For their assistance or comments on drafts of this article I thank Jonathan Bolton, Svetlana Boym, Angela Brintlinger, Alexander Etkind, Rory Finnin, Simon Franklin, Vera Koshkina, Susan Larsen, Rachel Polonsky, Kylie Richardson, Stephanie Sandler, William Mills Todd III, Chris Ward, Emma Widdis, and the anonymous readers for The Russian Review. Research was supported in part by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation / American Council of Learned Societies Early Career Fellowship Program.
Madness as Balancing Act in Joseph Brodsky's “Gorbunov and Gorchakov”
Article first published online: 16 JAN 2013
Copyright 2013 The Russian Review
The Russian Review
Volume 72, Issue 1, pages 45–65, January 2013
How to Cite
REICH, R. (2013), Madness as Balancing Act in Joseph Brodsky's “Gorbunov and Gorchakov”. The Russian Review, 72: 45–65. doi: 10.1111/russ.10680
- Issue published online: 16 JAN 2013
- Article first published online: 16 JAN 2013
This article examines the psychological connotations of Joseph Brodsky's “art of estrangement” in light of the psychiatric evaluations the poet underwent in 1963 and 1964 and his depiction of madness in the poem “Gorbunov and Gorchakov” (1965–68). Several years before the punitive uses of Soviet psychiatry came to the attention of samizdat readers, Brodsky was forced to weigh the dangers and benefits of psychiatric diagnosis in his dealings with the state. The balance that he struck is mirrored in “Gorbunov and Gorchakov,” in which the state's claim that “being determines consciousness” and Brodsky's claim that the “estranged” consciousness determines being are personified and placed in dialogue. The poem, which is set in a psychiatric hospital, indicates that the “art of estrangement” can lead to madness if consciousness strikes out too far on its own. By engaging with being in life and work, Brodsky kept consciousness grounded for the sake of sanity and self-definition.