Boris Eichenbaum

Boris Eichenbaum (1886-1959) was a Russian theorist. He represents Russian Formalism. He was born in Voronezh, Russia. He studied biology, violin, and piano at school. He opted for philology in the year 1909. Philology is a branch of knowledge that deals with the structure and history of languages. Boris Eichenbaum was part of OPOJAZ which was founded in 1916. 

Boris Eichenbaum was involved with the social movement, “rootless cosmopolitanism”. The term, “rootless cosmopolitanism” was coined by Vissarion Belinsky. It was a pejorative referred to Jewish intellectuals and dissenters and to their lack of patriotism and lack of total allegiance with the Russian state.

The idea of “rootless cosmopolitanism” is a representation of the artistic struggle for freedom of expression and dissent. The rootlessness of existence is also an expression of freedom where an individual defies traditional boundaries of family, society, religion, and nation.

So the idea of rootlessness is a flight of freedom against the shackles of orthodoxy. It is a form of liberalism. The idea also challenges fixed notions of nationalism. Rootless cosmopolitanism is a metaphor for a global mindset rather than a nationalistic mindset.

Boris Eikhenbaum’s involvement with the idea of “rootless cosmopolitanism” was an intellectual pursuit of freedom against the authoritarianism of the nation. It was an idea that was liberating because the intellectual pursuit of knowledge and experience can only happen in a space that is not bound by too many rules.

For instance – The Hippie Movement within America was a movement that also advocated absolute freedom against all forms of control. The Beat Generation within America was an artistic movement that also advocated for complete artistic freedom. Thus such artistic movements also defy censorship in all forms.

Rootless cosmopolitanism is an extension of the idea of intellectual liberty. It is also an extension of the idea of dissent which is a facet of freedom. It is also a subversion of the ways in which any totalitarian regime tries to control citizens. And it is for this reason that a lot of nations have always been hostile to ideas of artistic freedoms which defy the policies of authoritarian regimes.

The idea of rootless cosmopolitanism also brings a chance to reinvestigate and question the sanctity of nationalism. This kind of challenge of populist ideas of nationalism, morality is a gateway towards intellectual and cultural freedom. 

Notable works of Boris Eichenbaum include “Theory of the Formal Method”, Literary Mores, Young Tolstoy, Anna Akhmatova: An attempt at analysis.