Marina Mikhailova. “The Basic Mechanism of Christmas”: Joseph Brodsky’s Christmas poems. Vol. 4. No. 2. 2019

Publication Details

“The Basic Mechanism of Christmas”: Joseph Brodsky’s Christmas poems
Title in the language of publication: «Основной механизм Рождества»: Рождественские стихи Иосифа Бродского
Marina Mikhailova
Doctor of Philosophy, Professor at the Faculty of Psychology and Philosophy of Man of the Russian Christian Academy for Humanities.
Address: 15 Fontanka embankment, Saint Petersburg 191011, Russia.
P. 17–33.
Language: Russian
Document type: Research Article
Acknowledgments: The present study is a part of the project No. 16-03-00669, “Logos and Poesis: A Philosophical Hermeneutics of Russian Poetic Discours”, implemented with a financial support of the Russian Foundation for Basic Research.


The present article is an experience of reading over the cycle of Christmas poems by Brodsky. Our attention is focused on Stimmung, a term by H. U. Gumbrecht, which means a certain kind of mood with a corpus of poetic texts as its material carrier and the reader as an instrument performing it. The Christmas poems are a sui generis outcome of reading over, an annual address to one and the same Gospel history. The temporal form of the cycle is structurally determined as happening between Christmas, which is manifestation of the Eternity, and New Year’s Day, which is the feast of the Time, whereas its spatial form is specified by correspondence of the city and the desert, where the city as the actual residence of the narrator converts to the sacred topos of the desert. The percept of desert leads out to the concept of void introducing the theme of apophatic theology. The dynamic structure of the cycle is architected as an equipoised composition of chaotic movement of snowy tempests, the star-directed procession of magi and the Child having repose in the cave. The sufficient motives shaping the attitude of the cycle are the poverty and the gift, which deploy themselves simultaneously both as biographical details and metaphysical categories of kenosis and Eucharist. There is also a special theme of great importance, the existential solitude paradoxically uncovering a potential of commune in itself. Finally, the play performed between the Eternity and the Time inevitably evoke the theme of death. The researcher’s attention is concentrated on a figure of metaphysical transgression constantly used in the cycle, when the onlooker as present within the Time becomes a contemplator obtaining freedom and rejoice of communion with God. A sufficient aspect of the article is clarification of some moments of Brodsky’s poetical theology.


Stimmung, Attitude, Christmas, New Year, Time, Eternity, water, desert, void, metaphysics.


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© Marina Mikhailova, 2019

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