics. It suggests that the subject's geographic displacement (e.g., exile) provides a vantage point from which a reevaluation of established genres and discourses of textual production becomes possible. The experience of exile allows Shklovsky to challenge such categories as fiction (in literary and historical narratives) and nonfiction (both theory and autobiography). This becomes possible because in Zoo, or Letters Not about Love language is no longer presented as a medium of representation but rather as a means of re-creating the writer's unstable literary and ideological position in postrevolutionary Russia and abroad. During his exile, which disrupted his contribution to the development of “the science of literature” undertaken by the formalist clique in Moscow and Petrograd, Shklovsky used writing as a way of constructing the Soviet writer's experience of émigré life. To further investigate the link between language and exile, the article draws parallels between Shklovsky's writings on the subject and Jacques Derrida's theories of writing, which link the inherent instability of language to its essential foreignness.
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Research Article| March 01 2016
Displaced Modernism: Shklovsky's Zoo, or Letters Not About Love and the Borders of Literature
Poetics Today (2016) 37 (1): 29–53.
Asiya Bulatova; Displaced Modernism: Shklovsky's Zoo, or Letters Not About Love and the Borders of Literature. Poetics Today 1 March 2016; 37 (1): 29–53. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-3452607
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