Zhirmunsky, Viktor Maksimovich

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ZHIRMUNSKY, VIKTOR MAKSIMOVICH (1891–1970), Russian philologist. Zhirmunsky was born in St. Petersburg, the son of a Jewish physician. He finished Tenishev School (1908) and St. Petersburg University (1912), where he studied German and Romance philology. After graduate study in Munich, Berlin, and Leipzig, he was appointed privat-docent at St. Petersburg (1915) and professor at Saratov University (1917). In 1919 he was appointed to the Chair of Germanic Philology in St. Petersburg (later Leningrad) University. Zhirmunsky's earliest scholarly publications were devoted to German Romanticism and modern mysticism (Nemetskiy romantizm i sovremennaya mistika, 1914). His dissertation, Religioznoye otrecheniye v istorii romantizma ("Religious Renunciation in the History of Romanticism"), was published in 1919. A regular contributor to Russkaya mysl, Severnye zapiski, Vestnik literatury, and other periodicals, he published several penetrating and erudite essays on contemporary Russian and European literature. In 1919–21, Zhirmunsky was closely associated with the Society for the Study of Poetic Language (o poyaz). His later dispute with some of its members (notably B. Eichenbaum) became an important landmark in the history of the Russian Formal School.

A remarkably versatile literary scholar and linguist, Zhirmunsky worked in such diverse fields as theoretical poetics, Russian and comparative literature, Germanic philology, dialectology, Turkic and Slavic folklore, etc. During the 1920s, he published monographs on the composition of lyrical poetry (Kompozitsiya liricheskikh stikhotvoreniy, 1921; reprinted 1970), history and theory of rythme (Rifma, 1923; reprinted 1970), metrics (Vvedenie v metriku, 1925, reprinted 1971), the Romantic tradition in Russia (Bryron i Pushkin, 1929, reprinted 1970), and Russian Symbolism (Poeziya Aleksandra Bloka, 1922; V. Bryusov i naslediye Pushkina, 1922). His collected essays appeared in 1928 as Voprosy teorii literatury ("Problems of the Theory of Literature," reprinted 1962). In spite of the political persecution to which Zhirmunsky was subjected for his book Natsionalny yazyk i sotsialnye dialekty ("National Language and Social Dialects," 1936), his definitive study of Goethe's influence on Russian literature and a historical grammar of the German language were brought out in 1937–38. During World War ii, Zhirmunsky lived in Central Asia. His post-war publications include Uzbekskiy narodny geroicheskiy epos ("Uzbek Heroic Epos," 1947), Kirgizskiy geroicheskiy epos Manas ("Manas, the Kirghiz Heroic Epos," 1948, 1961), Nemetskaya dialektologiya ("German Dialectology," 1956); Epicheskoye tvorchestvo slavyanskikh narodov i problemy sravnitelnogo izucheniya eposa ("The Epic Art of Slavic Peoples and the Problems of Comparative Epic Studies," 1958), Drama A.. Bloka "Roza i Krest" (1964), etc. Zhirmunky's study of Anna Akhmatova's poetry was published posthumously in 1972.

His Vredenie v metriku has appeared in English under the title Introduction to Metrics (1965); also in English is his "On Rhythmic Prose," in To Honor Roman Jakobson, 3 (1967), 2376–88.

[Omri Ronen]


V.M. Zhirmunsky (1963); Problemy sravnitel'noy filologii, Sb. st. k 70-letyu chl.-korr. an S.S.S.R. V.M. Zhirmunskogo (1964); V. Erlich, Russian Formalism (1965).