The Word Made Self

The Word Made Self

Russian Writings on Language, 1860–1930
Thomas Seifrid
When Osip Mandelstam wrote that the Russian word was "sentient and breathing flesh," he voiced one of the most powerful themes in his culture. In The Word Made Self, Thomas Seifrid explores this Russian fascination with the power of the word as expressed in the work of philosophers, theologians, and artists of the Silver Age and early Soviet period. He shows that their diverse works (poems, novels, philosophical and religious tracts) share an attempt to articulate "a model of selfhood within the phenomenon of language."

The thinkers included in this book—among them Pavel Florenskii, Roman Jakobson, Aleksei Losev, and Gustav Shpet—frequently responded to the work of contemporary European philosophers even as they drew upon and revitalized powerful elements of early Russian religious thought. On Seifrid's view, this highly original body of writing about language was the essential context for the development of Russian Futurism, Formalism, and the work of Mikhail Bakhtin and the Soviet structuralists—movements and ideas whose influence has extended far beyond Russia and long past their years of efflorescence. This book will have a lasting impact among readers who will be fascinated to discover the richness of this long-suppressed chapter in the history of Russian culture.