BELLES-LETTRES: NEW SCIENTIFIC POETRY
This section publishes attempt to analyse literary works written in verse — Olga Martynova’s (Frankfurt am Main) long poem “Vvedensky”. Martynova’s work is preceded by Victor Beylis’ (Frankfurt am Main) essay devoted to gender aspects of the dialog between Martynova and Aleksandr Vvedensky.
APPROPRIATING A CLASSIC:
LEV VYGOTSKY’S CONTEXTS
The section opens with a polemic article “Vygotsky’s and Luria’s cultural-historical theory: an anatomy of a reception” by Rebeccah Frumkina (Moscow). The author stresses that within the Russian cultural tradition the mechanisms governing perception of ideas rarely became objects of focused attention. As a result, a scholar while being studied by the later researchers as a cultural hero of our times remains not understood as a hero of his own times. The author tried to demonstrate that Vygotsky’s contribution to science should probably be judged not on the basis of his own texts, but rather on the basis of the hypotheses and interpretations that were formulated by Vygotsky’s pupil, a major Soviet psychologist Alexander Luria while he was in communication with Vygotsky and published many years later.
An answer to Frumkina’s paper, an article by Vladimir Spiridonov (Russian State University for the Humanities) is of an autobiographical nature: it describes the way Vygotsky’s ideas were perceived by the last generation of Soviet psychologist: by the people who studied at the Moscow University in the early 1980s. Spiridonov sets canonisation of Vygotsky’s theory that reduces it to a set of cliched formulas against readapting the cultural-historical approach for the areas that Vygotsky and his pupils did not work on. It is exactly that approach that, according to Spiridonov, would allow us today to perform an adequate evaluation of the heuristic potential of Vygotsky’s theoretical heritage.
The paper of Nikolai Veresov (University of Oulu, Finland) “Cultural-historical psychology of Lev Vygotsky: a difficult attempt at understanding (reader’s notes)” reflects author’s experience of reading of the original texts of Vygotsky and his followers in Russia and in the West. It examines the cultural-philosophical origins of Vygotsky’s theoretical approach. The paper discusses new facts, corrects mistakes and proposes new ways of understanding of some of Vygotskian famous ideas — general genetic law of cultural development, sign mediation, social origins of mind, and the role of human activity. Special emphasis is drawn to the relation of the cultural-historical theory of Lev Vygotsky and the activity theory of Alexey
N. Leont’ev, showing deep differences between them. The paper also touches the problem of Marxist and non-Marxist roots of Vygotsky’s psychological theory.
The section closes with a publication of Lev Vygotsky’s October 1932 notebook from Galina Vygodskaya’s (the scholar’s daughter) family archive. These notes are a unique historical document: they mark a major theoretical shift in Vygotsky’s research program owing to the birth of the idea of a semantic structure of consciousness. The notes include a plan of a book on the problems of consciousness (that book was supposed to be a large-scale answer to the methodological crisis in European psychology). The notes are accompanied by the commentary and an extensive foreword by Ekaterina Zavershneva (Moscow State University [MSU]), that provides a detailed analysis of the last period in Vygotsky’s biography as a scholar.
ON THE FRINGES OF THE CANON:
SOVIET THEATRE IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE 1920s
Violetta Gudkova (The State Institute for Art Studies) in her article “Old-time jesters in a Socialist plot: an image of a different population” demonstrates that supporting comic characters that in the 1920s were pushed to the curbside of the plot, are of special interest as authorial ▒leaks’ that often speak of the times more eloquently than the central characters or finales of dramatic pieces that were more rigidly controlled by the author. The meaning-production function of the characters of that kind also caused fundamental formal consequences: dramaturgic poetics was impregnated with split realities; it became possible to reveal (make public) a subjective point of view belonging to this or that character. Various types of those jester characters as well as the functions performed by them are studied on the abundant material of the Soviet plays of the period.
Maria Kotova’s (MSU) paper is dedicated to reconstructing the story of an abortive attempt to produce Mikhail Zoshchenko’s comedy “Respected comrade” in 1930 by the State Vsevolod Meyerhold Theatre. The documents introduced into academic circulation allow to follow the history of a relationship between
M. Zoshchenko and Vsevolod Meyerhold, to bring to light the theatric strategy Meyerhold employed while the theater was going through a difficult period (the late 1920s — the early 1930s), and to clarify his views on Soviet drama and the ways it was supposed to be embodied on stage.
BIOGRAPHICS OF POGROM:
ELISAVETA ALEKSANDROVNA SCHABELSKAYA
This section continues with the topic raised in our 82nd issue in the bloc of materials entitled “Poetics of bashing”. This time the subject is one of the famous activists of the Russian “Black Hundred” (radical nationalist) movement of the 1900s—1910s Elizaveta Shabelskaia (1855—1917), whose biography underwent considerable mythologisation first in the émigré and then in the modern Russian nationalist literature.
Olga Makarova (Queen Mary College, University of London). ““Even Suvorin, her creator, turned away from her…”: Aleksei Suvorin’s involvement in the Case of Elizaveta Shabelskaia”. Drawing upon some newly discovered archival material, the author provides a reassessment of a scandalous criminal case which put an end to a long-term friendship between A. Suvorin and E. Shabelskaia, actress and contributor to the newspaper Novoe Vremia. The paper gives a brief outline of Shabelskaia’s life and adds more detail to Suvorin’s personality, particularly, his tendency to veer away from his one-time favourites.
The later stage of Shabelskaia’s biography is presented in a collection of materials “Word and Deed” prepared by Dmitri Zubarev (International Historical-Enlightment, Human Rights and Humanitarian Society Memorial, Moscow): it is a series of letters sent by Shabelskaia to the Department of Police in 1905— 1916. In these letters Shabelskaia endeavours to pass herself as an expert in plots against the state and “Jewish calamities” and informs the police about various dangers presumably threatening emperor Nicholas II. Of considerable interest is her tale about her visit to Grigory Rasputin right before his demise and a piece of information on the spread of the nationalist attitudes among the workers in St. Petersburg. The collection is accompanied by a publisher’s preface that reveals the details Shabelskaya’s correspondence with the Department of Police.
ESSAYS ON TEXTOLOGY
Nikolai Bogomolov’s (MSU) article “Problematisation of texts as a way of reading difficult passages” is devoted not only to several particular problems due to an attempt to reproduce a rather complex text (Vyacheslav Ivanov’s 1909 diary) in print, but to a greater degree to a theoretical understanding of the problem of “correct” reading. Practice of most textologists includes a certain way to tune oneself in to a particular style of speech. In Ivanov’s case — an uplifted style that contains quite a few archaic words. Manuscript tests show that such a presumption on the part of textologist leads to errors being made. The way that the author perceives to be correct is to immerse oneself in the historical and literary situation connected with that particular text (especially if is a piece of correspondence or a text of an autobiographical nature).
Natalya Tarasova’s (Petrozavodsk State University) article “Graphology — biography — context: a new name in the drafts of Dostoevsky’s novel “An Adolescent”” is devoted to the problem of establishing the text — using the drafts of Dostoevsky’s novel as source material. By subjecting the text to a graphological analysis the author establishes a prototype for one of the characters: Aleksei Vladimirovich Darzan. It was Vladimir Destrem, a son of a famous French engineer-general, the chairman of the lines of communication council, Moris Destrem. Thus by being placed in a historical context the image of Darzan gains a new real historical and biographical commentary. The mode of analysis suggested in this work begins with an established textological fact and proceeds through its interpretation towards the writer’s world-view and poetiсs.
UKRAINIAN AND RUSSIAN LITERATURES
This collection of materials is devoted to two problems: to a comparison between Russian and Ukrainian contemporary literatures and to an analysis of a proportional relationship between Ukrainian-speaking and Russian-speaking parts of modern Ukrainian literature. The NLO editorial board tends to think that an analysis of ties between two literatures allows one to describe a relationship between Russia and Ukraine as that of two equal subjects within European context. This research paradigm necessarily complements postcolonial discourse and allows one to avoid geopolitical and conspirological explanations currently widespread in the political journalism of both countries.
Michaela Böhmig’s (Università degli studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”) article’s aim is to point out a series of problems related to 1) the “new” Europe, 2) the “European” canon, and 3) multilingualism and multiculturalism. The author moves from the evidence that the political priority of redesigning the enlarged European Union’s new borders involves the risk to let aside the equally or even more important task to redefine the “European” roots and to establish shared cultural values, and she raises the question of what is to be considered “Europe” and “European”. Reviewing the fundamental works, which in an centripetal effort try to collect the basic myths and themes of the European and/or Western cultural space, the author remarks that the contribution of the Eastern European countries to what should be a common inheritance seems to be very small or even non-existent. Since this disproportion cannot be ascribed to an inadequate cultural production, the only explanation remains a prevailing one-way influence from West to East — and not vice versa — and a consequent one-sided perception by European scholars. In order to establish a complete “European” canon, it is therefore necessary to enlarge the borders toward East and to include the Slavic, Ugro-Finnish, Albanian and other areas of a similar nature. On the way towards a “new” Europe, with cultural relativism on the one side and Realpolitik on the other, one should not leave centuries of historic development and cultural traditions out of consideration.
An article by Rostislav Mel’nikov (Kharkiv) and Yuri Tsaplin (The Soyuz Pisateley literary magazine, Kharkiv) “North-East of South-West (on modern Kharkiv literature)” describes the literary situation of modern Kharkiv — one of the largest cities in the Ukraine; its situation is peculiar because both Ukrainian-speaking and Russian-speaking literatures are rapidly developing there. For those who live in the Ukraine Kharkiv is to the northwest of the country, from the Russian point of view it lies to the southwest of Moscow. The authors think that in the 19th-21st centuries during the periods of modernisation Kharkiv always became a place where the most innovative Ukrainian authors, both Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking, were concentrated. The authors on purpose analyse the use of the situation (characteristic for that city) of two languages being mixed in the works of the Russian-speaking writers of Kharkiv.
Aleksandr Dmitriev (The New Literary Observer magazine, Moscow) in his article “My Zhadan, or The Heaven over Kharkiv” reconstructs the development of historical consciousness in the works of Sergiy Zhadan (b. 1974) — one of the most colourful writers of modern Ukraine. In the 1990s Zhadan published several collections of avant-garde poetry, in the 2000s he started publishing prose as well as poetry. His descriptions of social outsiders and “nomadic intellectuals” deconstruct both the “left-wing” and the “right-wing” mythologies of a social an commercial success-oriented society. However Zhadan’s trademark apologia of outcasts paradoxically stands for a possibility of ethical solidarity between people belonging to different groups.
Dmitri Kuzmin (Moscow) presents Russian translations of Ukrainian poets who became prominent in the 2000s: Oleg Romanenko (b. 1979, Sumy, Ukraine), Valery Bogunenko (b. 1977, Chasov Yar, Ukraine) and Oleg Kotsarev (b. 1981, Kharkiv, Ukraine). In his introductory note Kuzmin compares Russian and Ukrainian authors of the “generation 2000” and demonstrates similarities and disparities peculiar to both literatures in their current stage of development. In both countries young poets are evolving towards radicalised poetics and complicated metrics. However young Ukrainian poets are more integrated into the pan-European literary and cultural process and consider themselves a part of it. Moreover, they pay more attention to political topics and are more eager to form groups and societies.
BEYOND IMPERIAL CONSCIOUSNESS: MINOR LITERATURES
In their article “Disconcerting Yet Again: Minor Writing in Aotearoa/New Zealand”, Evgeny Pavlov and Mark Williams (both — University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand) discuss what Jilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari term “a blurring of functions of minor writing” in the Maori and English settler (Pakeha) literature of Aotearoa/New Zealand. They examine how various “minor” New Zealand writers, both Maori and Pakeha, have come to be appropriated by cultural nationalist narratives, being made to speak for the nation by selective readings of their work. As a counterpoint, the authors consider the example of contemporary Maori writer Witi Ihimaera who aims to upset the relations between the minor and the mainstream by questioning the way cultures and nations invest authority in specific articulations of their collective identity.
Sergei Zavyalov’s (Helsinki) article “Through the moss of memory loss” analyses current processes in literatures of the so-called Eastern Finns — peoples of the Volga river basin and the Northern Urals, whose languages belong to the Ugro-Finnish group. Despite the Soviet authorities proclaiming the equality of all peoples within the USSR, in reality in the 20th century those ethnic groups were subjected to assimilation and many representatives of their intelligencia suffered persecution. At the moment Eastern Finnish writers are somewhat attracted to the ideas of ethnofuturism, a cultural movement that started in Estonia in the late 1980s. Ethnofuturist manifests combine an apologia of pre-modernist values with an appeal to post-structuralist ideas, the rhetorics of an “environmentalist” consciousness and praises to the Internet as an unhierarchical network of relationships. The article pays special attention to the works of the most prominent representative of Eastern Finnish ethnofuturism — an Udmurtian poet and philologist Viktor Shibanov (Izhevsk). An appendix includes Zavyalov’s translations of three poems by Shibanov.
The issue also contains two obituaries: dedicated to the memory of a journalist and an interpreter Aleksandr Sumerkin (1943—2006) and a publisher, head of the Novoye Izdatel’stvo publishing house (Moscow) Yevgeny Permyakov (1961—2007).