This work is an attempt to answer one simple question: What is Hamlet? Based on the material of Hamlet translations into Russian, the dissertation scrutinizes the problems of literary canon formation, translation and textuality proceeding in two parallel directions: the historical analysis of canon formation in translation and the conceptualization of Hamlet’s textuality. The methodological framework is defined in the context of Jurij Lotman’s semiotics of culture, which is invaluable for an understanding of the mechanisms of literary evolution, the theory of translation and literary canon formation.

The study examines the history of Hamlet in Russia from 1748 until the present with special attention to analysis of the canonical translations, theater productions of the Shakespearean classic and the phenomenon of Hamletism. The case study of the famous 1964 film by Grigorij Kozincev focuses on the problem of the cinematographic canon of Hamlet. Further, the work scrutinizes various types of representation of Hamlet in such semiotic systems as the theater, the cinema, and the pictorial arts, and also examines how Hamlet functions as a specific type of sign.

The final section returns to the question of canon formation and textuality. The results of the research show that 1) the literary canon appears to be closely associated with the concepts of genre and myth, 2) in order to become canonical it is imperative for a literary text to function on the level of microcanon and to be represented in modes other than the written.

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