The immediate problems confronting literary and linguistic science in Russia must be posed from a stable theoretical basis. They require a definitive abandonment of the mechanical montages which more and more frequently combine new methodological procedures with old sterile methods, and hypocritically introduce naïve psychologism and other relics beneath the cover of a novel terminology.
There can be no compromise with academic eclecticism, or the scholastic ‘formalism’ which replaces analysis by mere enumeration of terminology and cataloguing of phenomena. Attempts to transform literary and linguistic studies, which are systematic sciences, into random and anecdotal forays must cease.
The history of literature (or art) is intimately linked to other historical series: each of these series has a complex set of structural laws which is specific to it. It is impossible to establish a rigorous correlation between the literary series and the other series without first having studied these laws.
The evolution of literature cannot be understood if it is clouded by problems which interfere episodically from outside the system—problems of literary (so-called influences) or extra-literary genesis. The materials used in literature, whether they are literary or extra-literary, can only be the object of scientific investigation if they are considered in terms of their function within the work.
In both linguistics and literary history, a sharp distinction between the synchronic (static) dimension and the diachronic dimension was a fertile working hypothesis, since it showed the systematic character of language—or of literature—at each particular moment of its life. Today the advances of synchronic analysis force us to reconsider the principles of diachronic analysis. Diachronic science has reformulated in its turn the idea of a mechanical agglomeration of phenomena, which synchronic science has replaced with the idea of a system, or structure. The history of the system is itself a system. Pure synchrony can now be seen to be an illusion in its turn: each synchronic system contains its past and future as structural elements inseparable from the system. (On the one hand: archaism as an aspect of style; the ensemble of literary and linguistic phenomena felt to be old-fashioned, a dying language. On the other: neologistic tendencies in language and literature felt to be an innovation in the system.)
The opposition between synchronic and diachronic analysis counterposed the notion of a system to the notion of an evolution. It has lost its basic importance now that we recognize that every system is necessarily present to us as an evolution, and that every evolution inevitably has a systematic character.
The notion of a synchronic literary system does not coincide with the naïve notion of a literary epoch, since it is constituted not only by works of art close to each other in time, but also by works drawn into the system from foreign literatures or previous epochs. It is not enough to catalogue coexistent phenomena, giving each of them equal rights. What is important is the hierarchy of their significance for a given epoch.