Entangled Figures : Five Poems from Temy i variacii by Boris Pasternak

Jessica Winblad-Carlzohn

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This study is centred around different aspects of Boris Pasternak's early poetry that jeopardize semantic coherency and interpretation of his poems. Special attention is paid to metaphors, metonymies, lexical multiplicity (that is a multiplicity of relevant meanings codified in a dictionary) and obscure syntactic connections and how these aspects are combined in his poems. For this purpose the study presents a close-reading of five poems selected from the cycle Temy i variacii: 'Vdoxnovenie', 'Klevetnikam', 'Ja ix mog pozabyt´?', 'Nas malo' and 'Pianistu ponjatno'. It is found that in each of these poems all aspects occur simultaneously and entangled: one single word, line or stanza may constitute or be part of both metonymy and metaphor and at the same time be articulated in obscure syntactic connections. Accordingly these aspects offer divergent relevant interpretations, which is why not only metaphors and metonymies, but also lexical multiplicity and obscure syntactic connections are to be considered as figures. It is shown that from the network of entangled figures a multiplicity of semantic threads emerges that lead the thematic development in different directions. It is found that the semantic threads in turn develop into divergent narrative-like clusters. As a consequence of the entangled figures the clusters themselves are discernable simultaneously and entangled. It is further shown that all clusters involve images taken from a familiar reality that becomes displaced and unrecognizable by a moment of power. Both in the analyses of the poems and in the context of Pasternak's statements about art and power in his autobiographical works Oxrannaja gramota and Ljudi i polozjenija it is noted that this power is to be understood as inspiration. Entangled figures are found to be a mechanism for recording moments of inspiration manifested by the displaced reality. The entangled clusters expose that the images taken from a dynamic reality are interchangeable: they all articulate inspiration that passes through reality. The displacement of a moving reality, posed in the poems by entanglement, is proved to be a fundamental thought of the poems as a manifestation of inspiration.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Centre for Languages and Literature
  • Björling, Fiona, Supervisor
Award date2010 Jan 22
ISBN (Print)978-91-628-7986-0
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2010-01-22
Time: 10:15
Place: L201, Språk- och litteraturcentrum, Helgonabacken 12, Lund

External reviewer(s)

Name: Fleishman, Lazar
Title: Professor
Affiliation: Stanford University, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Languages and Literature

Free keywords

  • Temy i variacii
  • Metaphor
  • Russian Literature
  • Metonymy
  • Boris Pasternak
  • Figure


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