Poetics (поетика; from Greek poietike). The term, in its broadest sense, refers to works on the theory of literature and esthetics, the first such being Aristotle’s renowned treatise Poetics. More specifically, poetics embraces that segment of literature studies which is concerned with the structure of a work of literature, its language, its tropes, and so on. In its narrowest sense the term is used to describe a work devoted to the nature and laws of poetry.
In Ukraine the heyday of poetics occurred in the 17th and 18th centuries and was closely tied to developments in education and the curriculum of the Kyivan Mohyla Academy. At the academy poetics, together with rhetoric and philosophy, was a compulsory subject taught in Latin. It was not customary to publish the texts for the courses, but as many as 15 exist in manuscript form, mainly from the end of the 17th century. The first such manuscript, Liber artis poëticae ... anno Domini 1637, is dated five years after the establishment of the academy. Even earlier, some rules of versification were included in the grammars of Lavrentii Zyzanii (1596) and Meletii Smotrytsky (1619). Both Zyzanii and Smotrytsky, as well as all of the later school poetics, tried to impose Greek and Latin versification rules on Ukrainian verse. Not until the poetics of Mytrofan Dovhalevsky (1736) and H. Slomynsky (1744–5) was any attention given to contemporary Ukrainian verse. Another important work of the 18th century was the De arte poetica libri tres ... of Teofan Prokopovych, written in 1705–6 but published only in 1786 by Heorhii Konysky, as a textbook.
In the 19th century no new poetics were written, but interest in the subject appears toward the later part of the century, in some works of Oleksander Potebnia, Mykhailo Drahomanov, and Ivan Franko and especially in Kostiantyn Luchakovsky’s Nacherk stylistyky, poetyky i retoryky (Outline of Stylistics, Poetics, and Rhetoric, 1894), which was part of the gymnasium curriculum in Galicia at that time. A renewed interest in the more narrow sense of poetics occurred in the 20th century, during the 1920s; several works appeared in the new Soviet Ukraine: Sylvestr Haievsky’s Teoriia poeziï (Theory of Poetry, 1921), Borys Yakubsky’s Nauka virshuvannia (Study of Versification, 1922), Dmytro Zahul’s Poetyka (Poetics, 1923), and Borys Navrotsky’s Mova ta poeziia (Language and Poetry, 1925). Other more broadly defined works on poetics also appeared: Hryhorii Maifet’s collection Teoriia literatury (Theory of Literature, 2 vols, 1931, 1932), Maik Yohansen’s Iak buduiet’sia opovidannia (How a Story Is Constructed, 1928), and several works on various aspects of creativity by such scholars as Mykola Zerov and Pavlo Fylypovych. Western Ukraine also saw a revival in the study of poetics, in such works as V. Dombrovsky’s Ukraïns'ka stylistyka i rytmika (Ukrainian Stylistics and Rhythmics, 1923), Mykhailo Rudnytsky’s Mizh ideieiu i formoiu (Between the Idea and the Form, 1932), and several works by Filaret Kolessa. Work on poetics continued among émigrés after the Second World War: Sviatoslav Hordynsky’s Ukraïns'kyi virsh (The Ukrainian Poem, 1947), Ivan Koshelivets’s Narysy z teoriï literatury (Outlines of the Theory of Literature, 1954), and Ihor Kachurovsky’s Strofika (Strophes, 1967), Fonika (Phonics, 1984), and Narys komparatyvnoï metryky (Outline of Comparative Metrics, 1985).
Work on poetics became revitalized in Ukraine in the 1960s, when several studies appeared: Volodymyr Kovalevsky’s Rytmichni zasoby ukraïns'koho literaturnoho virsha (The Rhythmic Devices of Ukrainian Literary Verse, 1960) and Ryma (Rhyme, 1965), H. Sydorenko’s Virshuvannia v ukraïns'kii literaturi (Versification in Ukrainian Literature, 1962), and Petro Volynsky’s Osnovy teoriï literatury (Fundamentals of the Theory of Literature, 1962). Structuralist theory found its proponent in the work of Mahdalyna Laslo-Kutsiuk in Romania, in Pytannia ukraïns'koï poetyky (Studies of Ukrainian Poetics, 1974).
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Ihor Kachurovsky, Danylo Husar Struk
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]