Viktor Maksimovich Zhirmunsky (2 August 1891 in Saint Petersburg – 31 January 1971 in Saint Petersburg; also Wiktor Maximowitsch Schirmunski, Zirmunskij, Schirmunski, Zhirmunskii; Russian: Ви́ктор Макси́мович Жирму́нский) was a Russian literary historian and linguist. He was a professor at universities in Saratov and Leningrad, and a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
He is a representative of Russian formal studies, though in certain respects he was less inclined to accept formalism as sufficient for all literary analysis. His critique of the ahistorical nature of formalism, in the introduction to his translation of Oskar Walzel's Die künstlerische Form des Dichtwerkes (1919) helped speed the end of Russian formalism's initial phase, as critics began to accommodate their work to the developing ideology of the Soviet regime.
Though originally trained in German Romanticism, he started to research the epics of the Asian people of the Soviet Union after he was settled in Tashkent following the evacuation of Leningrad. In particular, he studied the akyn of Kazakh and Kyrgyz culture. This research created a foundation that allowed Eleazar M. Meletinskii to make his considerations on the relations between myth and epos.
In April 1948, Zhirmunsky was among the scholars and critics who recanted their supposed "comparativism" and "Veselovskyism" in Andrei Zhdanov's purge of that year. "Comparativism," or the study of possible borrowing and dissemination of motifs and stories among cultures, was deprecated. In response, Zhirmunsky developed a historical-typological theory, according to which such similarities arose not from historical influence but rather from a similarity of social and cultural institutions.
- Skazanie ob Alpamise i bogatirskaya skazka, Moskva 1960
- Narodnij geroicheskiy epos, Moskva 1962
- E.M. Meletinskij, Proischoždenie geroičeskogo eposa, Moskva 1963
References and notes
- Mihai Pop, Glauco Sanga Problemi generali dell'etnologia europea La Ricerca Folklorica, No. 1, La cultura popolare. Questioni teoriche (Apr., 1980), pp. 89-96 (Italian)
- Viktor Maksimovic Zirmunskij (Italian)
- Žirmunskij's Theory of Verse: A Review Article, by Morris Halle