The technogenic image of a human in a
water-resistant costume arrived in Russia not long before the
launch of the diving school – first and foremost thanks
to the educational belles-lettres then in translation, in
particular, Jules Verne’s novels. The Russian poets of
the 1920s and 1930s became extremely interested in the image of the
diver, the Übermensch who has allowed poetic imagination to roam
the heretofore unseen, mysterious universe of the underwater
column. Taking the image of the diver as a paradigmatic object of
poetic imagination, Leving will offer some observations concerning
the major motifs and topoi of the underwater world of Russian and
Soviet poetry. Examining the works of both established and marginal
poets, Leving shows how the intangible "diver"
serves as a cultural medium capable of entering magic spheres; he
is a defender of state borders and represents a hydraulic motif in
socialist culture (a pilot’s inverted function); he
possesses the keys to gnosis; and, finally, as the plot of
submersion stimulates in poetic texts a peculiar horror genre (i.e.
the battle between a human and underwater reptiles), the diver
emerges as the ultimate hero and superman.
YURI LEVING is Professor and Chair in the Department of Russian Studies at Dalhousie University, Canada. He is the author of three monographs: Keys to The Gift: A Guide to V. Nabokov’s Novel (2011), Upbringing by Optics: Book Illustration, Animation, and Text (2010), Train Station – Garage – Hangar. Vladimir Nabokov and the Poetics of Russian Urbanism (2004, Short-listed for Andrey Bely Prize). He has also edited and co-edited five volumes of articles, most recently Shades of Laura: Vladimir Nabokov’s Last Novel The Original of Laura (forthcoming from McGill-Queen’s University Press) and Anatomy of a Short Story (New York: Continuum, 2012, with an afterword by John Banville). Leving just completed a co-authored manuscript on marketing literature and posthumous legacies. Currently he is working on two documentaries devoted to Nabokov and Joseph Brodsky.