“I Whisper Into the Radio Ear”: Radio Sound and Russian Modernist Poetics

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“I Whisper Into the Radio Ear”: Radio Sound and Russian Modernist Poetics

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Title: “I Whisper Into the Radio Ear”: Radio Sound and Russian Modernist Poetics
Author: Penka, Philipp Sebastian
Citation: Penka, Philipp Sebastian. 2016. “I Whisper Into the Radio Ear”: Radio Sound and Russian Modernist Poetics. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
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Abstract: In 1924, the Soviet “electrification” was followed by “radiofication,” a gradual introduction of broadcast radio that led to novel forms of newscasts, political propaganda, and creative formats. This dissertation is the first study to document the wider cultural impact of radio in the Soviet interwar period; more specifically, it shows how the medium affected Russian modernist poetry both as a theme and as a catalyst for linguistic and poetic innovation. While existing scholarship on radio and literary writing typically addresses genres written for the medium, such as the radio play, I re-examine works by three canonical Soviet writers—Velimir Khlebnikov, Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Osip Mandelstam—to reveal how their views of the poetic word were transformed by broadcasting.

In chapter one, I argue that Khlebnikov’s theory of zaum and the sonorous poetics of his later works (1921–22) reflect both the concept and the sounds of wireless communication: its instantaneity, omnipresence, and heightened emotional charge. In chapter two, I trace radio’s role in Mayakovsky’s poetic posturing as the Revolution’s leading orator. Not only do his lyrics written after 1922 thematize their own transmission as sound; Mayakovsky’s theoretical essays accord radio a leading role in the Soviet literary process itself. The third chapter examines Mandelstam’s “Voronezh Notebooks” as a reflection of the poet’s exposure to and work for radio during his exile. By revealing how these writers engaged with radio beyond—and despite—its political and informative uses, I show that the medium motivated a growing emphasis on the sounded poetic word. In many cases, radio inspired a shift from visual forms of representation toward aural imagery and encouraged a renewed interest in poetry as an oral genre.
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Other Posted Material, as set forth at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:dash.current.terms-of-use#LAA
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:33840709
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