This article is a fragment of the PhD thesis Philosophical and Aesthetic Principles of Tragedy in Calderon and Racine (Department of the History of Foreign Literature, Moscow State University, 1988). In her dissertation, the author examined Racine’s presence in Mandelstam’s poetry against the theory of the tragic. Written in the essayistic form, the article examines the following basic images and key concepts of this general theme: (1) cascading shawls as emblematizing heaviness / lightness; (2) a word-confession as expression of pure and redemptive suffering; (3) death by word followed up by redemption. It pays particular attention to the image of the “black sun” and the “tainted day” in Racine’s Phaedra. According to Mandelstam, this image has different connotations and “does not evoke a ready-made meaning” (“Conversation about Dante”). In Racine, Sun is a sacred symbol, it is “the Hidden God”, or Deus absconditus of Jansenism. Phaedra’s sin stains the Sun and darkens it. Phaedra’s last words confirm the redemptive effect of her death. In the article “Pushkin and Scriabin,” Mandelstam writes about the tragic meaning of the artist’s death and compares it with Phaedra’s deed. The study of Racine’s presence in Mandelstam, taking into account the studies of such scholars as Barthes, Goldmann, Poulet and others, allows us to point out explicit and implicit allusions to Racine in Mandelstam’s poetry. It also helps to understand Mandelstam’s idea of the tragedy and the tragic as it developed from 1914 through 1920 when the poet was translating the great French tragedian and at the same time was trying to comprehend the tragic events he witnessed.
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2 Barthes R. Sur Racine. Paris, Seuil, 1963. 166 p. (In French)
3 Goldmann L. Le Dieu caché. Étude sur la vision tragique dans les “Pensées” de Pascal et dans le théâtre de Racine. Paris, Gallimard, 1959. 454 p. (In French)
4 Mauron Ch. L’Inconscient dans l’oeuvre et la vie de Racine. Gap, Ophrys, 1957. 350 p. (In French)
5 Poulet G. Notes sur le Temps racinien. Poulet G. Etudes sur le temps humain. Paris, PIon, 1949, t. 1, pp. 104–121. (In French)
6 Tinsley B. Christian theology and the frontiers of tragedy. Cambridge, Leeds univ. press, 1963. 25 p. (In English)