(My apologies for the lost formatting in this version - SF)
1. Why India?
a. Try to tempt the rats out of their comfort zone
b. Orientalizing – India is exotic, exciting
2. Tsvetaeva’s life/context
a. “Ratcatcher” was written at the end of her time in Prague
i. In her thirties
ii. Was an emigrant because her husband had been an officer in the White army
iii. Left Russia at the beginning of the NEP period
1. Very disappointed by the NEP period
2. Never supported the Revolution
iv. Her daughter was a student at a German school during this time
1. Tsvetaeva was put off by the bourgeois well-being of the Germans
b. Tsvetaeva’s generation was the first in which poets wrote about Moscow and saw Moscow as a possible poetic center, rather than Petersburg
c. Started writing poetry very young
i. Published her first collection at 18
d. Considered one of the most important Russian modernists
i. Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)
ii. Boris Pasternak (1890-1960)
iii. Osip Mandelshtam (1891-1938)
iv. Tsvetaeva (1892-1941)
e. In her early twenties was given Afanas'ev’s tales
i. Started writing poetry using folk language/style
ii. Wrote many poems from the point of view of a sexually rebellious peasant girl
3. The Pied Piper
a. Before Tsvetaeva’s version, there were versions by Browning and some Czech versions
i. She spoke fluent German, so it seemed like her own folklore
b. Traditional story has a moral
i. Folk etymology – a German town in Transylvania claimed to be descended from the children of Hamelin
c. How does Tsvetaeva’s ending change the reading of the story?
i. Takes away the moral authority of the story
ii. Takes away the piper’s integrity (proves the Mayor was right?)
iii. The barbarity makes sense in the context of a reactionary tale
1. Critique of the barbaric Communist regime
iv. Is the piper a more interesting figure in Tsvetaeva’s poem?
1. The ending could hearken back to an older tradition of sea kings/figures as an explanation
2. Tsvetaeva originally intended to have the children live happily under the sea
3. The ratcatcher is the instrument of change – makes people want something else
a. Is this change a good thing or a bad thing?
b. Are art and poetry amoral?
4. The piper is a dangerous yet seductive figure
a. The burgomaster’s daughter is named Greta – association with Faust
i. The piper probably isn’t good for her
b. However, Greta is set apart from the townspeople by her dreams and the talk of the townsfolk
i. She dreams of hopes instead of things they already have
ii. Is she fated for the poet?
iii. Because of her oddity, the townsfolk work even harder to keep her away from the ratcatcher
v. Why do people react so strongly to the killing of the children?
1. Would it be as shocking if she were a male poet?
2. The description is so drawn out and painful
a. Describes it in an almost frenzied/ecstatic way
b. Highly stylized – almost to the point of distraction
3. Trying to get the reader to react – planned the way that someone would read the poem
vi. Working within the plot of an already known story changes the way that people read the story
4. Form of the poem
a. The early part of the poem is written in trochaic tetrameter
i. States that this is a folk meter
b. Almost immediately moves away from this meter and into much more complicated meters, some of which need explanation as to where the stresses go
i. The meter changes through the poem – this is characteristic of twentieth century Russian poetry in thе genre of the long poem (поэма)
ii. Changes also create a sort of alienation from the poem
1. This is also a result of Tsvetaeva’s interjections
2. Mimics an oral tradition – changes in pace or tone are the norm
c. Amount of dialogue is highly unusual for a poem
i. Highly polyglossic – there are many different voices and viewpoints
Return to the class syllabus
Proceed to the lecture notes for Monday, April 21, 2008.