MORPHOLOGY OF MICROHISTORY: CARLO GINZBURG
This section, A BOOK AS AN EVENT, is devoted to the Russian translation of a collection of articles by the well-known historian, Carlo Ginzburg, Myths — Emblems — Omens. Morphology and History (Moscow, Novoe Izdatel’stvo [New Edition], 2003).
In his article, Carlo Ginzburg and History, Viktor Zhivov (University of California, Los Angeles) analyses the distinctive features of the Italian historian’s conceptual approach. Zhivov compares the “non-Galilean” paradigm suggested by Ginzburg to the positivist ideal of objectivity and ideas of the Annales school, portraying Ginzburg’s approach as oriented towards the
irreducible, subjective and functional facets of the historical process itself.
Nikolai Kopossov’s (Smolny College, St. Petersburg) article, The Devil in the Details, focuses on the micro-historical approach of Carlo Ginzburg in the context of the crisis of traditional historiography in the 1980s and 90s. Noting the proximity between Ginzburg’s philosophy and similar approaches in modern Russian historiography (in particular, the group of Y.L. Bessmertny’s students around the Kazus almanac), the scholar points out the insurmountable dependence of micro-history on the implicit assumption of macro-scale coordinates of the historical process. From Kopossov’s point of view, Ginzburg’s approach is incapable of overcoming the crisis in modern historical science.
Carlo Ginzburg’s (University of California, Los Angeles) lecture published in this section is entitled Latitudes, Slaves and History (delivered at the Russian State University of Humanities, Moscow, on November 26, 2003). It analyses the political, business and literary activity of the Swiss businessman, Jean-Pierre Purry, who worked in German and British colonial estates at the beginning of the 18th century. Ginzburg traces the influence of the Bible and John Locke on Purry’s ideas and his arguments in favour of the seizure of African and Australian territories by Europeans (a plan proposed by the East-Indian company in 1718). The Purry case also allows Ginzburg to compare the theories on the genesis of capitalism coined by Karl Marx (the idea of primary accumulation in Capital) and Max Weber (Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism).
A correspondence between Carlo Ginzburg and the famous Italian Marxist thinker and classicist philologist Sebastiano Timpanaro, which took place between 1971 and 1978, illuminates the wider context of the appearance of Ginzburg’s book on morphology and history. The main motif of the
correspondence is a polemic on the Marxist approach in the humanities and on Freud’s ideas about the unconscious (for instance, in slips of the tongue).
MODELS OF HOSPITALITY
These three articles about Traditional and modern models of hospitality are issued from a Franco-Russian conference which took place in Moscow in October 2002.
Alain Montandon (Blaise Pascal University, Clermont-Ferrand, France), in his article Hospitality — an ethnographic delusion? analyses the myth of “good old” hospitality, and shows the unstable and contradictory character of this current mythology, which he illustrates through the example of a novel by contemporary Albanian writer, Ismail KadarÎ.
Marie Gaille-Nikodimov (Blaise Pascal University, Clermont-Ferrand, France), in her essay, Is a humanistic philosophy of hospitality possible? discusses the philosophical and legal problem of the theoretical framework of a purely “humanistic philosophy of hospitality”, in other words whether being hospitably received in a foreign country may be regarded as a human right, independently of any considerations of the political and cultural identity of the person welcomed (following the works of Jacques Derrida and Etienne Balibar).
Sergey Zenkin (Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow) in his theoretical essay Towards anthropological and literary definitions of hospitality proposes to distinguish between two concepts of hospitality, the “anthropological” and the “literary” one; the former, Zenkin writes, is based on a reciprocal exchange, and the latter on unilateral gifts.
THE CORPOREAL AND REVOLUTION:
SEMIOTIC AND NON-SEMIOTIC ASPECTS
This section presents several articles on “body studies”, their representation and revolution, and deal with the relationship between the transformation of the corporeal, political coups, and artistic imagery in European and Russian cultural history.
In his article The Queen and the Guillotine (Discourse, Purification, Physicality), Mikhail Yampolsky (New York University) examines engravings from the 1790s devoted to the theme of Revolution and the beheading of Marie-Antoinette. Yampolsky claims that these works are an important
manifestation of the conjunction and interaction between various modes of visualization of the corporeal in Baroque aesthetics and graphics at the end of the 18th century, as well as important visual symbols, due to their political connotations.
Igor Chubarov (Logos-Altera Publishing House, Moscow), in his article Symbol, Affect, and Masochism (Images of Revolution in Andrey Bely and Alexander Blok), examines various perceptions of political revolution in the works of two Symbolist poets, against the background of a particular cultural sensibility. Blok’s ironic defamiliarization of sadistic scenarios and Bely’s masochistic “contract with the Other” each in its way establish a connection between a political idea, an artistic image and a corporeal affect. Chubarov’s approach elaborates not only on classical psychoanalysis, but also takes on board Valery Podoroga’s psycho-biographic studies and Gilles Deleuze’s philosophical analysis.
LOVE IN LITERATURE AND LIFE-CREATION:
FORMS OF CONCEPTUALIZATION
Andrey Zorin (Russian State University of Humanities, Moscow), A Ride in Moscow in the Summer of 1799 (From the History of Emotional Culture). This article is a case study in the history of emotions. The author explores the possibility of reconstructing historical figures’ emotional life based on cultural patterns of perception. The peculiarities of Andrey Turgenev’s emotional response to his impressions during a ride in Moscow on August 28, 1799, as reflected in his diary are interpreted and explained in terms of his literary interests, especially his fascination with Schiller’s Kabale und Liebe.
Nikolai Bogomolov (Moscow State University) publishes excerpts from Valery Briusov’s diary of 1892—1893. The text of the diary contains the young poet’s peculiar opinions about the Russian and French literature of his time, notes on the effects of spiritualistic sessions which were an integral part of his creative biography of that period, as well as an attempt to create a meta-language for describing intimate experiences, both intentionally eclectic and “decadent.” Briusov’s early love poems contained similar experiments, but had never spread beyond his copy-books (which are also included in Bogomolov’s publication). Bogomolov suggests that the erotic experiences of the young man’s first love eventually gave way to the author’s aesthetic quest.
Evgenii Bershtein (Reed College, Portland). The Tragedy of Sex: Two Brief Essays on the Russian Cult of Otto Weininger. The first part of the article, entitled Otto Weininger in the Russian Revolution, examines the political connotations that Weininger’s enormously popular book Sex and Character (1903) came to acquire in revolutionary Russia. Special attention is paid to the life of Vladimir Likhtenshtadt, a political terrorist who translated Weininger’s book in prison while awaiting his death sentence. The second part, entitled A Respectable Uranian, examines Pavel Florensky’s response to Weininger’s book. Florensky’s theory of same-sex attraction is compared with the scientific ideas of Marc-AndrÎ Raffalovich — a Decadent writer, Catholic monk, and student of homosexuality.
Vladislav Sofronov-Antomoni (Moscow). Jealousy, Memory, and Pleasure: Kierkegaard’s and Kafka’s Disengagement. This essay attempts to juxtapose two types of philosophical doctrine — the intellectual, conceptualist, rational and textual one and the sensual and sexualized one. Sofronov-Antonomoni rejects the poststructuralist notion of the “death of the author”, and traces the relationship between the intellectual structures of Kierkegaard’s, Nietzsche’s, Kafka’s, and Proust’s writings and various biographical details. In this way, Kierkegaard’s and Kafka’s disengagements are analyzed as traumas ambiguously reflected in the writings of both writers.
THE SOCIOLOGY OF LITERARY PRACTICE
Joachim Klein (Leiden). Poet-Samokhval [“Self-Aggrandizing Poet”]: Derzhavin’s “Pamiatnik” and the Status of the Poet in Eighteenth-Century Russia. In Pamiatnik and other poems Derzhavin follows Horatius’ example in dealing with his own fame as a poet. However, what was acceptable in classical antiquity becomes problematic in 18th century Russia. Just like other Russian poets before him, Derzhavin was accused of self-aggrandizement (samokhval’stvo). This criticism can be explained by two factors: the Christian ideal of humility on the one hand, and the low prestige of literary activity on the other. In 18th century Russia, literature as an institution and the poet as a public figure were still all too recent imports from Western European culture, which played a significant role in Russia’s system of cultural values.
ON THE LOVE OF WORD AND IMAGE
The publication of literary works by prominent contemporary graphic artists and painters is a unique phenomenon in Russian culture at the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the new century. Among those publications are the literary works of Viktor Pivovarov, Grisha Bruskin, Semyon Faibisovich, the late Sergei Sherstiuk, as well as letters and essays by artists of the past. This section is entitled “On The Love Of Word And Image”, after Viktor Pivovarov’s book of essays, forthcoming at the New Literary Observer press. The rubric presents texts by modern painters discussing the interaction of visual and literary sources in their works and consciousness.
A conversation between Dmitrii Prigov (Moscow) and Alyona Yakhontova (Moscow), The Central Phantom’s Production Costs, questions how self-sufficient the character of Prigov’s poetry really is. According to Prigov, the most important goal of art is the transformation of an author’s mythologized image. Poems, prose and graphic works are just “projections” of the artist’s Central Phantom. Prigov himself, however, does not believe that this activity may be perceived and analyzed in terms of traditional aesthetic reception.
Semyon Faibisovich’s (Moscow) essay Transition describes the evolution of an artist’s creative biography. In particular, Faibisovich reflects on his own sensory and emotional perceptions of the perceived world, which he had been able to capture partially in prose and visual arts. The author also claims that thereby his relationship to art and life-creation (zhiznetvorchestvo) has been enriched.
Grisha Bruskin (New York) in Image as Text, and Text as Image, reflects on how in his own literary and visual work he develops the principal of collection. He describes the structure of his books which bring together lyrical autobiographical texts, and the structure of his pictures which are constructed on the multiplicity of equivalent images. Besides this, Bruskin explores the influence of Jewish religious traditions on the principles of his visual thinking.
Massimo Maurizio’s (Milano) conversation with Oscar Rabin and Valentina Kropivnitskaia (Paris) is published as a supplement to this section. The well-known nonconformist artists depict the literary tastes of the poet and artist Evgenii Kropivnitskii (1903—1979). They relate the details of contacts between unofficial poets and artists at the peak of the so-called “Lianozovo school” (late 1950s—early 1960s).
This rubric is dedicated to the memory of the poet Mikhail Faynerman (1946—2003). The selection includes his poems, some of which are published here for the first time.
The CHRONICLES OF MODERN LITERATURE section contains a report on the Third International Poetic Biennale, held in Moscow on October 21—25, 2003, as well as essays by Vadim Mesiats and Dmitry Kuzmin. Andrey Uritsky explores the Collection of Petersburg Prose (The Leningrad period); Vassily Chepelev contributes an essay devoted to poet and translator Maxim Ankudinov’s memory. This is followed by reviews from Linor Goralik, Vladimir Gubailovsky, Danila Davydov, and Olga Belova.
The BIBLIOGRAPHY section presents reviews and articles by Rebecca Frumkina, T. Venediktova amd R. Shleifer, S. Zenkin, B. Stepanov, and I. Borisova.
The ACADEMIC CHRONICLES section publishes a report on the
hundredth anniversary of the Koktebel “Poet’s House” (Koktebel, September 8—12, 2003) by Natalia Belchenko (Kiev), and an account of the philosophical Round Table Talks (St. Petersburg, November 15, 2003) by Gulnara Khaidarova (St. Petersburg). Yulia Matveeva (Ekaterinburg) discusses the international academic conference, Gaito Gazdanov: A Writer at the Intersection of Traditions, Cultures, and Civilizations. A View from the 21st century (Moscow, December 3—4, 2003).
The issue also contains an Index of the New Literary Observer, issues No. 51—65) compiled by A. Reitblat and G. Smolitsky.