University of Fribourg
Over the last decade or so, we have been treated to a steady succession of book-length publications dedicated to the intellectual legacy of Roman Jakobson. This near continuous stream started with the release of the long-awaited volume 9/2 (part I & II) of Jakobson’s Selected Writings (ed. Toman 2012–13), quickly followed by the massive 4-volume Roman Jakobson anthology of critical essays in the series Critical assessments of leading linguists (Thomas 2014). Up next came a number of proceedings from conferences held respectively in Olomouc, Moscow and Milano/Vercelli: Roman O. Jakobson: a work in progress (Kubiček & Lass 2014), Jakobson Today [Jakobson segodnja] (Avtonomova 2015) and Roman Jakobson, linguistics and poetics [Roman Jakobson, linguistica e poetica] (Esposito, Sini & Castagneto 2018). To these were added an Italian monography, Roman Jakobson and the foundations of semiotics [Roman Jakobson e i fondamentati della semiotica] (Ponzio 2015) as well as the Roman Osipovič Jakobson volume in the landmark Russian series The Philosophy of Russia in the first half of the 20th Century [Filosofija Rossii pervoj poloviny XX veka] (Avtonomova, Baran & Ščedrina 2017). Finally, the last few of years have brought us new editions of Jakobson’s short writings and letters: first, an Anthology of Roman Jakobson’s engaged writings [Angažovaná čítanka Romana Jakobsona] (ed. Toman 2017), followed by his extensive correspondence with Claude Lévi-Strauss in Correspondance 1942–1982 (ed. Loyer & Maniglier 2018), and now the Russian philologist’s epistolary exchanges with Danish phonologist Eli Fischer-Jørgensen in From the early years of phonology (Bank Jensen & D’Ottavi 2020).
Beyond bearing witness to Jakobson’s continued relevance, these publications highlight together some interesting features of the current state and scope of research on his work and life. A very encouraging sign, on the one hand, is that this research is being carried out by a new generation of scholars (along, of course, with a few senior Jakobson experts), whose interests and specialisations are decidedly interdisciplinary. Among the editors of the above-mentioned volumes, one finds not only linguists and historians of the language sciences, but also literary theorists, philosophers, anthropologists, semioticians and historians proper. The international, multilingual nature of the research into Jakobson’s work and legacy is another heartening aspect, especially given the fact that the various national and linguistic research contexts seem quite porous and aware of each other (many scholars are active cross-linguistically in several of these contexts). Further, one is struck not only by the sheer amount of new material published for the first time, but also by the prevalent role that the task of editing unpublished sources still takes up in comparison to the share of critical or interpretative studies of Jakobson’s ideas. As many researchers are happy to point out (Sorokina 2018, Testenoire 2019, D’Ottavi 2020), much more archival, edition and translation work awaits, be it in relation to the Jakobson Papers at MIT, to relevant archives in Moscow and Prague or to the many significant articles still only available in Russian, Czech or even Polish. Read more ›