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John Sturrock

20 February 1986
Handbook of Russian Literature 
edited by Victor Terras.
Yale, 558 pp., £25, April 1985, 0 300 03155 6
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Verbal Art, Verbal Sign, Verbal Time 
by Roman Jakobson, edited by Krystyna Pomorska and Stephen Rudy.
Blackwell, 208 pp., £25, July 1985, 0 631 14262 2
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Historic Structures: The Prague School Project 1928-1946 
by F.W. Galan.
Croom Helm, 250 pp., £22.50, May 1985, 0 7099 3816 0
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Mikhail Bakhtin 
by Katerina Clark and Michael Holquist.
Harvard, 398 pp., £19.95, February 1985, 0 674 57416 8
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The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship: A Critical Introduction to Sociological Poetics 
by M.M. Bakhtin and P.M. Medvedev, translated by Albert Wehrle.
Harvard, 191 pp., £7.50, May 1985, 0 674 30921 9
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Dialogues between Roman Jakobson​ and Krystyna Pomorska 
translated by Christian Hubert.
Cambridge, 186 pp., £15, August 1983, 0 521 25113 3
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The Dialogical Principle 
by Tzvetan Todorov, translated by Wlad Godzich.
Manchester, 132 pp., £25, February 1985, 0 7190 1466 2
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Rabelais and his World 
by Mikhail Bakhtin, translated by Hélène Iswolsky.
Indiana, 484 pp., $29.50, August 1984, 0 253 20341 4
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... RomanJakobson and Mikhail Bakhtin agree on so little as theorists of literature that they must count as alternatives. To read one and then the other, preferably Jakobson first and then Bakhtin, as a sort of anti-Jakobson, is a literary theoretical education. Where Jakobson is dry, Bakhtin is convivial; where Jakobson is technocratic, Bakhtin is impulsive; where ...
17 April 1980
The Sound Shape of Language 
by Roman Jakobson and Linda Waugh.
Harvester, 308 pp., £13.50, September 1979, 0 85527 926 5
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... of overlapping features. The analysis of a word such as rail reveals an ever-changing pattern of movement, with no obvious sound boundaries. None has sought more tenaciously and persuasively than RomanJakobson to establish another (universal) level of analysis which would correspond more faithfully to the way in which we perceive spoken language. Jakobson, born in Moscow at the end of the last ...


Clarence Brown

12 December 1996
Tangled Loyalties: The Life and Times of Ilya Ehrenburg 
by Joshua Rubenstein.
Tauris, 482 pp., £19.50, July 1996, 1 85043 998 2
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... s, which managed to elude the bibliography of the encyclopedic Rubenstein.) Ehrenburg brilliantly solved the problem of being inescapable without bothering to be readable. That my old Harvard teacher RomanJakobson prized the work of Mayakovsky I set down not only to his literary judgment, which I respected without sharing, but also to the fierce loyalty that Russians feel toward the friends of their ...

Major and Minor

Frank Kermode

6 June 1985
The Oxford Companion to English Literature 
edited by Margaret Drabble.
Oxford, 1155 pp., £15, April 1985, 0 19 866130 4
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... than Maugham. From Australia we have Patrick White but not Christopher Brennan or A.D. Hope. Elsewhere one notes the ample presence of D. Lessing and the absence of D. Jacobson; his near-namesake RomanJakobson is in, and said to be still alive, though alas he is not. Why Auerbach and not Curtius or Spitzer? Why the uninteresting Richard Hengist Horne and not the fascinating Herbert Horne? There ...


Hal Foster: ‘Inventing Abstraction’

7 February 2013
... sense – but subjective and embodied and thus to an extent ‘abstract’. So, too, semiotics discarded the belief that language referred directly to the world (here the intimacy of the linguist RomanJakobson with Malevich is very telling). Although Dickerman alludes to the impact of new technologies and culture on abstraction, one would like to hear more on this score. The exhibition offers a ...

Beyond Zero

Peter Wollen: Kazimir Malevich

1 April 2004
Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism 
edited by Matthew Drutt.
Guggenheim, 296 pp., $65, June 2003, 0 89207 265 2
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... the zero of form’, a tendency which led to the notorious Black Square of 1915 and the even more notorious White Square on White of 1918. In his lively memoirs, published as My Futurist Years, RomanJakobson, the great Russian linguist, vividly recalled his first encounter with Malevich, in 1913. ‘I am painting new pictures, non-representational ones,’ Malevich explained. ‘Let’s go to ...

Men’s Work

Adam Kuper: Lévi-Strauss

24 June 2004
Claude Lévi-Strauss: The Formative Years 
by Christopher Johnson.
Cambridge, 208 pp., £40, February 2003, 0 521 01667 3
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... or if no obvious alternative explanation was available. It was later, during his wartime exile, that he discovered a deeper source of human reason. In New York, Koyré introduced Lévi-Strauss to RomanJakobson. Lévi-Strauss remarked approvingly that Jakobson was ‘interested in everything – painting, avant-garde poetry, anthropology, computers, biology.’ (The first number of the journal Lé ...

Episteme, My Arse

Christopher Tayler: Laurent Binet

14 June 2017
The Seventh Function of Language 
by Laurent Binet, translated by Sam Taylor.
Harvill Secker, 390 pp., £16.99, May 2017, 978 1 910701 58 4
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... function of language’, a phrase that Simon is able to unpack with reference to the functions – referential, emotive, conative, phatic, metalingual and poetic – outlined in a famous paper by RomanJakobson. Those are only six functions, Bayard points out. Simon combs through Jakobson again and finds, in a passage on subsets of the conative, a mention of a ‘magic, incantatory function ...


Maurice Bloch

5 May 1983
The Way of the Masks 
by Claude Lévi-Strauss, translated by Sylvia Modelski.
Cape, 249 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 224 02081 1
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... anthropology took on its unique character but in New York, where he fled the Nazi victory in France. He took a post at the New School for Social Research and met, among others, the linguist RomanJakobson. The significance of this meeting is central, because it is the combination of Lévi-Strauss’s ethnographic knowledge and the theories of a particular school of linguistics called ...

Naming of Dogs

Edmund Leach

20 March 1986
The View from Afar 
by Claude Lévi-Strauss, translated by Joachim Neugroschel and Phoebe Hoss.
Blackwell, 311 pp., £19.50, June 1985, 0 631 13966 4
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... these essays. It is an old story. Between 1945 and 1964 Lévi-Strauss offered to the world of academic anthropology a string of brilliant ideas all closely linked with the phonological theories of RomanJakobson, to whose memory the present volume is dedicated. Sometimes the ideas fitted with the empirical evidence, but as often as not they did not. This has subsequently led to a hopeless divergence ...
20 August 1981
Working with Structuralism 
by David Lodge.
Routledge, 207 pp., £10.95, June 1981, 0 7100 0658 6
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... main interest is in the particularity of writings. But he does not find this interest incompatible with an admiration for, and a desire to use, the extraordinary achievements of such theoreticians as RomanJakobson, now mid-way through his ninth decade and hardly to be thought of as a poseur from the Left Bank. Indeed, when one thinks of that fertile and penetrating mind, it is hard to avoid the ...

The [ ] walked down the street

Michael Silverstein: Saussure

8 November 2012
by John Joseph.
Oxford, 780 pp., £30, March 2012, 978 0 19 969565 2
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... which he proved unable to manage, was left to the great early generations of linguists in the 20th century, led by Edward Sapir and Leonard Bloomfield in America, Daniel Jones in Britain, and RomanJakobson and Prince Nikolai Troubetzkoy on the Continent. Saussure’s most important breakthrough, the one that later allowed a vigorous structuralism to flourish, was the notion that all semiotic systems ...

Conversations with Myself

Michael Wood: Fernando Pessoa

19 July 2018
The Book of Disquiet 
by Fernando Pessoa, translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
Serpent’s Tail, 413 pp., £9.99, August 2018, 978 1 78125 864 4
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... In​ 1968, when not too many people outside Portugal had heard of Fernando Pessoa, now regarded as one of the great Modernist poets, the linguist RomanJakobson, in collaboration with Luciana Stegagno-Picchio, wrote an essay centring on Pessoa’s use of oxymorons. The piece was a complex formal study of a poem from Mensagem (1934), the single volume of ...
22 November 1979
The True Interpreter 
by Louis Kelly.
Blackwell, 282 pp., £15
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... even within one’s native tongue, has been recognised as analogous to the model of meaning-transfer between languages. To understand is to ‘decode’ and to ‘reinterpret’ internally. With RomanJakobson, this theoretic scheme extends to ‘transmutation’: that is, we ‘translate’ between semantic systems when we interpret a painting, when we understand a piece of music, when we ‘read ...


Frank Kermode: B. S. Johnson

5 August 2004
Like a Fiery Elephant: The Story of B.S. Johnson 
by Jonathan Coe.
Picador, 486 pp., £20, June 2004, 9780330350488
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‘Trawl’, ‘Albert Angelo’ and ‘House Mother Normal’ 
by B.S. Johnson.
Picador, 472 pp., £14.99, June 2004, 0 330 35332 2
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... norms is bound to result in oblivion. Literary transgressiveness, often reflecting radical social and political opposition, can thus be taken as a justification for rescue work. It may be, as RomanJakobson believed, that its virtue lies in its power to protect us from ‘automatisation, from the rust threatening our formulae of love and hatred, of revolt and renunciation, of faith and negation ...

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