Conférence inaugurale donnée dans le cadre du projet PRA 2015 "La rete dei modernismi europei. Riviste letterarie e canone modernista (1918-1940)", Université de Pise.
The paper critically revisits some principles of classification and taxonomy currently dominant in modernist studies. Students of modernism tend to frame their оbject as a philosophical and aesthetic reaction against realism and tradition. Thus, if we were to chart the stock vision of the modernist field in Russian literary scholarship, which does not differ in this respect from its foreign counterparts, the resultant map of modernist culture would feature a compass rose whose cardinal directions read: Realism, Anti-realism, Tradition, and Innovation. The problem is that the contrastive pairs – realism / anti-realism, tradition / innovation – could work as tools of definition and taxonomy only if the meanings of their constituent parts were reasonably clear and stable; but they are nothing of the sort. One critic’s realism is another’s anti-realism, and what is meant by tradition in one national culture or historical period is understood as innovation in another. The criteria of anti-realism and innovation have become paradigmatic in our thinking about “new art.” But despite seeming expedience, they hinder the identification and assessment of modernist authors and texts within a larger field of cultural production.