RJ & JT Theses on L&L

Jakobson, Roman and Juri Tynjanov 1980[1928]. Problems in the Study of Language and Literature. Translated by H. Eagle. Poetics Today 2(1a): 29-31.

1. The immediate problems facing Russian literary and linguistic science demand a precise theoretical platform. They require a firm dissociation from the increasing mechanistic tendency to paste together mechanically the new methodology and old obsolete methods; they necessitate a determined refusal of the contraband offer of naive psychologism and other methodological hand-me-downs in the guise of new terminology.
Furthermore, academic eclecticism and pedantic "formalism" - which replaces analysis by terminology and the classification of phenomena - and the repeated attempts to shift literary and linguistic studies from a systematic science to episodic and anecdotal genres should be rejected. (Jakobson & Tynjanov 1980[1928]: 29)
2. The history of literature (art), being simultaneous with other historical series, is characterized, as is each of these series, by an involved complex of specific structural laws. Without an elucidation of these laws, it is impossible to establish in a scientific manner the correlation between the literary series and other historical series. (Jakobson & Tynjanov 1980[1928]: 29)
3. The evolution of literature cannot be understood until the evolutionary problem ceases to be obscured by questions about episodic, nonsystemic genesis, whether literary (for example, so-called "literary influences") or extraliterary. The literary and the extraliterary material used in literature may be introduced into the orbit of scientific investigation only when it is considered from a functional point of view. (Jakobson & Tynjanov 1980[1928]: 29)
4.The sharp opposition of synchronic (static) and diachronic cross sections has recentry become a fruitful working hypothesis, both for linguistics and for history of literature, inasmuch as it has demonstrated that language, as well as literature, has a systemic character at each individual moment of its existence. At the present time, the achievements of the synchronic concept force us to reconsider the principles of diachrony as well. The idea of a mechanical agglomeration of material, having been replaced by the concept of a system or structure in the realm of sychronic study, underwent a corresponding replacement in the realm of diachronic study as well. The history of a system is in turn a system. Pure synchronism now proves to be an illusion: every synchronic system has its past and its future as inseparable structural elevents of the system: (a) archaism as a fact of style; the linguistic and literary background recognized as the rejected old-fashioned style; (b) the tendency toward innovation in language and literature recognized as a renewal of the system.
The opposition between synchrony and diachrony was an opposition between the concept of system and the concept of evolution; thus it loses its importance in principle as soon as we recognize that every system necessarily exists as an evolution, whereas, on the other hand, evolution is inescapably of a systemic nature. (Jakobson & Tynjanov 1980[1928]: 29-30)
5. The concept of synchronic literary system does not coincide with the naively envisaged concept of a chronological epoch, since the former embraces not only works of art which are close to each other in time but also works which are drawn into the orbit of the system from foreign literatures or previous epochs. An indifferent cataloguing of coexisting phenomena is not sufficient; what is important is their hierarchical significance for the given epoch. (Jakobson & Tynjanov 1980[1928]: 30)
6. The assertion of two different concepts - la langue and la parole - and the analysis of the relationship between them (the Geneva school) has been exceedingly fruitful for linguistic science. The principles involved in relating these two categories (i.e., the existing norm and the individual utterance) as applied to literature must be elaborated. In this latter case, the individual utterance cannot be considered without reference to the existing complex of norms. (The investigator, in isolating the former from the latter, inescapably deforms the system of artistic values under consideration, thus losing the possibility of establishing its immanent laws.) (Jakobson & Tynjanov 1980[1928]: 30)
7. An analysis of the structural laws of language and literature and their evolution inevitably leads to the establishment of a limited series of actually existing structural types (and, correspondingly, of types of structural evolution). (Jakobson & Tynjanov 1980[1928]: 30)
8. A disclosure of the immanent laws of the history of literature (and language) allows us to determine the character of each specific change in literary (and linguistic) systems. However, these laws do not allow us to explain the tempo of evolution or the chosen path of evolution when several, theoretically possible, evolutionary paths are given. This is owing to the fact that the immanent laws of literary (and, corresponding, linguistic) evolution form an indeterminate equation; although they admit only a limited number of possible solutions, they do not necessarily specify a unique solution. The question of a specific choice of path, or at least of the dominant, can be solved only through an analysis of the correlation between the literary series and other historical series. This correlation (a system of systems) has its own structural laws, which must be submitted to investigation. It would be methodologically fatal to consider the correlation of systems without taking into account the immanent laws of each system. (Jakobson & Tynjanov 1980[1928]: 30-31)


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