Vasily Trediakovsky

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(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

Vasily Trediakovsky 1703-1769

(Full name Vasily Kirillovich Trediakovsky; also Trediakovskyi, Trediakovskii, Trediakovski, Tred'jakovsij) Russian linguist, critic, translator, poet, and essayist.

Trediakovsky was responsible for several important developments in Russian literature. He was among the first to propose that Russian poetry break from its reliance on French and German verse structures and follow its own system of versification. Although Trediakovsky's syllabo-tonic system—proposed in his treatise Novyi i kratkii sposob k slozheniiu rossiiskikh stikhov (1735; A New and Brief Method for Composing Russian Verse) and revised in Sposob k slozheniiu rossiiskikh stikhov (1752; Method for Composing Russian Verse)—was overshadowed by the views of his contemporaries, such as Mixailo Lomonosov and Alexander Sumarokov, it marked a significant change in the development of Russian poetry. As a result of the debates between Trediakovsky and his contemporaries, Russian poetry largely abandoned European forms of versification and embraced a tonic system better suited to the Russian language. Trediakovsky's other achievements include his Ezda v ostrov liubvi (1730), a translation of Paul Tallemant's allegorical novel Voyage de L'isle d'amour, which marked one of the first works of secular fiction in Russian. In addition, his Tilemakhida (1766), a verse translation of a novel by François Fénelon, was the first work to use the hexameter form in Russian.

Biographical Information

Although there is a lack of certainty regarding Trediakovsky's birth date, most scholars agree that he was likely born on March 5, 1703, in Astrakhan, Russia, the son of Kirilla Iakovlevich, an Orthodox clergyman. Although his father had originally intended him for a career in the clergy, Trediakovsky's European education prepared him well for the academic community. He began his education learning Greek, Latin, and Italian, as well as rhetoric, geography, and philosophy from Capuchin monks. In 1723 Trediakovsky went to Moscow to study at the Slavo-Greek-Latin Academy. He left behind his first wife, Fedosii'ia Fadeeva (the marriage had been arranged by his father). He spent two years at the Academy, studying poetics in Russian and Latin as well as rhetoric. In 1725 Trediakovsky traveled to Europe where he spent the next five years absorbing European culture and literature as well as further pursuing his education. He spent time at The Hague, Paris, and Hamburg. Some scholars believe that during this period Trediakovsky may have become aligned with the Jansenists, a Catholic reform movement, and possibly took part in their efforts to unify the Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches. In 1728 Trediakovsky's wife, father, sister, and brother all died in a plague that struck Astrakhan.

Trediakovsky's education in such subjects as linguistics and philosophy, together with his composition of poetry, led him to begin forming his syllabo-tonic system of versification, and to consider other methods of modernizing Russian literature. When Trediakovsky returned to Russia in 1730, he began working as a translator at the St. Petersburg Imperial Academy of Sciences. In the same year, he published Ezda v ostrov liubvi. He was soon promoted to secretary, and his growing responsibilities included writing odes and orations for ceremonies, supervising translations from French and German, and many other linguistics-related activities. Trediakovsky also began to move in court circles. The Duchess of Mecklenburg, the sister of the empress, became his patroness. He used his growing influence to attempt to transplant European cultural life to Russia, primarily via translations. In 1735 Trediakovsky established the Russian Assembly, a group of linguists whose goal was the use of Russian instead of traditional Church Slavonic in works of secular literature. Trediakovsky's efforts in this area reached an early pinnacle with his theoretical treatise A New and Brief Method for Composing Russian Verse, which...

(The entire section is 1,483 words.)