Studi Slavistici XV, 2018, 2
Materiali e discussioni

The Gulag and Poetics. The Prison Objective Correlative of Julija Panyševa

Giuseppe Ghini
University of Urbino “Carlo Bo”

Published 2019-02-02


  • Panyševa,
  • Prison Objective Correlative

How to Cite

Ghini, G. (2019). The Gulag and Poetics. The Prison Objective Correlative of Julija Panyševa. Studi Slavistici, 15(2), 245–258.


The article discusses recent studies on Gulag poetry/Lirica della ‘zona’, particularly the ones written by Andrea Gullotta and Claudia Pieralli. It focuses on Ruki ‘Hands’, a short poem composed by Julija Panyševa quoted by Pieralli in his works, and demonstrates its level of formal complexity. The author applies Lotman’s notion of archiseme to this poem, thoroughly examining its “semantically charged phonemes”, thus revealing its phonosymbolic dimension. This formal complexity, largely neglected until now, suggests to consider more deeply the artistic features of Gulag poetry and its testimonial-aesthetic unity. Furthermore, since Ruki was written in an isolation prison – Lefortovo – literary critics should probably consider that prison poetrycan be very different fromcamp poetry. As Foucault pointed out in his seminal works on the penitentiary system, different kinds of repression can differently influence poets’ production. The author observes that often prison poems insist on prison realia, referring to objects and material from prison life. This recalls T.S. Eliot’s notion of objective correlative. In this specific poem, handsseem to symbolize and objectify the particular double emotion of the prisoner-poet: the emotion of an unexpected encounter with a brother-prisoner and, at the same time, the possible reminder of a previous meeting out of jail. In order to evoke a similar emotional response in the reader,  Julija Panyševa seems to create a specific prison objective correlative. At the end, the author presents an Italian translation of Panyševa’s Ruki.


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