Doctoral researcher joins CALLIOPE

Nataliia Odnosum has joined the CALLIOPE project. She's currently finishing her doctoral studies in Ukraine, and works as a technical assistant at the University of Helsinki. Her doctoral thesis is named 'The Musical Concept in B. L. Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago in the Context of Spiritual Autobiography'.

In her doctoral thesis, Nataliia Odnosum is investigating Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, through the prism of spiritual autobiography. As part of her research, she analyses the role of music and sound in the creation of the aesthetic and fictional space of the novel, as well as the transformation and modernization of spiritual autobiography as a genre.

One of the defining moments in the artistic life of Pasternak, influencing his creative world, would be the day when he heard the sounds of musical improvisation on the piano by Skryabin, who was creating his Divine Poem. The sounds of music merged with the sounds of nature in reality and became a whole with it. Thanks to transformative and creative capacity of memory, his childhood impressions contributed to the building of the figurative-conceptual chain of his worldview "Life − music − creativity − poetry", in which "music and poetry speak the same language as art." All the creative heritage of Boris Pasternak, including the final work Doctor Zhivago, serves as a generalization of the historical, philosophical, aesthetic, and artistic paths of the Silver Age of Russian literature. The term “Silver Age” traditionally refers to the epoch of Russian culture and literature in the second half of the nineteenth and the beginning of twentieth centuries. While being shaped and characterized by cultural movements of the Silver Age, Pasternak also actively remoulded their “voices” throughout his work, which eventually became representative of his generation. Merging with its voice and at the same time absorbing it into himself, he embodied a portrait of his epoch.

In Doctor Zhivago, music appears at the level of mentions, quotations, and various sound images throughout the text. Their main ideological and semantic content can be summed up by the words of one of the key characters of the story Vedenyapinin, in which Music is the equivalent of Truth, a “divine voice”, “raising above the animal and carrying it upward”, giving an inner impetus to the personality to move along the path of history to eternity: “But the point is precisely this, that for centuries man has been raised above the animals and borne aloft not by the rod, but by music: the irresistibility of the unarmed truth, the attraction of its example.” [Pasternak, p. 34]

The ideological and philosophical setting of the musical organization of the novel is the idea of Music as a metaphor for the Artist-Christ, the embodiment of eternity, the path and a new history established by the sacrifice of Christ, leading to the human spirit. In my research, I analyze Doctor Zhivago through the generic features of spiritual autobiography. Accordingly, the theme of the path in spiritual autobiography as an ascent from the carnal to the spiritual level of consciousness, as the attainment of eternity, is reflected in the musical key as a process of progress towards music and "melodization" of the spiritual path. At the systemic and structural level, the musical imperative is built in the form of a counterpoint principle substantiated by B.M. Gasparov [Gasparov, 1993], and the complex tiered hierarchical organization of the novel, in which all levels (individual, social, ahistorical, and eternal) gravitate towards a single value centre − the Artist-Christ. Saving the polyphonic variety of voices, all these levels merge in unison. At the aesthetic and artistic level, this is achieved through the “lyricization” of the narrative, through rhythmic insertions that “illuminate” the prose part, like the “voice of eternity”, repetitions, dividing the narrative into prose and lyrics as a form of music (the earthly path and eternity as its finale and the achievement of completeness existence) and, most importantly, building an acoustic space, contributing to the creation of a suggestive effect of "audibility" of the text. The presence of numerous sound metaphors and details, the melodiousness and rhythm of the prose, inserts from sacred texts and church chants, the attraction of Chopin's techniques and motives, as well as the motive of distant sound as a timeless messenger of apocalyptic “future” built the acoustic space of the novel.


Pasternak,B.L. (2010). Doctor Zhivago. Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Pantheon books. New York. Retrieved October 31, 2022 from….

Гаспаров, Б. М.  (1993). Временной контрапункт как формообразующий принцип романа Пастернака «Доктор Живаго». Литературные лейтмотивы. Очерки по русской литературе ХХ века. Москва.