The United Kingdom and Russia have been viewed as representing divergent national characteristics in terms of indicators of an individualistic vs. a collective approach to life, and our study considers cross-cultural factors involved in the way the two groups have conceptualised, and lived through, the recent experience of lockdown. The Covid-19 crisis, in fact, was accompanied in most nations worldwide by social measures curtailing what have long been seen as fundamental liberties, and this has stimulated the re-emergence of old controversies about the nature of personal freedom, democracy versus state control, the right to healthcare, the distribution of wealth, and so on. We explore poems produced in the two social contexts during lockdown, as people responded to the dramatic circumstances, turning to poetry to communicate their private feelings. The poems are not analysed according to criteria of literary merit; rather, they are explored from the perspective of the linguistic theory of proximisation, viewed from an intercultural standpoint. We ponder the question of whether Russia’s supposedly ‘collective’ mindset may be observed at work in these texts, contrasting with an ‘individualistic’ response in the Anglo context; whether such generalised, even stereotypical notions have any meaning in a crisis such as that provoked by Covid.
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