AFTER BOURDIEU: THE POLITICS OF THEORY
AND THE PRACTICE OF REFLECTION
Alexander Dmitriev (Institute for the History of Science and Technology, Saint-Petersburg), introducing a focal point dedicated to the anniversary of Pierre Bourdieu’s death, emphasizes the importance of the late scholar’s concepts for contemporary Russian thought. The primary value of Bourdieu’s theory for contemporary Russian intellectuals lies in providing a consistent explication of the social and political context of their activity in the turbulent situation of the late 1990s. Bourdieu’s polemical essays and talks on socio-analysis point to the possibility of an interdisciplinary dialogue, although each article in this section conserves a peculiar approach of its own.
The section opens with Pierre Bourdieu’s essay The Historical Genesis of a Pure Aesthetic. The Analysis of Essence and the Illusion of the Absolute (first published in 1987), where he reviews the genesis of the concept of the “pure gaze” throughout the history of aesthetic ideas, in its connection with the process of the autonomization of art. He reflects on the social and historical contexts of art’s independence from history and society (an independence which only became possible in the second half of the 19th century). Bourdieu’s socio-historical approach challenges both the “ontology of art” approach and Marxist reductionism of culture as ideology.
In his article The Theory of Being a Writer and the Writing of a Theory, or Philology after Bourdieu, Sergey Zenkin (Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow) considers Bourdieu’s socio-analytical approach to literature (comparing them with Boris Eichenbaum’s theories of “everyday culture” and Hans Robert Jauss’ receptive aesthetics), as the main alternative to the traditional text-centered approach of philology. As Zenkin sustains, Bourdieu sees the structure of every author’s artistic world as homologous to the structures of the social life of his time, arguing from the principles of economic reductionism; moreover, Zenkin sees Bourdieu’s concept of time as an important analytical tool for exploring culture.
Alexander Bikbov (Institute of Sociology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow), The Socio-Analysis of Culture: Internal Principles and External Criticism. The article outlines the position of the social analysis of cultural production developed by Pierre Bourdieu among other reflexive techniques for the study of cultural objects, such as cultural history and literary studies. Social analysis is based on a break with the “pure”, i.e. culturally legitimate, sense of cultural practices, and, quite unlike “vulgar” Marxism, reveals the productive relationship between individuals’ professional positions and cultural hierarchies. This initial split is by and large neglected in the external vision of this method that has been deployed by humanities and even sociology in Russia; when this method is targeted at the social conditions of meaning, its results are received unfavourably. It has been subject to a range of accusations, from reductionism to lack of scientificity. There has also been a misuse of Bourdieusian categories, due to attempts to fuse traditional interpretative techniques with socio-analysis. The article attempts to explain the workings of this tilted vision of Bourdieu’s works through diverse examples of their reception in Russia.
Marina Magidovitch (Herzen State Pedagogical Unversity, Saint-Petersburg), The Field of Art as an Object of Study. In this essay, Magidovitch reviews the present state and problems of the sociology of art as a discipline. The author describes three relatively self-contained directions of research, three components of the contemporary sociology of art: “sociological aesthetics”, “the sociology of artistic consumption” and “the sociology of artistic work”. These trends can be integrated into a single discipline based on Bourdieu’s notions of a relatively autonomous aesthetic field and its interaction with other social fields.
People With Stories, People Without Stories, a dialogue between Pierre Bourdieu and Roger Chartier. This is a transcript of an interview with historian Roger Chartier (EHESS Paris) and sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (CollПge de France), broadcast on the France Culture 3 radio station in 1988. The discussion focuses on a dilemma that affects all the social sciences today — the opposition between objectivist approaches that operate in terms of structure, hierarchy or objective relations, and methods trying to reintroduce the concepts of individual interaction and the roles of social agents. In this conversation, Pierre Bourdieu develops some key themes of his theory of social fields and human habitus.
Olessia Kirtchik (Institute of Sociology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow / CEMS-EHESS, Paris). The Social Sciences and Reflexivity: Some Reflections About a Forum. A report on the international forum organised in January 2003 by the Centre for European Sociology as a tribute to Pierre Bourdieu, one year after the eminent scholar’s death. The participants discussed the concept of reflexivity, the core of Bourdieu’s sociology. They reviewed the “international circulation of ideas”, the problem of the autonomy of the social sciences, Bourdieu’s sociology and reflexive practice in the social sciences, and Bourdieu’s theory and practice of language in relation to the themes of domination and of the bias implied by common sense.
MEET RUSSIA: A MARGINAL EXPERIENCE
OR A PROJECTIVE TEST?
Alla Koyten (Bremen), Karamzin, a German Writer. The article is written as a historical commentary on several German reviews published between 1800 and 1803 in the “Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung”, which introduced the public to the German translation of “Letters of a Russian Traveller“ by N.M. Karamzin. The commentary concentrates on the opinion of a German critic who suggested that the Russian name of the author might be a literary mystification and the translation was in fact a German original. In order to show which features of the “Letters…” could be interpreted as being “German”, Keuten places Karamzin’s European travels in the context of traditional late 18th and early 19th century German travel prose.
Sergey Fokin (Saint-Petersburg), Russia in the geopolitical views of Paul ValОry. The article reflects on the strange invisibility of Russia within the context of Paul ValОry’s geopolitical views. In the political outlook of Paul ValОry, France’s greatest poet of the 20th century, Russia does not hold a prominent place. This absence is intriguing by itself, especially because ValОry’s politological constructions were developed during a period when Russia, first under the Tsar, then under Soviet rule, played quite an important role in European political life; moreover, his studies pay close attention to countries in historical circumstances similar to Russia’s: Germany, Italy, and Japan. The article analyses the premises of his political reflections, as represented by his early essay “German conquest” (1897), the famous “Crisis of Spirit” (1919), the central expression of his political thought, and his reflections in the “Notebooks” of the 1940’s, shortly before his death — the epilogue to his political ideas.
Maxim Valdshtein (University of Columbia), The New Marquis de Custine, or A Postcolonial Reading of A Polish Travel Essay on Russia. Ryszard Kapus╢cin╢ski’s Imperium is an insightful collection of travel notes which touches upon some of the major issues of Russian and Soviet history as well as its Western and self-representations. Although justified in its quest for a comprehensive historical critique of the Russian imperial experience, the book reproduces some of the most widespread stereotypes ingrained in both popular and expert imagination. Using the tools of textual analysis and postcolonial perspective on empires, the article provides an account of the construction and the workings of these stereotypes in the text of Imperium. More specifically, it is argued that Kapus╢cin╢ski’s essays on the nature, history, politics and people of Russia are Orientalist texts aimed at the visualization of the ▒inferior’ and ▒dangerous’ Other. What sets Imperium apart is a paradoxical positioning of its author as both the originator of an Orientalizing ▒imperial gaze’ and a former subject of the empire. While exploring this paradox, the article contextualizes Kapus╢cin╢ski’s notes in the processes of (re)constructing post-communist national and regional identities (Polish and ▒Central European’, in particular).
HOMER IN RUSSIAN LITERARY CONSCIOUSNESS
IN THE 19th AND 20th CENTURY
Maria Maiofis (The New Literary Review, Moscow), “The Hand of Time”, “Divine Plato” and Homeric rhyme in Russian poetry in the first half of the 19th century. The article shows that Nikolai Gnedich’s long poem The Birth of Homer, written at the end of 1816, was a response to Gavriil Derzhavin’s last poem, The Stream of Time. In his poem, Gnedich puts forward a conception of time, historical memory and poetic personality challenging Derzhavin’s. An interesting feature of this poem is the “Christianisation” of ancient themes and images. This is due to the expansion of so-called messianic language in Russian literature and journalism in 1812—1815 into domains from which this style had traditionally been absent and by Gnedich’s penchant to position classical antiquity (along with traditional religious values) as a cultural ideal and “antidote” against the malignant influence of French culture. Likewise, during an era of immense political cataclysms, Homer’s epoi and the figures of Homer’s Russian translators will be reflected upon by Alexander Pushkin (in 1832), Vassili Zhukovsky and Nikolai Gogol (in 1848—1849).
Ilya Vinitsky (University of Pittsburg), Zhukovsky’s Theodyssey: Homer’s Epoi and the Revolution of 1848—1849. The article deals with the political and religious connotations of Vasily Zhukovsky’s translation of The Odyssey (1842—1849). The latter is considered in its broader literary (Biedermeier romanticism), political (the European revolutions of the 1848), and religious context (the neo-Platonic allegorical tradition, canonized by the early-nineteenth-century Romantic philosophers). Emphasis is placed on the crucial second “part” of the epos, describing the return of Odysseus, the slaughter of Penelope’s suitors, and the full restoration of royal power in Ithaca (XIII—XXIV). A textual-historical analysis of the second part shows that the classical epic is transformed by the interpreter into a poetic invective against German “enemies of the [monarchical] order”, an almost instant reflection of a rapidly developing historical process. Zhukovsky interprets the archetypal plot of Homer’s Odyssey as (a) a prophetic tale about the final advent of Truth, (b) a defense of God’s justice in the face of doubts arising from the phenomenon of (political) evil in contemporary Europe, and (c) the restoration of lost unity between King and people preceding the ▒resolution’ of world history.
Sergey Zavyalov (Saint-Petersburg), Homer as a State Prosecutor at the Trial of Russian Poetry (On A. Egunov’s “Homer in Russian translations of the 18th—19th centuries”). Sergey Zavyalov challenges the established tradition of seeing A.N. Egunov primarily as a philologist, thus belittling his literary works. Zavyalov suggests that Egunov’s tendency to associate himself with scholars rather than with literati during the 1920s and 1930s was rooted in his intellectual solitude. After 23 years of exile, Egunov could not find an audience, especially because of the tragic contradiction between mass passion for the Silver Age and the writer’s indifference to it. The essay proposes to see Egunov’s study Homer in Russian Translations of the 18th—19th centuries (written in the late 1950s and early 1960s) not only as a book about the interpretation of classical antiquity, but as one about Russian poetry as such, a book written by a poet who had, in a way, anticipated contemporary discoveries.
IN MEMORIAM: MARINA KANEVSKAYA (1956—2002)
Mark Lipovetsky’s (University of Colorado) article sketches a portrait of Marina Kanevskaya, a Russian-American scholar, author of the study N.K. Mikhailovsky’s Criticism of Dostoevsky: The Cruel Critic and numerous works on Russian literature in the 19th and 20th centuries (some of which were published in the New Literary Review). She tragically died in an accident in December 2002. Mark Lipovetsky speaks of Kanevskaya’s life and scholarly interests. The latter are reflected in an article written by Kanevskaya in the 1990s but never published in Russian, The Semiotic Validity of the Mirror Image: Umberto Eco and Vladimir Nabokov, which applies Eco’s notion of mirror imagery to the interpretation of Nabokov’s Despair and explores the meaning of mirror symbols for the formation of the novel’s plot structure.
CHILDREN’S BOOKS IN THE SOVIET AGE:
A NON-SOVIET VIEW
The article “Little citizens of the big country”: internationalism, children, and the Soviet Propaganda by Catriona Kelly (University of Oxford) considers the evolution of patriotic education and of what children were taught about the outside world, particularly Western Europe and America, in Russia before and after 1917. The late Imperial era saw a great deal of interest in foreign approaches to children’s issues (e.g. juvenile deliquency), and the encouragement of children’s participation in contacts with the world beyond the Russian borders. After 1917, however, a more isolationist mood took hold, particularly from 1932, when national history was restored to the school programme. As well as considering patriotic material as taught in the schoolroom etc., the article addresses the question of reception, reconstructed from memoirs, oral histories etc., and comes to the conclusion that intensive indoctrination about the supremacy of the Soviet Union had, in the end, only limited success. Patriotic material was so pervasive that it became automatised; interviews with informants conducted in 2002—2003 demonstrate a very poor retention of specific information from the patriotic school programme. Both these and memoirs point to the existence of nationalist feeling primarily at the level of hostility to outsiders and the cultivation of various myths about Western behaviour, which comparisons with other post-imperial cultures, e.g. Britain, would suggest are probably not the specific product of Soviet culture.
Mark Lipovetsky (University of Colorado), The Utopia of a Free Puppet, or What the Archetype [of Buratino] is Made of (Re-reading Alexei Tolstoy’s “Zolotoi klyuchik”). The article examines the ideological and cultural connotations of Alexei Tolstoy’s “Zolotoi klyuchik”, ili Prikliucheniia Buratino”(1935—1937). Lipovetsky argues that Tolstoy transformed Collodi’s plot into a personal utopia of a free marionette, legitimating the position of the artist as a liar able to create entertaining illusions. This concept may be interpreted as a travesty of the modernist vision of art and the artist. However, in his utopia of a free marionette Tolstoy not only mocked the symbolist discourse (as Miron Petrovsky has suggested) but was also trying to revitalise it in a playful manner.
Close analysis of Tolstoy’s text demonstrates that this approach led to the “mythologization” of a fairy-tale plot structure through emphasis on binary structures and the presentation of the protagonist as a trickster. The failure of Tolstoy’s utopia is evident in later versions of “Buratino”, especially in the play and the film script written by Tolstoy while working on the novel “Khleb”, devoted to the glorification of Stalin.
Leonid Zorin, Leonid Yuzefovich, Leonid Kostyukov, Stanislav Lvovsky, Yana Tokareva, Denis Osokin. Present-day Russian literati of different generations, who were children during the Soviet era, participate in a poll entitled Totally Extra-Curricular Reading. Famous playwright Leonid Zorin (born 1924) and several young authors answer our review’s questions about their childhood reading: what they thought about the difference between children’s and “adult” books, how they discussed those books with their parents and friends, what their attitude to those books was etc. Their reflections are crucial for a deeper understanding of the cultural background of contemporary literary innovations and practices.
In his article The Gloomy Look of a Child: “transitional” optics in present-day poetry, Danila Davydov (Moscow) introduces the concept of the “poetics of conscious infantilism”. The stage of puberty is considered to be a “transitional phase”. Aesthetically, the description of this stage can be double-natured — the experience of both childhood and adulthood are projected onto the transitional phase. The article analyses different models of “transitional” and normative social age phases juxtaposed in the texts of modern writers. Moreover, the author analyses some of the children’s books and movies of the late-Soviet era that had a great impact on contemporary writers. The author suggests to analyze the psycho-social age of the writer’s “ego” while studying the poetics of his or her text.
The section Chronicles of Modern Literature features reviews on new books: short stories by Nikolai Kononov and Asar Eppel, poems by Gali-Dana Zinger, poetic prose by Alexey Tsvetkov, a novel by Alexander Goldstein and the latest issue of the literary almanac “The Lesser Silk Way”. The main essay in this section is Alexander Skidan’s article about the well-known poet Elena Schwarz. Skidan shows that the conception of time in Schwarz’s texts is in a way similar to the conception of time in early Christianity as it was studied by Giorgio Agamben.
In the Bibliography section, G. Elshevskaya reviews books on the theory of art, N. Bogomolov presents a survey of publications of minor 20th century poets, and A. Glazova reflects upon various editions of Walter Benjamin’s works.
The section Chronicle of Academic Life contains reports about the following events:
— The International Conference “Russian Berlin: 1920—1945” (Russia Abroad Library & Foundation, Moscow, 16th—18th of December, 2002);
— Prof. I. Klein’s home seminar (Leiden, The Netherlands, 29th of November — 1st of December, 2002);
— The Tenth Lotman Readings: “Russian Theory: the 1920s and 1930s” (RSUH, Moscow, 20th—22nd of December, 2002);
— The Conference “Self-Reflection in Russian Literature, History, Arts and Media” (Oxford University, United Kingdom, 7th—8th of February, 2003);
— The Annual Symposium of the SOYUZ Research Association, “The Ethnography of post-socialism” (Amhurst College, Massachusetts, USA, 7th—8th of February, 2003).