The Children of Timelessness: Contemplative Poetry of the Soviet Stagnation


This dissertation explores the poetry and culture of the late-Soviet era of Stagnation (1964-1985) through a broadly conceived cultural metaphor of stagnation. The five Russian poets and one American poet in this study- Viktor Krivulin, Alexei Parshchikov, Aleksandr Eremenko, Ivan Zhdanov, Elena Shvarts, and Lyn Hejinian- each engage with a poetic world encumbered by visible signs and markers of decline. To consider the world in which these poets came of age, wrote poetry, and sought out meaningful lives, I frame my analysis through Mikhail Epstein’s label of the poets as “children of timelessness,” an alteration of the then common cliché, “children of stagnation,” to situate the poets within an historical temporality of sluggish time, poor social mobility, and unreachable horizons of desire and success. While the dissertation focuses on a fairly narrow grouping of poets, all of whom pursued a bohemian lifestyle, an esoteric and contemplative worldview, and a rejuvenated poetic language after years of Socialist Realist aesthetics, my primary interest was to consider the inner life of a superpower in its historic decline, a time which produced a paradox of artistic flourishing alongside social decay.

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