Eternal images — literary term used to refer to images traveling from one work to another, and thus building a storage of invariants for literary discourse.
Features of eternal images (found collectively, for the most part): depth of meaning and infinite potential for interpretation; high artistic and spiritual value; capacity for cross-cultural and cross-temporal migration, or universality and lasting importance; polyvalency — capability of fitting various stories and uniting with other sets of images and backgrounds without losing unique identity; translatability into other arts, into the languages of philosophy, science, etc.; broad sphere of use. E.I. enter various social relations besides artistic ones. They usually show as signs, symbols, or mythologemes (cases when the story boils down to a myth). Eternal images are not all characters, they include object images and symbol images, such as the cross as a symbol of faith and suffering, an anchor as a symbol of hope, a heart as a symbol of love, symbols from the Arthurian cycle (the Table Round, the Holy Grail), chronotope images of space and time (Flood, Last Judgement, Sodom and Gomorrah, Jerusalem, Olympus, Parnassus, Rome, Atlantis, Plato’s Cave, etc. However, eternal character images outnumber those.
The origins of eternal characters have been history (such figures as Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Charlemagne, Joan of Ark, Shakespeare, Napoleon, etc.), the Bible (Adam, Eve, the Serpent, Noah, Moses, Jesus Christ, the Disciples, Pontius Pilate, etc.); mythology (Zeus — Jupiter, Apollo, the Muses, Prometheus, Helen the Beautiful, Odysseus, Medea, Phaedra, Oedipus, Narcisus, etc.); other narrative cultures (Osiris, Buddha, Sindbad the Sailor, Khodja Nasruddin, Siegfried, Roland, Baba Yaga, Ilya of Murom, etc.); literary fairy tales (Perrault’s Cinderella; Andersen’s Snow Queen; Kipling’s Mowgli); novels (Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, Dulcinea of Toboso; Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe; Swift’s Gulliver; Hugo’s Quasimodo; Wilde’s Dorian Gray; stories (Merimee’s Carmen); poems (Dante’s Beatrice, Petrarch’s Laura; Goethe’s Faust, Mephistopheles, and Gretchen; Byron’s Childe Harolde); dramas (Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth; Tirso de Molina’s Don Juan; Moliere’s Tartuffe; Beaumarchais’ Figaro).
Eternal characters have been employed by a great range of authors: Aeschylus, Boccaccio, Calderon, Voltaire, Goethe, Byron, Shelley, Gide, Kafka, Vyacheslav Ivanov, etc. In painting, we can name Titian, Rubens, and many others. Thus, Don Juan is present in works of Tirso de Molina, Moliere, Goldoni, Hoffmann, Byron, Balzac, Dumas, Merimee, Pushkin, Alexey K. Tolstoy, Baudelaire, Rostand, Alexander Blok, Lesya Ukrainka, Driesch, Alyoshin, etc., also in Mozart’s opera. Don Quixote, first appearing in Cervantes’ novel, came to be employed by Avellaneda, Fielding, was discussed in Ivan Turgenev’s essay, became the hero of a ballet by Minkus, and a feature film by Grigory Kozintsev, etc.
Many E.I. function as pairs of characters (Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Orestes and Pilades, Beatrice and Dante, Romeo and Juliet, Othello and Desdemona, or Othello and Iago, Layli and Madjnun, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Faust and Mephistopheles, etc.), or are closely linked to a specific story (Don Quixote fighting the windmills, Cinderella transformed).
Eternal characters have gained in use since the post-moderne boom of intertextual studies of literature of the past, and employment of respective characters, but no systemic philological theory of E.I. has evolved as yet. New trends in philology (thesaurus approach, literary sociology) create the prerequisites for solving theoretical problems related to E.I., as well as for relatively underdeveloped issues of eternal themes, ideas, plots, and genres in literature.
Val. A. Lukov, Vl. A. Lukov
Translation from Russian by Vl. Rogatin