Roman Jakobson, one of the most important thinkers of our century, was best known for his role in the rise and spread of the structuralist approach to linguistics and literature. His formative years with the Russian Futurists and subsequent involvement in the Moscow and
Prague Linguistic Circles (which he co-founded) resulted in a lifelong devotion to fundamental change in both literary theory and linguistics. In bringing each to bear upon the other, he enlivened both disciplines; if a literary work was to him a linguistic fact, it was also a semiotic
phenomenon—part of the entire universe of signs; and, above all, for both language and literature, time was an integral factor, one that produced momentum and change. Jakobson's books and articles, written in many languages and published around the world, were collected in a monumental seven-volume work, Selected Writings (1962-1984), which has been available only to a limited readership. Not long before his death in 1982, Jakobson brought together this group of eleven essays—Verbal Art, Verbal Sign, Verbal Time—to serve as an introduction to some of his linguistic theories and, especially, to his work in poetics.