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Changing SubjectsDigressions in Modern American Poetry$
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Srikanth Reddy

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199791026

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199791026.001.0001

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Changing the Sjuzet

Changing the Sjuzet

Lyn Hejinian’s Digressive Narratology and the Writing of History

(p.61) Chapter 3 Changing the Sjuzet
Changing Subjects

Srikanth Reddy

Oxford University Press

In The Fatalist, Lyn Hejinian declares herself the heir apparent to Diderot’s unruly Jacques, employing digression as a literary method for dismantling Enlightenment narratologies of rational order and linear progression. The digressive sequences in Hejinian’s work unsettle the fundamental narratological coordinates of beginnings, middles, and ends upon which literary form itself is predicated. Drawing on the theories of the Russian Formalists during her multiple expeditions to the Soviet Union, Hejinian mobilizes narratological practice as a method for deconstructing the fatalistic master-narratives of the Cold War era. This poet’s literary engagement with the Russian novel provides a forum for examining the ways in which plot—or sjuzet, in Shklovsky’s formulation—constructs a digressive account of events which may in turn be fractured and defamiliarized within the medium of the lyric. Ultimately abandoning the novelistic paradigm in favor of the inconclusive narration of the chronicle form, moreover, Hejinian discovers in the rejection of closure a method for opening up multiple logics within a unified literary text.

Keywords:   Lyn Hejinian, Shklovsky, fatalistic master-narratives, narratology, Russian Formalism

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