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Culture to Remember: Shevchenko Studios

Culture to Remember: Shevchenko Studios

Roxanne KHARCHUK

About Taras Shevchenko in Independent Ukraine It is known that the word of the poet-prophet, as well as his figure, plays a special role in the crucial moments of the nation’s life. Taras Shevchenko is not an exception. In the twentieth century he became a symbol of both, the Ukrainian revolution of 1917-1921, and the period of the proclamation Ukrainian independence. However, despite the symbolic scale of Shevchenko, the dilemma still remains, when, on the one hand, we treat the poet as an expression of the aspirations of the nation (in the period of socialism & toiling masses), on the other hand we know that the poet can be understood only by educated person. This paradox suggests that in many cases still deal with a simplified version of Taras Shevchenko poetry, that is constructed by ideologies. That ideology made a craft, onedimensional, static image of the poet, who is devoid of depth and causes resistance of many Ukrainians

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modernist generation was the first who rebelled against the cult of Shevchenko in a sheepskin coat and a hat. Modernists grouped around the magazine «Ukrainian House», its chief critic Mykola Yevshan analyzed the poet by the European standards. The fighting against the cult of primitive Shevchenko was picked up by Mykhayl Semenko («I Burn My «Kobzar»!») and Mykola Khvylovyy in the novel «Woodcocks ». Eugene Malanyuk was also unsatisfied with the iconic «father Taras», with the interpretation of Shevchenko as a peasant’s poet. But the path from kobzar to the national poet became apparent in times of Ukrainian revolution. Understanding of Shevchenko as a national prophet spread mainly in Galicia, then in exile as a contrast to Shevchenkorevolutionary prophet cult of social revolution in Soviet Ukraine. Part of Ukrainian writers disagreed the both cults as they created nonfiction interpreting of the artist. It was a background that formed a scientific Shevchenko studies in 1920‑30th and began to talk about Shevchenko primarily as about a poet of the romantic period. But then, in times of dogmatic socialist realism, the thought of the total artist’s evolution to realism was confirmed, and the poet was involved in the ranks of secularism, social revolutionism, who advocate the poorest social strata, including serfs, and declare the hatred of Russian Tsars, but not the Russian Empire with anti humane system of serfdom, brutal soldiering and hypocritical Russian Orthodoxy. It seemed that Shevchenko’s greatness reached its climax in the days of socialism. His works (of course, after censorship) were publishing in great quantities, his image was perpetuating in stone and on canvas. But in fact, it was a great meanness and lies. The poet from God’s grace, a fighter for freedom of individuals and entire peoples, one of the most waspish satirists, 

who did not afraid to show the world unchristian nature of such «anointed of God» as the Russian monarchs, was turned into a primitive poster-fighter with serfdom and tsarist, into an atheist, calling for bloody revenge. Therefore, it is logical that at the beginning of Ukrainian independence there was a need for not just new, but also an undistorted image of Shevchenko. American professor George G. Grabowicz offered a sudden vision of the poet and his work in the book «The Poet as Mythmaker: A Study of Symbolic Meaning in Taras Sevcenko», published in English in 1982, and in two editions in Ukrainian translation in 1991 and 1998. This work aroused interest in a wide range of readers not because of scientific innovations (the author uses the concept of structural anthropology of Claude Levi-Strauss and symbolic of Victor Turner, that were unknown in Ukraine that time), but primarily because the researcher gave Shevchenko’s poetic world as a symbolic, where the myth servers as a code decipher. Versatility and absolutisation of myth in systematic reading of Shevchenko poetry led G. Grabowicz to reduce poet’s historiosophy to myth too. Subsequently, the researcher also published critical essays «Shevchenko We Don’t Know» (2000), introducing to Ukrainian literary a concept of symbolic autobiography, where society models the figure of the poetprophet by itself. Harvard professor’s works are intended to form a field for complete scientific discussions of Shevchenko creativity without concealing facts and simplification of the problem. An audit requirement of steady poet’s images, namely populist and nationalist, are also very important. The post socialist-realist version need a priority critical assessment as well. A lot have been already done in this regard: debunking links of Ukrainian poet’s dependencies on Russian Social Democrats and rejection of his poetry in Russian criticism, particularly by Vissarion Belinsky.

«Shevchenko’s Myth of Ukraine. Attempt of philosophical analysis» (1997) by Oksana Zabuzhko (has four editions) and «Problems of Individual Mythologies: Shevchenko’s Mythmaking» (1997) by Tetyana Meyzerska (the work is mainly common in science circulation) are strongly influenced by G. Grabowicz’ ideas. Zabuzhko, just like her predecessor, interprets Shevshenko’s works as an individual mythology. The difference is that G. Grabowicz emphasizes the literariness of this myth, while Zabuzhko strictly separates myth from literature. Both authors were encountered with sharp criticism, not least was caused by the fact that the word «myth» was identified with the invention of Ukraine and the Ukrainian idea, then the idea of myth-making Shevchenko regarded as an attack on national holy. Particularly opposed to «mythological reading» of Shevchenko was Petro Iwanyshyn in «Vulgar Neo Mythologism: from Interpretation to Falsification of Shevchenko» (2001), accusing G. Grabowicz and O. Zabuzhko in «anti national» activities. However, within the «mythological» concept is hard to disagree with the idea that T. Shevchenko, after Benedict Anderson, modeled imaginary Ukrainian community and the idea of converting of the mythical Ukraine into historical turned to be the meaning of life for generations of Ukrainian intelligentsia. In the vein of the new historicism, which provides an understanding of literary history as a process, a book by a dissident and human rights activist Leonid Pliushch «Taras Shevchenko’s Exodus: Apropos The Soldier’s Well» (1986) was written (republished in Ukraine in 2001). This work applies psychological approach to text and presents a new vision of Shevchenko, the author interprets him not only as a prophet but as a shaman as well. Polemic on mythological interpretation appears is an understanding of Shevchenko’s historiosophia of Ukrainian literary critic in Moscow Yuriy Ukrainian culture №3 2012

Barabash, who doesn’t separate myth from history as G. Grabowicz did. This is evidenced by several books by this author, including the latest «Space Being of Shevchenko’s Word. Text — context, semantics — Structure» (2011). Using a comprehensive analysis of the text, resorting to «careful reading» and comparative-typological method, the researcher shows the integrity of the Shevchenko’s national consciousness and dominance of motive of Christian forgiveness in his poetry. Just like G. Grabowicz he often resorts to comparative analysis, mainly comparing creativity of Shevchenko with Hryhoriy Skovoroda and Mykola Gogol creativity. The most famous book by Y. Barabash is devoted to the question of «Shevchenko and Gogol»? it is «If I forget you, Jerusalem… Gogol and Shevchenko» (2001), which was awarded the Shevchenko Prize in 2004. Authoritative, rich in factual terms is comparative research of Lviv Professor Eugene Nahlik «Destiny — Los — Fate: Shevchenko and the Ukrainian and Polish Romantics» (2003), which is intended primarily for the professional reader. An «ideological» book by Vasyl Pakharenko «Unsearchable Apostle» (1994, 2nd ed. 1999) is devoted to the poet’s worldview and has interesting thoughts. New picture of Taras Shevchenko in independent Ukraine consistently affirms Ivan Dziuba, beginning with the book «Each Person’s Destiny’s His Own» (1989). The most complete work about Shevchenko in a broad historical background and due to that time spiritual and intellectual atmosphere is provided in the newest Dziuba’s book «Taras Shevchenko: The Life and Work» (2005, 2nd ed. 2008). Combining academic and journalistic styles, the scientist revises the main provisions of the Soviet Shevchenko, considers Shevchenko’s creativity in the context of Russian literature and European Romanticism. It is Dziuba we thank to for the comprehensive, balanced and in-depth look at Shevchenko’s works, he managed to create a new image of the poet, that is capable of effectively function in a free, democratic society. As a living apostle of truth, the eternal spirit of Ukraine, who loves God, Shevchenko was presented by prominent dissident and journalist Eugene Sverstiuk in the book «Shevchenko Over Time» (2012). Sverstiuk merit lies in the fact that he pays attention to one of the central problems of Shevchenko studious — religious and Christian context of poet’s work, affirming that Shevchenko’s poetry is meaningless and would be never understood beyond Christianity.

As you can see, Shevchenko has been written about a lot and in different veins during the past decades. This fact confirms his importance for Ukrainians. All the works we mentioned destroy the common image of Shevchenko-the-fighter, programmed by both, the left and right ideologies. Instead of it the authors propose Ukrainian society a new image of Shevchenko — the poet, whose work has many interpretations, there for it is virtually inexhaustible; the artist, who is not properly evaluated, the free intellectual, aesthetic of European level, who exhort to brotherly and Christian love despite the dramatic conflict of his own “chipped” unhappy fate and Ukrainian history, and this is most clearly evidenced in recent years poetry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . УК “UC” thanks National Museum of Taras Shevchenko for the illustrations 

Sovereign Ukraine about Shevchenko  

Taras Shevchenko in idepedent scientists' studies

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