Home Releases # 10, 2015


Literary Сriticism


  • Chesnokova Tatyana Candidate of Philology, Associate Professor


The author focuses on the motif of the debate of seasons as it is realized in Conflictus Veris et Hiemis (The Contention of Spring and Winter) by Alcuin and the final lyrical fragments of Shakespeare’s comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost. The comparative study is based on the methodology of historical poetics. Rooted in folklore archetypes, the debate of seasons came into mediaeval literature through the medium of Latin eclogue of the Carolingian Renaissance. The way of learned debate to the folklore “contention” was fulfilled against the background of the close attachment of Latin school poetry (not alien to the panegyrist objects) to the cultural policy of Karl’s monarchy. Starting with the contention motifs, found in Vergil’s Eclogue III, the Carolingian author adapted its “peacemaking” structure to the current tasks of the state, court and the glorification of their first persons, which subdued the contention motif to that of the ritual expel of the powers of darkness from the pastoral community. Unambiguity of the Spring’s victory over Winter was strengthened by the recurrence of rigid ritual oppositions that differed from classical Roman intelligent peacemaking ideal. Having originated from the interrelated elements of court and school culture, Alcuin’s eclogue contributed to further expansion of the debate motif in mediaeval poetry, which gave a basis for its mock use in the new cultural environment, the example of which being the lyrical final lines of Shakespeare’s comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost, ended in a roll-call of seasons’ songs. In Alcuin’s Contention, the debate constituted the central part of the work. In Shakespeare’s comedy, it moved to the periphery of dramatic structure as its “inserted” lyrical element, yet retained connection with the former intellectual core: the theme of the “lost” efforts to conquer time. The roughness of folklore abuse was replaced by formal idyllic balance, complicated by ironic polysemy, whereas decorative allegory of the Contention gave place to metaphoric imagery, concentrated around Renaissance “anthropological” metaphor of the universe. The archetypal motif of seasons’ contest retained its literary significance beyond the boundaries of lyrical-dramatic traditions of the Renaissance. In Russian poetry, it reappeared in F. Tyutchev’s “Zima nedarom zlitsya...”, which later gained the reputation of a piece of “school classics”, as it contained a new version of the old pattern.
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