“DISENCHANTMENT OF THE WORLD”: METAPHORS AND PLOTS
This collection of papers opens with a translation of two chapters from a classical work “The legitimacy of the Modern Age” (1966) by a famous German philosopher Hans Blumenberg (1920—1996): “Status of the concept” and “Political theology”. Blumenberg links self-sufficiency and sovereignty of the Modern Age to its refusal to appeal to the transcendent, to religious symbols and constructs. In the published segments of his book Blumenberg argues against the “theology of crisis” that attempts to save religion by including secularism into a general salvation plan and with Carl Schmitt’s thesis that all the legal concepts of the Modern Age have their roots in mediaeval theology.
Daniel Weidner (Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin) in his article “To the rhetoric of secularisation”, starting from Blumenberg’s concepts offers a detailed exposition of discoursive techniques of presenting the “disenchantment of the world” in Max Weber’s works. The author analyses the images of the “spirit” of capitalism, “war of the gods”, “iron cage” of rationalism, special narrative registers and voices and, finally, the specific place of the narrator in the texts on secularisation. He pays special attention to direct and indirect quoting of religious works in Weber’s writings in terms of specific (mutual) translation of “sacred” and “secular”.
Oleg Kharkhordin (European University at St. Petersburg, Russia), “Secularised homiletics: demonstrating the method?”. Homiletics — the art of writing the sermon — was an established discipline taught in Christian church schools next to hermeneutics, the art of interpreting the Bible. Hermeneutic techniques were long ago secularised to form the basis of many Verstehen approaches in social sciences. The article considers a similar transformation for homiletics, which might also serve as a basis for a specific method in human sciences. Russian homiletic tradition is taken as one possible point of access to this cross-cultural technique. Thus, adventures of the homiletics are studied with the help of nineteenth century Orthodox Christian textbooks, Dostoevsky’s works and Bolshevik political rhetoric.
Masha Levina-Parker’s (Sorbonne, Paris) article “Two “end points” of Mikhail Kuzmin” looks into an interaction of religious and cultural dominants, that were the most important motifs in the early works of Mikhail Kuzmin (1875—1936). The specifics of Kuzmin’s position lay in the fact that he was consistently and consciously rejecting theurgism and the life-building programs of the Symbolists. In her detailed analysis of Kuzmin’s novelette “Wings” (1906) the author stresses the importance of Platonic motifs and the concept of beauty as the highest spiritual ideal. In that novelette Kuzmin combines the two seemingly opposite-in-theirmeaning religious and aesthetic motifs of his work: the aesthetic proves to be the highest form of the religious.
Elena Mikhailik’s (University of New South Wales, Sidney) article ““Death of the pioneer girl”: a Crucian as seen by a fish farmer” looks into the history of Eduard’s Bagritsky’s famous poem and analyses its relationship with Nikolai Oleynikov’s ironic verse “Little crucian”. The “Death of the pioneer girl” could be seen as both an instrument in a literary and political debate and as an attempt to invest the “new life” with recognisable attributes of God and marginalise the “old Adam” of pre-Soviet religion and private life.
SCIENCE AT COURT:
Igor Dmitriev’s (St. Petersburg State University) article studies defining features of two types of court patronage: 1) Kulturträger ’s ostentatious patronage, that promoted the ruler who often was in no position to use military exploits as a means of glorification and to impress his contemporaries with the scale of his conquests and 2) utilitarian patronage, that was motivated not so much by the potentate’s wish to strengthen his reputation as a connoisseur and patron of science, but rather by strictly pragmatic, political par excellence, considerations and where a client had to demonstrate not only original thinking but also an ability to provide a particular result.
The article pays special attention to analysis of the initial stages of genesis of the patron-client relationship. It uses as an example the patronage story of Galileo Galilei, since it presents a tight interwoven tangle of scientific problems and the political mythology of the Medician court.
The article also notes that court patronage was not limited to a binary relationship between patron and his protégé. As a rule a client would attract a circle of satellites — students, audience, friends, like-minded people — who would help him to hone his ideas and put his projects into practice. It was that “network-based” nature of patronage that led to the situation where not an individuum but a corporation (a circle, a society or an academy) became an object of support.
Kirill Ospovat (Smolny College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, St. Petersburg) in his work dealing with Mikhail Lomonosov’s poem “Letter on the Usefulness of Glass” (1752), uses this text and its prehistory to reconstruct the mechanics of aesthetic and social conformism that was a necessary condition of social existence for intellectuals in a court society. Their intellectual and aesthetic produce formed a subordinate element of the social canon of the court and its aristocracy. As a result, a poet or a scientist who wanted to achieve prestige at court had to adapt his intellectual skills to the tastes and cultural needs of that court. This article describes that process using both literary and biographical material.
FROM THE HISTORY OF RUSSIAN DIATRIBE
Ilya Vinitsky (University of Pennsylvania), “Russian Spirits: A Spiritualist Plot of Nikolai Leskov’s Novel At Daggers Drawn in the Ideological Context of the 1860s”.
In the late 1860s Nikolai Leskov was actively engaged in heated discussion of the reincarnationalist doctrine formulated by the father of French spiritisme Allan Kardec. The dogmatic and practical aspects of this “chatty fairy-tale doctrine” turned the writer off. However, certain features of Kardecian spiritisme appealed to Leskov’s mystical sensibility and literary interests: namely, to his belief in the spiritual world and in the manifestation of its invisible forces in the material world, to his vision of death as a liberation of the soul from the material shell of the body, and to his conception of earthly life as merely a painful stage on the soul’s path to perfection. The ambivalence of Leskov’s position with respect to mystical spiritualism was especially noticeable in his “anti-nihilist” novel At Daggers Drawn [Na nozhakh] (1870). Here, together with a satirical portrayal of the French spiritistes and their cynical Russian imitators (the former nihilists), Leskov creates an image (on the basis of the pneumatology of Kardec’s Book of Spirits) of the true spiritiste Svetozar Vladenovich Vodop’ianov — a mysterious character who appears at climactic moments in order to half-open the material curtain concealing the novel’s spiritual teleology.
The present article reconstructs the spiritualist scenario of Leskov’s work and places it in the context of the ideological and aesthetic debates regarding soul and body of the late 1860s. The author argues that this work, almost unanimously rejected by its critics as ultra-tendentious, chaotic, and schematic, represents a bold literary experiment: the creation of a new genre, the contemporary spiritualist novel, which portrays the progress of a modern Russian soul, tormented in the material “encasement” (futl’ar) of Russia’s social and political being. In this regard, Leskov’s novel may be considered a forerunner for the Russian Symbolist occult novel (Dmitri Merezhkovsky, Andrey Bely, Fjodor Sologub).
Oleg Lekmanov’s (Moscow State University) work ““Let them now listen…”. On Aleksandr Blok’s article ““Without a deity, without inspiration” (Acmeist guild)”” offers a detailed commentary to the last of Aleksandr Blok’s feuilletons and reconstructs the long and dramatic history of A. Blok’s relationship with Nikolay Gumilev and the poets of his circle. Every argument Blok uses in his polemics with the Acmeists is survival-tested by comparing it with the factual material of the era.
YURI LEVADA (1930—2006)
In this section we publish the articles dedicated to the memory of a leading Russian sociologist Yuri Levada who created one of the most important sociological research groups in modern Russia. Vladimir Shlapentokh (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) writes about Yuri Levada’s role in shaping Soviet sociology — that part was particularly important since sociology as a discipline was for all intents and purposes banned in the USSR and those people who organised unfalsified sociological surveys were de facto in opposition to a greater or lesser degree. Boris Dubin (Levada Center, Moscow) reconstructs the functional meaning of the concept of culture in Yuri Levada’s sociological theory (within the historical and social context of “stagnation” of the 1970s and the social and political turnaround that happened at the turn of 1990s). He analyses the traditional and modern structures of action. Levada uses theatre and sport as examples of modern activities in complex relatedness between various (instrumental, symbolic, etc.) planes of those activities, and discusses imitation and ceremonial as examples of reduction of complexity. Apart from that the issue contains Yuri Levada’s bibliography compiled by Boris Dubin.
DMITRI PRIGOV (1940—2007)
Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov was one of the most bright and multifaceted figures in modern Russian culture: a poet and an avant-garde painter, one of the founders of the Moscow Conceptualist school, a theorist and a promoter of modern art, a participant of musical live art performances, a theatre and cinema actor, a political essayist. This issue contains a bloc of materials dedicated to Prigov’s memory: poetry by Boris Khersonsky (Odessa), Grisha Bruskin (New York), Nikolai Kononov (St Petersburg), Aleksey Tsvetkov (Prague), an essay by Mikhail Grobman (Jerusalem), analytical articles by an historian of culture Evgeny Dobrenko (Sheffield, Great Britain), poets and critics Aleksei Parshchikov (Köln), Dmitri Golynko-Volfson (St. Petersburg) and Aleksandr Barash (Jerusalem), artists Viktor Pivovarov (Prague) and Vadim Zakharov (Köln) and composer Iraida Yusupova (Moscow). Apart from that the bloc contains the script of Grisha Bruskin’s live art performance “Good-bye, USSR!”, held in November 2003 at the Frankfurt book fair where Prigov played the leading part of the “Soviet Golem”; Prigov’s report on his experiences during the performance as well as his previously unpublished essay on the interaction of poetry and mass media and a dialog between Aleksei Parshchikov and Dmitri Prigov about anthropological foundations of contemporary art transcribed in 1997. The section contains a consolidated index of Prigov’s works — literary publications, personal and collective art shows, concert performances and Internet publications. There is also a colour inset containing photographs of Prigov’s poetry recitals and live art performances and reproductions of his graphical works.
NEW POETIC ECONOMY:
This section contains poetry by Sergei Kruglov (Minusinsk, Russia) — a poet and a Russian Orthodox priest who created a conceptually new type of Russian religious poetry. S. Kruglov’s poetry is analysed in an article by Boris Dubin (Levada Center, Moscow). Dubin demonstrates that a kind of a key to analysing Sergei Kruglov’s recent poetry could be found in a different, other, extrasubjective gage of this world and of that commonality that unites humans in the world (one of the symbols of that gage in Kruglov’s works is death). In Kruglov’s works poetry becomes a voice of a small, weak and doomed creature, and a word on that brink of death shrinks to a pause, to a dash, to a token that (like a hyphen in the Jewish rather than Russian Orthodox referral to G-d) is clearly understood by the initiates and connects them by referring them to the Other.